Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reading challenge

TwangyPearl inspired (challenged? suckered?) me to start reading Ulysses by James Joyce. So far, I've had the book for 9 weeks...oops - make that 10. There was that one week that the book was overdue before I remembered to renew it at the library. I'm approximately halfway through. There are some pretty hilarious things in this book, but it's hard work to read it. Generally, I can read 4-7 books in three weeks. 10 weeks means that normally, I would have given up by now, but I'm determined to finish it.

Coincidentally, today I got an email from Border's Books notifying me that there was an eReader that I could download for my phone. In the email, the magic words "many free books" caught my eye. So, of course I downloaded the eReader. Due to the renewal situation vs my increasingly leaky memory, the first thing I searched for was Ulysses. And, Lo and Behold! It was a free book! Hurray!

Unfortunately, there is apparently no way to search through the book. You have to scroll through page by page. So I got a little refresher on the first half of the book as I scrolled through to the correct place. From this, I arrived at two conclusions...well, let's make that three.

1. It would probably have been useful to have read the Odyssey before reading Ulysses. What I remember from Edith Hamilton's Mythology from 25 years ago is close to nothing.

2. Ulysses might be more enjoyable and engaging as a book on tape. Some of the names and descriptions just beg to be read aloud. Also, a differentiation between the characters who are speaking would frequently be helpful.

3. Joyce was clearly drinking while he wrote this. You could probably pick out the progression of his days from each segment. There is a definite pattern: Clear story with gorgeous descriptions and random characters (sober), followed by main characters performing something vaguely plot-like (couple of drinks), followed by side characters gathering to drink (a little tipsy), followed by mild political rant (a decent buzz), followed by long list of nonsensical names or random words (full-on inebriation). Then there's hangover day where main characters again do something vaguely plot-like, and then either they cycle repeats or the chapter ends.

So, thanks, there, Twangy. Even as I struggle to read this book, I am amused not only by the book itself but also by the style, and even by my lack of knowledge (because I am totally getting the online Cliffs Notes when I finally finish, so I can figure out what the hell I read). I think an international pseudo book club is an excellent idea!


  1. Eh - oh! You're welcome! [Winning smile as she backs away, in fear of flying tome...]
    Next time you choose, okay? IF we ever finish this one. I am only about a third through. You know Roddy Doyle caused a furore by saying Ulysses could "have done with a good edit". I do have SOME sympathy for that point of view. Yes, I am trudging slowly, but so far, somewhat persistently. You're so right, it's so hilarious and moody and impenetrable. Some drink must have been taken. Or something!

    One day we'll get there. Keep the faith.

  2. Ha, I don't read this kind of stuff unless it's required for college credit or something.

  3. You are a brave woman. I saw Twangy's challenge and slipped quietly away. One day, one day I'll read it, in the mean time I might dig out my Odyssey - now there is a book.

  4. Good for you for undertaking such a challenge...I know I couldn't do it. I love your analysis of the effect of his drinking; you know, you're probably absolutely right!

    Thanks for your comment...thinking of you, too.

  5. Totally true. I had a similar goal/challenge with Moby Dick. I got about 1/2 way through. I'll finish it one of these days. For now it makes a nice paperweight.

  6. Reading Ulysses on a teeny tiny screen while able to do something perfectly enjoyable sounds to me like a working definition of hell. I applaud your fortitude. Also, I totally agree with your synopsis of Joyce's drink and write system. Very funny!

  7. Ah! So yoooourrr'e the one reading Ulysses with TP. Enabler.

    I just had to stop by because a funny thing happened yesterday. I read Annacyclopedia's most recent post and there was this brilliant comment there with an analogy about rubber balls and glass balls that just hit me at the right place, at the right time. I always enjoy your comments, but that one was just great ... like touche only moreso. And then I went back over to Mel's to enjoy the clever replies to her clever question ... and it seems we noticed each other on the same day. Is there a word for that?


  8. oooh, can I join your pseudo international bookclub? I once got two thirds the way through War and Peace before deciding life was too short to spend so much time with people you had no interest in, or blatantly couldn't stand. Les Miserables, however, I roared through in a week. At the time I was about to sit my third year (degree) final exams, but I got hooked, so study went out the window. Yes, I am a book addict.

    However, I never read Ulysses. Call me lazy. I loved your book report on it though!

  9. hi...nice blog...plz visit my blog

  10. Ugh. I tried reading that book and could not get through it. Props to you. There is a CD called Bloomsday on Broadway. People read selections out of Ulysses (like Stephen Colbert!)