I'm participating in the "Jousting for Joyce" insanity that is being hosted over at Fizzy Thoughts. For those of you who have no idea what we're doing, a small group of us (I think 12 signed up) are reading Joyce's Ulysses.
Hands down, this is the hardest thing I have ever read. I alternate thinking, "Man, Joyce must have been a genius to make so many connections to all of these pieces of history and literature," and thinking, "What the hell was Joyce smoking?"
I have found myself reading and rereading the first three chapters that make up this first post. Since Ulysses is modeled after Homer's Odyssey, which I love, I am picking up on a lot of the allusions to Homer. The first three chapters are called the "Telemachus" chapters, modeled after Odysseus' son in the Odyssey.
Stephen Dedalus is the main character that we meet in Chapter 1. He is surrounded by people who use and abuse him (or at least that is what I pulled from the chapter). This is definitely a lot like Telemachus, who is surrounded by his mother's suitors (lazy jerks). Dedalus is surrounded by the cocky Buck Mulligan, who is simply a huge bully.
Chapter two follows Dedalus to his job working at a school. He teaches his pupils and then goes to his boss to collect his paycheck. Supposedly this chapter is full of great references and lines, but I struggled just to follow along. The two of them, Dedalus and his boss, sit and chat about Ireland, and of course, the evil Jews.
Chapter three was by far the most difficult thing to read. Stephen wanders around and starts philosophizing about his life and what's going on. This is all in stream of consciousness. I think I'm pretty good at figuring out that style of writing, but comparing the way Woolf and Faulkner use this to Joyce...it is completely different. Joyce takes it to this far level. Besides that, he is filling it all with these allusions to other pieces...I found myself backtracking and rereading it. I got lost, looked things up on Google, reading summaries of the chapter online, and did a ton of research. And even when I read it again this afternoon for the fifth time, I still didn't get all of it.
I suppose what I am saying is that I no longer wonder why this novel is considered so difficult, and why people can spend months and years reading it trying to understand it.
I also understand why they make those annotated versions, so that people like me can have something to refer to for help with all of those references. I am definitely going to get one of those before I go any farther.
But I am enjoying this. And seeing how far Joyce is going to push me before I completely crack. I'll see you back in two more weeks for the next 6 chapters.
I just can't seem to get motivated to read this. I've been through only about 10 pages (I'm on the FREE eReader version) and it seems to be reading like a screen play. I don't think I want to work this hard! And I have never read the Odyssey...ReplyDelete
I did my high school senior thesis on "Ulysses" (many years ago). Don Gifford's "Ulysses Annotated" was enormously helpful. One of these days, I plan to read it again. Have fun!ReplyDelete
Ulysses is so difficult. I need to try it again. I've heard that the Bloomsday Book is very helpful.ReplyDelete
Wow. You are a braver person than I am! I honestly don't think I'll ever put in the effort to read this book, but hats off to you!ReplyDelete
This was like reading my thoughts...I even almost used the what was he smoking line! And I ordered an annotated version on Saturday. I think it's in today's pile of mail.ReplyDelete
It was on one of my courses at uni,and I read the first few chapters, and now it sits on my shelf,glaring at me... I know what you mean about getting lost and having to look stuff up,it's definitely very complicated! I will be giving it a go again soon I think thoughReplyDelete
I'm not very far into it, and I'm thinking annotated would be good! It could be a time-saver. I already brought a brand new copy, though, which I chose based on liking the cover. Is there any hope for someone as superficial as me to understand Ulysses?ReplyDelete
You know, even through the struggle I'm really enjoying the book so far. Like you I've been reading and re-reading and re-reading even more. Sometimes I'll pick up the book forgetting where I left off and realize a few pages later I had already read that section, but it all still feels so unfamiliar and I pick up different things with each reading. I almost think that this one doesn't necessarily have to be read so linear. Ha!ReplyDelete
I'd love an annotated study guide as well but I'm afraid if I order one it won't get here in time. Hmmm...
I keep going back and forth on getting the annotated version to use while reading. I can't decide. I am enjoying Frank Delaney's podcasts but ten in and we are still on the first episode. Yikes!ReplyDelete
Nice summary! I’m also struggling and tend to be on the side of “what was Joyce smoking”! Faulkner lost me with his stream of consciousness style, so it was no surprise that my eyes were crossed throughout Episode 3.ReplyDelete