Dale's Reviews > Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce
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Aug 31, 2007

liked it

This is the eighth book I read on my commute, and the first one that took longer than a week to read. This is a big, heavy, dense book, in terms of mental effort and also physically (I read a prestige-format hardcover edition, the kind with gilt pages and a built-in cloth bookmark like a Bible).

A while ago my dad and I were talking about the fact that we were both English majors but we both had major gaps in our personal reading histories with respect to the canon of classics. We did some research and found some lists of "greatest novels of western literature" (so this was probably around the year 2000 when everyone was doing millennial retrospectives and whatnot) and started picking out ones we had never read but felt like we should have read. Ulysses was on both our lists. Dad bought the big expensive hardcover edition, read it, and then loaned it to me.

I actually had Ulysses at my house when the new job and new commute started, but I decided to ease myself into the reading-on-the-bus thing. For all I knew, I might give up on mass transit after a month, but I didn't want the fact that I was reading Ulysses to be a factor in that (which, given the book's reputation for being almost impenetrable, I figured was a strong possibility). So I read Dungeons & Dragons books and Harry Potter, and then dove into James Joyce once I knew I'd be doing the Metro commute long-term.

Ulysses really is a great piece of art - but in my world I often use the word "art" to mean "cool, interesting, beautiful, and over my head." I bought the Cliffs notes before I started reading it and they helped a lot. I thought parts of the book were transcendent, and parts of the book were trying too hard, but overall I gotta respect Joyce for writing something so challenging and provocative and sticking it to the literati. It's definitely a product of its times (the 1930s) which added another layer of amusement. Overall I'm glad I read it, because it felt like an accomplishment and it did bring me some pleasure along with the challenge. Not sure I would recommend it to anyone else, but I'm glad I read it.

(There will be other "classics" added to my reading list soon, once I work my way through a bit more of the pop trash I've been gorging on.)
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Trevah 1930s? wasn't it published in 1922?

Dale Crap! 20's, 30's ... I'm always getting those decades mixed up. But I stand corrected - you are right, Trevah, the book was indeed published in 1922.

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