My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Life Goal Achieved! You all know that I am definitely not a genius. And this book is not enjoyable much of the time. However, it is an incredible, monumental exploration of the written word. It is important. And the Penelope (Molly Bloom Soliloquy) Chapter was so divine that it should have been labeled the original Vagina Monologue. (Click link to see our Paris Texas experience with that play). The audio performance of that was perfection.
I had to read, listen, and study my way through this book. I am so glad to no longer be in the dark.
This is how I did it, and it wasn't the perfect plan, but it worked.
I figured it was finally time to take the plunge when everything in my life kept popping up as James Joyce. (Click link for some info, but come right back!). Last fall I read The Most Dangerous Book which told me the story of the publication / obscenity battle. That was mainly due to the Molly Chapter, although the middle chapter was also a scrumptous read-between-the-lines tale, in which Bloom encounters a sea nymph posing as a beautiful young woman, and gets his own pleasure from her. Seriously, anyone wanting to write anything about romance or sex, needs to read this chapter. Pure genius at saying it without saying it, and leaving the rest to the imagination.
Several months ago I found an old hardcover US Edition of Ulysses at the Library and picked it up for a mere quarter. I'm not fool; that was sign enough that it was time to plunge in. (The Greeks would be proud).
So, I pulled out my Odyssey, mainly the audio version but also the Harvard Series, and I also bought an audio of Ulysses, as well as an audio course on it. My plan was to listen to them all basically a chapter at a time, and that was both a good and a bad way to do it. It was good because it helped it all make sense while it was fresh. It helped me keep plunging on. I'm not sure that I know an American born child of the 80s that would find much to understand or like about the book, except the two previously mentioned chapters. But even had I been Irish born, the course would have been a must.
I didn't really want to study about it before hand, so I didn't realize that the chapters didn't actually correspond, because Joyce presented them as they occurred, rather than as they were relayed in the Greek fashion. I also didn't realize how very loosely it is based on the great Greek wandering tale. So the course was invaluable, and it didn't matter that much if the timing was off a bit. Reading it mixed in gave great relief from some of the chapters.
Some of them were so strange, and long, and puzzling that they even almost put the publisher off. (Yes, hearing that in the course did make me feel better). The publisher had Joyce to explain, I had the course. The whole idea of demonstrating different writing techniques (Joyce, the ultimate showoff) would have completely escaped me, I think. At least, the newspaper chapter was easy to pick up on, as was the great Ivanhoe romantic style, but otherwise I think I would have just been frustrated, like I came to be in The Luminaries. (Maybe if it has staying power I will finish that book).
Some of the chapters I actually enjoyed. Many I hated. Some of the Odyssey I liked, some of it I didn't love. It didn't have the same feel for me as the Iliad, even the audio version. But I loved every single class. The course was awesome.
And then, there is Molly Bloom. She made a believer out of me. That man was a genius. The audio and in fact the whole journey, was made worthwhile just for Molly Bloom's moment. My stream of consciousness isn't near so fascinating.
Yes, Joyce, I say Yes. But John, I say no to Finnegans Wake. I'm going to take your word for it!
View all my reviews