Hollis's Reviews > Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce
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Jul 07, 09

bookshelves: literary-fiction

So: is this book one of the best novels of the twentieth century or a load of rubbish? Well, it's difficult to tell: certainly when I first tried it reading it I was definitely moving to the latter viewpoint. However, after looking at some very positive reviews on this website and seeing that it is a favourite book of respectable writers such as Joyce Carol Oates and Anthony Burgess, I decided to try again and once you get into it, it becomes quite enjoyable (in a strange way).

In the introduction, Mr Kiberd says that you don't read Ulysses: Ulysses reads you. I think that's a good point since my response to the book varied wildly depending on how I felt at the time: when I was in a bad mood I hated it, when I was in a good mood I thought it was excellent.

And I mean, this really is a strange book and nearly unreadable. My major complaint with the book is that it just seems like too much of a chore (at least on first reading): one of those ''I'd better read it because it's a classic'' books, without there being any actual enjoyment to it. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it but it was a book of extreme highs and lows. Sometimes I thought I was experiencing the most mind-numbing boredom possible from paper and ink: other times I knew that I was reading one of the great books of modernist literature. One I took this out of the library, the librarian said he didn't finish it because he 'coudln't handle it' and I know what he means: this book is completely overwhelming with the amount of poetry and allusions it contains. It's a chaotic book: vibrant, bizarre, epic, trivial. For a lot of the book I felt as if my brains were trying to leak out of my ears and with the 120 page section involving the 'mock play' I can only assume that Joyce had gone shit-sipping mental at this point.

I think everyone should at least give this book a try although I expect that many (perhaps even the majority) of those will hate it. That's the price you have to pay: this is the most experimental of novels and that will always put people off. Personally, I like it when writers experiment and try things that are really unusual so I was always going to look kindly on such a bizzare mutant as this. Not matter how much you like it, how well you know it or how many times you have read it there is no getting away from the fact that this book is one colossal mindfuck: if you arent't willing to persever or give yourself a bit of a headache, then don't read this.

'Ulysses' strikes me as rather a recondite book: I can't imagine the average person who is looking for a good read sitting back and relaxing with this one, somehow. It's certainly a demanding book in terms of the amount of effort you have to put into to reading it, and that means it isn't always that much of a pleasure to read. As I said before, I am still unsure of which side of the fence I am on with this one: the book has passionate supporters and passionate detractors as well. For now, at least at the moment I write this review, I'm with the supporters.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by CB (new)

CB "favourite" ?
"coudln't" ?
"Bizzare" ?
"arent't" ?


Hollis There're typos. Obviously.


Hollis Lol, they could be sub-Joycean responses, correct. XD

I think I agree with you on those points. Still not entirely sure what I thought about the book. But enough ink has already been spilled discussing it and I don't think I can really sum it up except just recommend that people have a go at reading it and see if they like it or not.


message 4: by Kristen (new)

Kristen 'favourite' is not a typo that's just how the Brit's spell it right? In America we don't have time for extra U's, or reasonable gun control laws.


Hollis Yeah, that's how we spell it.


Hollis Haha, it's not my language, I don't make the rules...


Hollis Lol, don't really understand how 6 people liked this review tbh. Don't remember writing it, seems like a load of random crap when I read it.


message 8: by Kristen (last edited Mar 24, 2011 04:01PM) (new)

Kristen ALL reviews are a load of random crap, except Blake's which are richly nuanced expressions of his existential angst. Welcome to Goodreads!


message 9: by Hollis (last edited Mar 24, 2011 04:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hollis Tru dat. Except for Blake's. They're great. I always read them.


message 10: by Blake (last edited Mar 24, 2011 06:33PM) (new)

Blake The blue cat washes round cars only on Wednesday dishes. Beware the arms of Johnson.


Hollis K.


message 12: by Kristen (new)

Kristen fixed.


Hollis Sorted mine as well.


message 14: by Blake (new)

Blake Me too.


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