Monday, April 3, 2017
I place Ulysses by James Joyce in the category of really hard books to read so I have some tips on how you can read it.
I stopped and started this book a lot until I understood that there were no quotation marks and just a hyphen to mark when a speech begins. But even that breakthrough didn't help a lot with the reading of my book. So I decided to try listening to it instead. My first attempt did not go very well, and I found that I needed to read along with the recording because some things weren't very clear. That is when I put it aside for a while. It was not until I found what I think is the perfect recording of Ulysses that I gave it another go and I will tell you why this version was of so much use to me... it was a full cast of Irish actors who did the job! With different voices helping to differentiate lines and a copy of the book as well, I was able to successfully read and understand James Joyce's Ulysses!
Once my technical issues were dealt away with I was able to focus on what the book was about.
In a nutshell, it is basically an account of Leopold Bloom as he lives through a twenty four hour period in Dublin. Stephen Dedalus who I am already familiar with from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is a secondary character (but more prominent than the rest).
What is also to be understood about Ulysses is that it is meant to be an odyssey of the mind (many passages being the stream-of-consciousness of not only Dedalus and Bloom but other lesser characters). Listening and reading at the same time really helped to keep track of these switches from dialogue to what I can only describe as musings. The episodes are named after characters from Homer's Odyssey (though the content of each section is only vaguely parallel to each other). It was fun to spot the connections! What I wasn't too keen on is the idea that Stephen was meant to be Telemachus and Bloom was Odysseus (ugh!). While fascinated with these connections and what Joyce did with these characters I am still the purist when it comes to the Odyssey and I didn't like either Dedalus or Bloom at all to be connected with some of my favourites.
However, it was an odyssey-like experience reading this book, and I can safely say that I will attempt it again at a later date to see what else I can see (or what I had missed) in a second reading. Listening and reading felt a lot like binge-watching a show, I was exhausted after each episode. It wasn't an easy, comfortable read, but I am glad I made the attempt.