Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses, Part I


As mention in my February 2nd post, I’ve started reading James Joyce’s Ulysses in installments via DailyLit.  The installments come through and rss feed to my Bloglines account and I’ve been working on the best way of reading them.  I requested the long installment but to DailyLit that just means I get four installments a day.  I find it easier to read at Bloglines than at the DailyLit website since then I can read everything with clicking to the next page.  It also lacks chapter headings and the divisions in chapters annoyingly come mid-installment.  Despite those small problems I’m enjoying rambling and bumbling through the novel.

First impressions on the first five “episodes”:

  • I’m amazed at how many themes of life from 1904 in Ireland appears in this novel: Hamlet, Irish subservience to the English, Irish Republicanism, the Russo-Japanese War, settlements in Palestine, anti-semitism, the Irish woman who can’t understand the Irish language, the Phoenix Park Murders, Irish Catholicism (and it’s not so pleasant cultural hold), and death, death, death.  Not to mention all the Homeric allusions. I expect an annotated edition of Ulysses to have a lot of footnotes and rewards the reader who knows about all these things that seem to be just tangentially mentioned.
  • Stephen Dedalus is a quote machine.  Check out these lines from Joyce’s go-to guy for a good soundbite:
    • Kingstown pier, Stephen said. Yes, a disappointed bridge.
    • –I fear those big words, Stephen said, which make us so unhappy.
    • –History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
    • Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:
      – That is God.
      Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!
      – What? Mr Deasy asked.
      – A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.
  • I’m greatly amused that Leopold Bloom has a lucky potato that he carries in his pocket.
  • I find the scene where Bloom sits in on a Catholic Mass oddly moving even though it was satirical.  Especially since the Mass was in Latin at the time and Bloom notes the one bit that’s done in English.  When I went to Mass in Ireland it was said in English with bits in Irish.  We move forward.

To help me on my journey through Ulysses, I’ve started to listen to a podcast by a cheerful, enthusiastic young woman named Paigerella.  She reads the books in installments and appropos to the book adds her own stream-of-conciousness commentary as well as her life at grad school, thoughts on Italy, shooing her cat, and beat poetry.  How meta is that?  I also picked up The Bloomsday Book: A Guide through Ulysses by Harry Blamires on Paigerella’s recomendation for further assistance through this complex but beautiful (and sometimes hillarious) text.

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