Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reading Ulysses

Just finished reading James Joyce's Ulysses.  Figured it was about time.  Read it on my Kindle using a free version downloaded from the Gutenberg Project.  Tried the free Amazon version but it was incomplete. 

I'm not a "Joycean."  And although I am traveling to Ireland shortly, I will not seek to follow Leopold Bloom's tracks through Dublin.  There was lots in the book that I didn't get, allusions to Dublin and local/Irish events, some of the untranslated text, some of the words Joyce used or coined.  Sometimes, I couldn't follow what was going on.  But none of this really mattered.  What Joyce managed to do in his 265,000 words was simply astonishing and wonderful.  Through his various techniques - most notably perhaps his stream-of-consciousness rendering of Bloom's wanderings and fantasies - is to convey a human being from the inside.  Over the hundreds of pages taking place in one long day, Bloom springs up in your apprehension as a full-formed presence, like a living flame in your mind.  His being is laid bare, his thoughts - free flowing and disjointed as are our own - his deepest fantasies and fears, his knowing efforts to avoid painful truths, his obsessions, his efforts to make sense of the world he perceives, his pleasures, his relationships with other, everything we reveal to and hide from the outside world.  Bloom becomes a friend - despite his hidden recesses he is quite likable - that you miss when the book ends.  In a bit less space, Joyce also bring you inside a projection of a younger self - Stephen Dedalus - on the day the book takes place - June 16, 1904 - and Bloom's wife Molly.

Shakespeare was the English language master of the social setting and dynamics, of the deep psychology of power, of eternal conflicts.  Joyce was the master of the individual person and Ulysses a truly marvelous book.

Lines I've plucked from reading Ulysses can be found here by searching on "Joyce."

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