How do you review something like Ulysses?
Even in this strictly informal, random-thoughts format, it’s a daunting task. I’ve started writing this post several times, only to delete my work because it failed to convey my meaning.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. Ulysses is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an enjoyable read. Don’t bring it to the beach hoping for an easy, relaxing afternoon: this is the kind of book that’s better read in a commented form (something which I should have done in retrospect.)
It’s pretty tough to describe how dense Ulysses can get. At times, simply following the plot through Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness writing is nearly impossible. So forget about catching all the the cultural and political references or understanding all the literary allusions and philosophical digressions.
In fact, despite being a voracious reader and a writer, I’d say I’m at the very lowest level of reading ability necessary to begin to understand the work. I certainly would have benefited from a few undergrad classes in English Literature (or maybe a Ph. D.)
But… I think I get it. Sorta. Maybe. By that, I mean I can appreciate some of what Joyce wanted to do. I see some of the stylistic choices, I perceive how they influence how we read and perceive the text.
Certainly, it’s the book I’m most glad to have chosen for this year. I’m sure I’m a better writer for having read it.
Next up – some very, very light reading.