Ulysses–I’m not really here.

Hello all.  It’s Paul from Moby Dick.  I would have loved to be posting here for Ulysses, but I assumed my work load would be too crazy for the summer, so I deferred).  But since I had the Zombies spotlight, I couldn’t give up without saying a few things here.

I’ve been wanting to comment on everyone’s posts thus far, but I have in fact been quite busy.  So, I’m incorporating some thoughts here (the rest of this is crossposted on my site too), and I hope to go back and re-read what everyone else has said too.

Begin crosspost:

This is my third time reading Ulysses.  The first time I was a freshman or sophomore in college and I signed up for a James Joyce class because, get this, the Canadian band Triumph had released a CD called Thunder 7 which was supposedly based on the 100-letter words in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake(which I had bought and found impenetrable).  Our teacher was intense and tried to scare everyone off (which worked for some, but not me).  The class was hard (first asignment : read The Odyssey over the weekend for a quiz on Monday).  I enjoyed Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, but I thought Ulysses was pretty daunting.

I read it again when I re-took the class with the same teacher (not for credit this time, but because I wanted to, imagine that).  And that time I learned to really appreciate what Ulysses had going on for it.  I was also inspired by it to try and write challenging fiction, paying careful attention to every single word, and even possibly using different writing styles in the same book.  (The world appreciates that that never panned out).

But so the careful attention thing: Joyce spent seven years working onUlysses.  Every single word was charged with meaning.  He even made up his own words.  And it’s very apparent that he was the inspiration for countless modern authors (for beter or worse).

I’m excited to pick the book up again.  In part, because it was ranked number 1 on the MLA list of books, but also because for twenty-some years I’ve felt the book was fantastic.  And I wanted to see if I would enjoy it without guided instruction.

I was curious about which edition to read.   Since my class, when there was only really one edition available, many many editions have been published.  There’s a great discussion about this at Infinite Zombies, and I considered getting the third one Judd mentions.  But when I consulted with my old professor, he said the Gabler edition is still the best, so I went with that one.  And that edition is littered with all the notes I took from class and from the supplemental resources.

I decided not to read the supplemental resources this time (although I can;t help but look at my notes), to see what I can get from the story AS A STORY.

I remember a bunch from the class, but one thing that I distinctly remember is that to get everything out of Ulysses, you need to understand Catholicism (the mass in particular), The Odyssey, European history–especially Irish history, and popular Irish culture circa 1920.  It also helps to know Latin.  And these are all things that Joyce would have known and his audience probably would have known.  Every year we move away from its publication, means we know less about what he was writing about.  But that’s all the little details and jokes and blashpehmies.  I wanted to see (with some background, which certainly gives me an advantage) if I could enjoy the story without all the help.

My proper post begins at my site.  Click here for more.  And thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Ulysses–I’m not really here.

  1. Mish July 14, 2010 / 12:32 pm

    I’ve been waffling about joining up for Ulysees mainly because I’m participating in read-alongs for Don Quixote and Frankenstein. Of course all three are happening around the same time. I’m familiar with and interested by the Odyssey, Irish history and culture, and know the basics of Catholicism so your statement about how those help makes Ulysees more intriguing. I’ve been wanting to read it anyway, but whether it happens sooner or later I’m still not sure. If I participate, it’ll be like Moby Dick where I’m a week behind, which worked pretty well.

    Too much to read, too little time.

  2. Paul July 14, 2010 / 8:53 pm

    Too little time indeed! I have to say that I’m finding Ulysses to be a much faster read than I thought it would be. I admit that I’m not trying too terribly hard when I get to a confusing section. But these first six chapters were polished off pretty quickly.

    You sound like you’re doing all classics all the time. I’ve never read Quixote in its entirety, and have done Frankenstein a few too many times. I hope you can squeeze in the Irishman.

  3. Mish July 16, 2010 / 1:45 am

    I read the beginning of Ulysses to check it out and, yeah, it’s faster than anticipated (so far). I may have to continue. Frankenstein seems like it’ll be relatively quick and easy. What did you think about it?

    More like cramming in some classics before continuing with speculative fiction. 🙂 I used to read classics more regularly and missed them so figured I’d spend the summer catching up.

  4. Paul July 19, 2010 / 1:29 pm

    I remember being very surprised that it was written as a series of letters. (No movie version ever suggested THAT aspect). In fact the whole read was surprising to me: the story has been so twisted by the movies that it was like reading a whole new story. The pacing was a little slow, but I think right on target for a story of that era.

    I’m on a bit of a classics kick as well. But then I have so many new books tha I want to read, I’ve no idea when I’ll gt to Gatsby again.

  5. Mish July 21, 2010 / 5:17 pm

    The closest to the original (and favourite) Frankenstein I’ve seen was the one directed by Kenneth Branagh with him, Robert De Niro, and Helena Bonham Carter. It doesn’t show the book was epistolary, but there are correspondences. Watching it last month reminded me to finally read the book. I’m trying to keep in mind that Shelley was 19 at the time and the period, but I’m liking it so far.

    Gatsby is one that’s slipped through the cracks. I may get to it eventually but there’s so much to read and too little time to do so.

  6. Stevie July 28, 2010 / 9:59 pm

    omg u can read gatsby in one sitting & it is sooooo worth it!

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