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Thread: James Joyce: Ulysses

  1. #1
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    Ireland James Joyce: Ulysses

    Here's one from 1922:

    So here we are, number 100 in my reading log of the last three years. For such a milestone I needed a novel with few rivals. I chose Ulysses, referred to by many as the greatest work of the 20th century. For the last couple of months I’ve been eager to pull it off the shelf. Despite the anticipation, and subsequent achievement of reaching the goal, it has taken me a further two weeks after putting the book down to collect my thoughts.

    I wasn’t, and in fact I’m still not, really sure where to start. In writing this, two loads are bearing down on me, firstly, the need for some recovery time from which to reflect, and secondly, the acknowledgment that we are talking about a book held in such high regard by so many, its legacy looms large. But after worrying about the selection of my words I’ve realised that I’m just a fence sitter.

    The analogy I’ve been using to describe reading the book is that of a marathon runner who has only ever trained for a sprint. This is not a comment on the length of the work, but rather Joyce’s complex narrative of interweaving characters, disparate locations, frenetic structure and challenging language. In hindsight I wasn’t prepared. I’ve read some of his contemporaries (Beckett, Woolf, etc) but the onslaught of Joyce’s is another league altogether.

    Yes, this is a crudely funny story centered around the often pathetic adventures of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. But their relationship is only part of the journey. Broken into 18 episode over the course of a single day, Joyce takes us on a rollercoaster of craft. From perplexing passages tapping into a stream of consciousness to finely crafted debates of nationalism, Joyce certainly offers much to the fanatic and academic. I am neither. I can see that this is very clever, but to me the changes in style between each episode is so dramatic that it damages your enjoyment of plot and character.

    Of the 930 pages in my Penguin edition, I would say that I was engrossed in only 300 hundred of them. With the rest I continually ran the risk of falling into autopilot, letting the sentences wash over me with little comprehension. Nevertheless, when I say engrossed I mean it. For example, the introduction of Bloom in episode 4 is a burst of colour, it is impossible to fault the description of food, both its consumption and expulsion. Two other highlights are in Bloom’s detached seduction of a young girl in episode 13 and Bloom’s drunken hallucinations in a brothel in episode 15. But never is Joyce more impressive than in the newsroom of episode 7 where the reader is served the narrative in bite-sized classified ads, and in episode 17 told entirely through one question and answer after another, surely some of the greatest wit ever written.

    I would like to say that those readers without the stomach for a long distance race that could enjoy Ulysses by fishing out these passages, but really it doesn’t work like that. I believe that you do need to read the whole thing as episodes will no doubt pack their biggest punch when building to a greater understanding of our protagonist, Bloom.

    Was it all worth it, maybe, maybe not. There is a lot of books in this world. But I did run the race, I did make it to the finish line, but in the end I was so focused on breathing that it was only on rare occasions that I broke through the pain barrier, just enough to keep me going, but not enough to attempt the race again. Despite claims that the Ulysses gets better with every read, I think I’m just going to chalk it up to experience and move on to another classic.

    Here's a passage from the brothel:

    Bloom is bisexually abnormal. He has recently escaped from Dr Eustace’s private asylum for demented gentlemen. Born out of bedlock hereditary epilepsy is present, the consequence of unbridled lust. Traces of elephantiasis have been discovered among his ascendants. There are marked symptoms of chronic exhibitionism. Ambidexterity is also latent. He is prematurely bald from selfabuse, perversely idealistic in consequence, a reformed rake, and has metal teeth. In consequence of a family complex he has temporarily lost his memory and I believe him to be more sinned against than sinning. I have made a pervaginal examination and, after application of the acid test to 5427 anal, axillary, pectoral and pubic hairs, I declare him to be virgo intacta. (Bloom holds his high grade hat over his genital organs)
    Last edited by Cocko; 07-Dec-2008 at 11:43.
    Check out my reading log blog - www.sweetgypsymama.com/bookreviews

  2. #2
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    I lost my objectivity about Joyce more than a decade ago. Paint me in the fanatic colors, but I love Ulysses. I love that each episode gives us a different style, a different look at things. I love the humor, I love the mundane life of Bloom and the sensuality of Molly. I love The Cyclops. I love every damned thing about this book.

    I'll go take my medication now.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Quoth Cocko:
    Bloom is bisexually abnormal. He has recently escaped from Dr Eustace?s private asylum for demented gentlemen. Born out of bedlock hereditary epilepsy is present, the consequence of unbridled lust. Traces of elephantiasis have been discovered among his ascendants. There are marked symptoms of chronic exhibitionism. Ambidexterity is also latent. He is prematurely bald from selfabuse, perversely idealistic in consequence, a reformed rake, and has metal teeth. In consequence of a family complex he has temporarily lost his memory and I believe him to be more sinned against than sinning. I have made a pervaginal examination and, after application of the acid test to 5427 anal, axillary, pectoral and pubic hairs, I declare him to be virgo intacta. (Bloom holds his high grade hat over his genital organs)
    I was wondering, partly in jest, whether this classic author would be able to get away with all this, nowadays. Not only does he suggest that bisexuality is abnormal and makes fun of elephantiasis, but will frighten adolescents when suggesting that you go bald from self-abuse (the term itself is prejudicial!), and is also making fun of people with metal dentures (the Russians tend to go for gold, rather than any amalgam).

    In our present climate of strait-lacery and political correctitude, this man could well be arrested, and his property searched for compromising evidence of reactionary tendencies. Because nowadays, the police that raid people's offices have neither a sense of humour or an understanding of the winding ways of literature. (Or parliamentary democracy, if you've been following the British saga of recent police raids.)

    However, I do wonder like Cocko, if I picked up this manic tome again, whether I would love or hate it. It's hard to tell. Maybe it depends on one's mood and what you've been reading just before.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    no heros no message, but the mundane quotidian humdrummery is what i read it for;
    also his mockery of english prosody, but that's joyce the showoff.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Its been many, many years since I first read Ulysses. I decided its time to dip my toe in the water again and see what my opinion of this tome would be now, as I am a much more seasoned reader it should be interesting to see what kind of feeling it evokes in me. Ive been doing some research to see which edition would be the ideal one to purchase (Ive never seen a book with so many different listings) , and there seems to be quite a bit of controversy on the matter, especially around the Gabler edition. Im asking any Joyce fan to chime in on the matter, as I would obviously like to get the text in its ideal form.

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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Controversy aside, go with Gabler.

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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Really? I just fear that the widespread changes Gabler made may have been too presumptuous. In other spaces Ive seen some vitriol directed at that edition, but oddly other people swear by it. There lies my confusion.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Quote Originally Posted by DB Cooper View Post
    Really? I just fear that the widespread changes Gabler made may have been too presumptuous. In other spaces Ive seen some vitriol directed at that edition, but oddly other people swear by it. There lies my confusion.

    Penguin's Annotated Student Edition also uses the Gabler corrected text. Highly recommended!

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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    I'm at page 156 of the Vintage paperback as published in 1966 and I've got a question concerning the following passage on page 90:

    A raindrop spat on his hat. He drew back and saw an instant of shower spray dots over the grey flags. Apart. Curious. Like through a colander. I thought it would. My boots were creaking I remember now.
    I know Joyce uses a wide range of languages in Ulysses. You can't really miss the various Greek, Latin, French and German passages. These have all been printed in italics in my edition (except where the languages are expressed phonetically, but that's beside the point).

    In the passage above, the word 'apart' could be the English word, but I found it a little too coincidental that the Dutch word 'apart' can mean 'curious'. Would Joyce have been aware of this? Coincidence? Paranoia? The word isn't printed in italics, but I realise this isn't really relevant.

    On a side note, I'm greatly enjoying the novel. The original poster voices my opinion on it so far perfectly. Some parts are an absolute joy to read, others invite you to read on auto-pilot.
    and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years. - Marcel Proust

  10. #10

    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoxcalli View Post
    I'm at page 156 of the Vintage paperback as published in 1966 and I've got a question concerning the following passage on page 90:
    Ulysses is a big book, and comes in many editions: I have the Penguin edited by Declan Kiberd, the OUP edited by Jeri Johnson, and the Picador edited by Danis Rose. But not the edition you mention, and the quotation could be, well, at the beginning somewhere, OK, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoxcalli View Post
    In the passage above, the word 'apart' could be the English word, but I found it a little too coincidental that the Dutch word 'apart' can mean 'curious'. Would Joyce have been aware of this? Coincidence? Paranoia? The word isn't printed in italics, but I realise this isn't really relevant.
    I think that it's difficult to ascertain what Joyce wouldn't have been aware of, and so many things about his works are an open question. In which cases, of course, you provide the answers, and if anyone wants to argue with you, give em what for! That's the wonderful thing about literature, isn't it? There are so few rules.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoxcalli View Post
    On a side note, I'm greatly enjoying the novel.
    To a large extent, this must be what it's all about.

    BLOG

  11. #11
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    I finally got there! Woohoo!

    With the corpses scattering along the road - some of my friends tried reading it too, no one got even halfway - I bravely read on and alas, my journey has come to an end.

    And thank heavens it did. I wouldn't have been able to take another word. It's not so much that I struggled with the prose, that the narrative was uninteresting or that the book was too heavy or light on ideas, but it's LONG! And to be quite fair, despite it reputation, it's not all that great. Ulysses at its best is mind-blowingly spectacular, but often reading it just felt like a drag.

    I'm not even attempting to get my head around the entire novel to produce a half-decent review, but while I'm glad (and proud!) that I read the novel, I've read a lot better. I'm not sure it lives up to its reputation.

    ?
    and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years. - Marcel Proust

  12. #12
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Is Ulysses overrated? (with an ugly side remark on Pynchon...)

    http://www.slate.com/id/2290718/pagenum/all

  13. #13
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Quote Originally Posted by Apfelwurm View Post
    Is Ulysses overrated? (with an ugly side remark on Pynchon...)
    http://www.slate.com/id/2290718/pagenum/all

    what an idiot. or was it ironic? if so, ha ha very clever Mr. Rosenbaum. If not: what a fucking moron.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Who was he fucking? Nora Barnacle? Why can't people accept that iconic books may have a sell-by (or read-by) date? People cling to the canon.

  15. #15

    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Certainly, Ulysses is a classic because Joyce knew how to mixture loads of literary styles to make this tragical epopee.
    James Joyce was sucessful in writing this one. Not in sales but in constructing the modern narrative and the modern romance.
    Bloom's mistery comes from his personality fillfuled by a cruel sarcasm and it helps him to struggle against the world. Moly is cruel too. But she's not charming. She's vulgar and ordinary. Her cruelity comes from an evil which lives inside her. And of course, Dedalous lost himself in thiat city and needs to find it out.

  16. #16

    Default Re: James Joyce: Ulysses

    Happy Bloomsday!

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