Monday, May 11, 2009


Allow me to explain my interest in this novel with the small paint-generated graph above.
You'll see that I began with mild interest, which was quickly peaked, and for about 150 pages I was quite intrigued.
Then you'll notice that I steadily lost interest for about 200 pages, hoping all along that things would pick back up, but that never happened.
While reading Jame Joyce's epic novel Ulysses one thing became abundantly clear:
I am not cut out to read Ulysses.
This book is borderline impossible to get through, no joke. I have an English degree, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I enjoy reading, I like a good challenge from time to time. But this book is something of a monster, like, I don't know, the thing from Cloverfield. That seems like a fair analogy. Mostly because once it bites you, your head explodes.
I wish I could say that I enjoy reading 800 page novels with no chapter breaks and an anonymous narrator whose stream of conscious reads like a text book at some times and the town drunk at others, but I just couldn't pull it off. I got half way through and realized there was just no way I could push through the last 400 pages.
Within the last week, I don't think I there was one instance in which I sat down to read this juggernaut and didn't fall asleep within ten pages.

THAT SAID this book did a lot of really cool things and actually was very enjoyable for the first 200 pages.
Ulysses is another name for Odysseus, though I'm not exactly sure why, and this book goes by the name it does because it is a retelling of The Odyssesy set in 1904 Ireland. As The Odyssey was taught to me, one major theme prevails above the rest, and this is the struggle to be human in very non-human environments. Essentially, in his travel home, Odysseus must resist the dangers of becoming animal and also the danger of becoming an immortal. With this in mind, it's easy read the first few hundred pages of Ulysses and get a lot out of it because the theme of life and death is dealt with heavily. The nature of life, the weight of life, the weight of death, the prospect of immortality, the animalistic nature of man, these things are all brought to the surface and examined. In fact, the thing I liked most about this book is that it seems Joyce found just about every single angle to look at life and death.
The death of a mother or father means the loss of your point of origin, the death of a child means an end to your line and you will not live forever, there is a funeral scene in which the great precious value of life is juxtaposed with everyday routine including the routine of death, birth is presented with all its poetic flowery pretenses and also with focus on the actually bloody act of labor, and the significance/insignificance of life is constantly weighed.
The stream of conscious style was also particularly effective in some cases. For example: in the section meant to resemble the sirens chapter of The Odyssey, Leopold Bloom (the protagonist) is in a bar, observing the women around him as well as the music. He goes back and forth and back and forth until, in his jumbled mind, the two become one, and the reader is presented with actual sirens in the pub.
So yes, this book did a lot of cool things, and I wish I could say that I could finish it. But alas dear blog readers, life is too short to absolutely hate what you're doing, especially when you just finished college and the thing you were looking forward to the most was to not have to read things you didn't want to.
You may call me a quitter, but I just couldn't read anymore sentences like, "Universally that person's acumen is esteemed very little perceptive concerning whatsoever matters are being held as most profitable by morals with sapience endowed to be studied who is ignorant of that which the most in doctrine erudite and certainly by reason of that in them high mind's ornament deserving of veneration constantly maintain when by general consent they affirm that other circumstances being equal by no exterior splendour is the prosperity of a nation more efficaciously asserted than by the measure of how far forward may have progressed the tribute of its solicitude for that proliferent continuance which of evils the original if it be absent when fortunately present constitutes the certain sign of omnipollent nature's incorrupted benefaction."
That was just ONE SENTENCE! I bet you didn't read it all, did you? Yeah, so who's the real quitter here?
I'll be sticking Ulysses back on the shelf for another time, maybe later this summer, maybe not.
The book I'm starting this week: The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide. After Ulysses, I thought something hyper-entertaining would be a nice change. After that, I'm thinking I'll read some Noam Chomsky.
In any case, I'll be talking about it here.

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