Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An Odyssey Into "Ulysses"

When James Joyce first saw ‘Ulysses’ published in 1922, it was greeted by controversy and outrage. Some claimed it was blasphemous, others that it was pornographic, and most that it was unreadable. Since then, people have gone on to either call the book pretentious, or to say that it’s the most inspiring thing they’ve ever read. Virginia Woolf was so inspired she went on to write ‘Mrs Dalloway’ – another stream-of-consciousness, day-in-the-life tome.

I’ve been trying to get to grips with ‘Ulysses’ for about three weeks in preparation for the MA. To say I’d enjoyed any of it would be a fib. But I am enjoying the challenge of trying to get through this mountain of a book. True, quite a lot of the time I feel like I’m just reading word after word without understanding what they all mean strung together; and true, occassionally I give in and let myself skim a chapter… but it’s still satisfying, not least of all because so few people I know seem to have conquered it and I’ve always been a competitive cow.

Right now I’m on chapter 10 (of 18)… which, while that might be halfway through, still only seems to be 200 pages in (of 800). Even with my maths, I know that’s not good going. But that might have a lot to do with the fact that for me, reading "Ulysses" just seems to involve moving the book into different rooms inthe flat and leaving it on a different table "for later".

So far, Bloom and Dedalus have shaved, eaten breakfast, had a shit, been to a funeral and the library, and eaten a cheese sandwich for lunch. I know, I know, it’s difficult for you to imagine why I’m not hooked.

But don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted on what happens next. There’s supposed to be some rude bits to look forward to. I've already heard about Bloom going to the museum so that he can peer at a statue's bottom, so that's a start.

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