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Ulysses. Paperback – January 7, 2016
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My first attempt ended 43 years ago on page 38 (the bookmark was still there.) But the book can’t be ignored it is on nearly every ‘100 greatest books’ ever written list: there are many 'bests' lists and “Ulysses” is usually in the leadoff, or #2 spot - that doesn’t happen by ‘chance’!
The difficulty with this read is that the reader is often simply ‘listening’ to the protagonists thoughts presented in stream-of-consciousness style, while Joyce is constantly ‘playing’ with the language; English, French, Latin even Italian, and he plays with the characters and other authors, even his own prior work, and philosophies are explored, and all-the-while the story is an allegory of Homer’s (the Greek, not Simpson) “Odyssey”. And yet… in the back of the mind, you just can’t help but wonder if the myopic little Jimmy J. was just having it on with all of us. In fact, he said himself... "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." (Joyce's reply to a request for a plan of Ulysses, as quoted in James Joyce (1959) by Richard Ellmann.)
Apropos the game of baseball, for which it has been said, “There’s a whole lot of stuff going on out there” (…which the uninitiated is unable to see). I didn't ‘see’ all that Joyce had to say (yep…uninitiated!) but I saw enough to recognize the enormous importance of this book. If I may modify the definition of 4-stars from “I Like it” to “I Admire it”, then I can make the rating system work for this read. If you are a reader, you will want to read this book someday - but wait until you are ready to concentrate on it: Joyce does not throw batting practice, its all curves, sliders, and cutters and nasty sinkers! If you strike out, it's your own fault, not his.
The storyline is a walk through Dublin on the day of June 16th, 1904 where we follow the separate strolls of Stephen Dedalus, a budding poet and Leopold Bloom, an advertisement salesman, till they meet in the evening, go on a drunk together then separate onto their own paths again. Simple story? Sure, but you’d better pay attention because “there’s a whole lot of stuff going on out there!”
I couldn't have got through this "mind expander" without a lot of help from my intrepid reading buddies on the Book Forum Refugees, the challenging Brain Pain and the Ulysses threads on the Western Canon group. Thank you one and all because I've wanted to read this for a long time.
This is a dense read and whilst I don't pretend to have picked up all of the complex nuances of this mammoth read I did manage (with a little help from my friends) to get the gist of what Joyce was saying. I found this novel humorous, challenging, frustrating, joyful, going through all the "mental gymnastics" that this novel puts a reader through.
I'm in awe of the language, skill, fearlessness, sheer verve and audacity that Joyce displays.
I would read this again, it's a novel that I know would give "more" with each reading but I wouldn't use this particular edition. There were a mere handful of photos supplied that were small and you need a magnifying glass to get any benefit from.
Favourite character .......Leopold Bloom, I liked his inherent kindness to animals and his fellow man.
So, my 4 stars is a compromise between the content (five stars) and the Kindle version (3 stars).
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