Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A sucker for punishment

Posted by lea at 10:51 AM
So I've come to J of the Great Library Challenge and I've chosen the most obvious and the most (apparently) painful of all possible reads: James Joyce's Ulysses.

It tops almost all the 'top read' lists so I thought, why not?

The comment I've most often come across regarding this book is "Ulysses was rated the greatest novel of all time, and most of the people who voted it had never read it," so I thought I'd check out a few reviews from people who have read it to see what I'm getting myself in for:

In spite of its very numerous qualities, 'Ulysses' is one of the dullest books ever written, and one of the least significant. This is due to the total absence from the book of any sort of conflict.
Aldous Huxley

OK, I never read Ulysses from beginning to end, but then again, neither, I believe, has anybody else, including most of the writers and scholars who declared it the greatest English-language book of the century in that Modern Library list last year. I have read the first one hundred pages at least three times, and then, longing for a story, I never got further.
Richard Bernstein, The New York Times book critic

I knew I wouldn't be able to read this beast--I've tried & failed three or four times. But last night I had an epiphany.  It occurred to me that Ulysses is the greatest hoax of the century, ranking with Conan Doyle's Piltdown Man. Surely, Joyce must have realized that Ulysses was the inevitable & fitting conclusion to the Romantic Age. Art, cut loose from the mooring of God,  had steadily drifted away from the universal & towards the personal.  Ulysses is the culmination of this trend--a novel that could only be read, understood or enjoyed by its author. Spare yourself.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Just where do I begin? I stopped walking to work as a result of this book. I stopped enjoying the act of reading. I stopped enjoying the very fact of my existence, knowing that the same God who created me also created James Joyce and this pile of pages.

[A friend] asked how the book was going. Without pausing, I said, "It is like having a rib ripped out of my body, being beaten with it, raped with it, and then being forced to eat it." 

I'm sorry that this review is so long, rambling, and at times incoherent.  But it could be worse.  You could be reading Ulysses.

Here's the quick version of my review:   Ulysses was clearly written by a clever guy.  I was not smart enough to understand it.  I had a horrible time reading it, and will never read it again.
DougShaw.com, Ph.D (currently reviewing all Top 100 books)

At least I can't complain since I'm going into this with my eyes wide open. See you when I resurface... hopefully before Christmas.


blue on November 2, 2010 at 11:34 PM said...

Yes, it's definitely not an easy read. It's a very 'literary' book. To be honest, you probably need to study it to get the most out of it. Without a guide, I think it can be difficult to follow what's actually going on without many re-readings. Enjoy! :)

Mary on November 13, 2010 at 6:14 AM said...

Hi Lea! I'm trying to reach out to blogs to get in touch with about future book promotions, do you have a direct e-mail?

lea on November 13, 2010 at 6:38 PM said...

Hi Mary, you can reach me on leanne.park@gmail.com. Nice to have you visiting :)

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