Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Hayley

      Signing Up   11/06/2018

      Signing Up is once again available. New members are very welcome
    • Hayley

      April Supporter Giveaway   04/01/2019

        "If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden."   In honour of spring, the April giveaway is a print of this wonderful quote from The Secret Garden (thanks, once again to www.thestorygift.co.uk) along with a Secret Garden tea (Victoria Sponge flavoured!) from the  Literary Tea Company! (You can find them both at their own website theliteraryteacompany.co.uk and at their etsy store www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LiteraryTeaCompany ).   As always, patreon supporters will be entered automatically and if you don't support but want to be included in this month's giveaway you can join the patreon here: www.patreon.com/bookclubforum A winner will be chosen at random on the last day of the month!
Ben Mines

Ulysses by James Joyce

Recommended Posts

I haven't read War & Peace yet but indeed I think it's just a case of it being long more than anything else; and at that, it's only about as long as Les Mis (which I know you've read and enjoyed) so I don't see us struggling to finish that one when we get to it :lol: I get the feeling it's the kind of book where you can choose to read the footnotes to enhance your experience rather than being forced to read them to make sense of it all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

According to Nabokov in his book of interviews, most serious Russian writers couldn't understand the English-speaking world's love affair with War and Peace. They viewed it as sordid romantic pablum spatchcocked onto a didatic and overlong journalistic screed about the Napoleonic War.

 

In my humble opinion that's going to far. It's a wonderful book, but I agree: It's not Ulysses. You could knock it off in a leisurely two weeks without so much as a glance at endnotes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like footnotes. I like reading them almost as much as I like writing them :lol: I always incorporate them in my readings to gain a fuller understanding of the text in context. I just don't like the idea of a text that makes little sense without footnotes. This isn't just applicable to Ulysses, I could throw T.S. Eliot's Wasteland and a bajillion others in. To my mind, a great writer is one who can be understood on different levels: most people can appreciate Shakespeare, Milton, Byron (to name but a few) footnoteless, and appreciate even more therewith.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting thread.

 

I have both Ulysses and War and Peace on my bookshelves to be read. Both have intimidated me, but after reading the posts here I feel quite a bit better about the latter and a lot more dread about the former. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is an interesting thread.

 

I have both Ulysses and War and Peace on my bookshelves to be read. Both have intimidated me, but after reading the posts here I feel quite a bit better about the latter and a lot more dread about the former. :lol:

 

I can't remember if I've said this already, but the modern reader has to cheat to fully understand Ulysses. This is not due to Joyce being intentionally difficult or obfuscatory, but simply because of the novel's realism.

 

To give just one example, the novel is a very accurate linguistic portrait of the English spoken in Ireland in 1916 and therefore its characters use a lot of street cant and colloquialisms that the modern reader is unfamiliar with. Similarly, the current affairs and gossip discussed by the characters is over 100 years old.

 

Joyce strived for a pure realism (once remarking, famously, "I have no imagination") and therefore did not allow his characters to escape even for a moment the medium of fin de si

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read it at school, which was great as we were obviously helped with the language and made it more accessible.

I think it should be compulsory for all schools, as it is one of the most valuable works of art we are lucky to have.

 

You put it so nicely Inderjit Sanghera:

Ulysses is an extraordinary book, in terms of its grammar and syntax, its characterisation, its originality, and the various different forms, pastiches and parodies which run through the work.
Edited by Deborah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It took me a considerable time to get through Ulysses, and it was not by choice but by essential reading list.  I do believe that you cannot read it without first reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  It is worth it when you get through it.  Joyce makes a series of progressions through his work and that is evident through reading them in order.  Even in so much as he attempts to make up his own language in most of his work and that starts basically with A Portrait, progresses in Ulysses and then goes completely over the top in Finnegans Wake. 

Edited by Peahen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to side with the "Ulysses is a great work" camp. I don't agree at all that all art should be accessible because then what happens to people who really want a challenge and instead have to read stuff written for "everybody". Don't get me wrong, I don't think "difficult" necessarily means "good" but just as there should be books aimed at children so to should there be books written specifically with the academic community in mind and that's what Joyce did. He wrote for the people who studied literature and its conventions on a minute level so when you consider his goals yes Ulysses is absolutely a triumph because it totally succeeds.

 

As far as what good writing "should" be goes, I think the whole concept is just wrong minded. There is no rule in writing that cannot be broken but only people who have done so with a good reason for doing it get remembered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to side with the "Ulysses is a great work" camp. I don't agree at all that all art should be accessible because then what happens to people who really want a challenge and instead have to read stuff written for "everybody". Don't get me wrong, I don't think "difficult" necessarily means "good" but just as there should be books aimed at children so to should there be books written specifically with the academic community in mind and that's what Joyce did. He wrote for the people who studied literature and its conventions on a minute level so when you consider his goals yes Ulysses is absolutely a triumph because it totally succeeds.

 

As far as what good writing "should" be goes, I think the whole concept is just wrong minded. There is no rule in writing that cannot be broken but only people who have done so with a good reason for doing it get remembered.

 

 

I do agree with this a great deal.  There needs to be the existence of literature for everyone and that is inclusive of people who do want a greater challenge and something to get their teeth into in regards to symbolism.  Joyce would be turning in his grave if he thought for one moment that his work was appealing to 'everyone', as that was not at all what he wanted.  He wanted people to struggle and to be conflicted with his work, he wanted people to do more than read his work, he wanted them to translate it, to grasp with it.  That is why those who do finish Ulysses have this sense of achievement. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love the chapter on Ulysses in the book Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, by Martha Nussbaum, a wonderful philosopher. Among the various authors and artists she analyses it is only in James Joyce that Nussbaum finds what she considers an emotional ideal suitable for a compassionate society... ''Joyce steals back the sacramental vocabulary for the frying of a kidney,'' and shows love as a descent into disorder and eroticism. ''Ulysses'' asked us ''to climb the ladder and yet, at times, to turn it over. . . . Only in that way do we overcome the temptation, inherent in all ideals, to despise what is merely human and everyday."

 



 

Edited by Brook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am slowly (of course) making my way through Ulysses - just finished chapter 15, which I loved. I was so impressed with his ability to create the visual and auditory sensations through the written word.

 

 The deeper I have gotten into the book, the more I enjoy it.  The first 6-8 chapters were finished on pure determination.  Now I approach the next section with eagerness.  I have spent more money on supports than on the book itself.  I also believe that one cannot know enough about early 20th century Dublin to read this without supports.  

 

I'm glad this site exists, because finding other people who are interested in Ulysses is as hard or harder than reading the text.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good luck with your reading, NancyD; I am only four chapters in but determined to finish it this time (after a failed attempt in my teens) since being inspired by the Nussbaum chapter. I agree with you about the supports: I exchanged my old simple battered edition for a new annotated student edition with loads of notes, which has proved a big help already. I am also delighting in the power of his language to create visual and auditory sensations, and I hope that, like you, I will enjoy it even more the deeper I go in.



 



 

Edited by Brook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started the book earlier this year, and i'm so glad that i've finished 11 chapters so far. I haven't continue reading for a while, i guess i can finish it in 2014. I have to complain that there're way too many notes there so i just ignore them. And i definitely don't think i can completely understand what it's talking about .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was hoping to bring this fascinating discussion back to life.

 

I have had my eye on Ulysses for a while now but I am in two minds; should I try and read Ulysses 'on my own' or with a companion guide?

 

I've heard that Ulysses is best enjoyed reading aloud and taking in the prose. But I'm also aware it's a book I will stumble over and having a companion guide as back up might be helpful.

 

Any thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn’t love Ulysses, to be honest, but I would say it depends on how you want to read it @Angury. To appreciate it purely for the way it’s written, the way that it flows and how experimental Joce was being, even by modernist standards, you wouldn’t need a guide, I think it might even get in the way a bit. To get a good understanding of what’s actually happening, a guide is a good idea because it is really challenging. I didn’t have a guide and I ended up re-reading sections quite a lot, trying to work out what I was missing, and that probably didn’t help me to like it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote
9 hours ago, Angury said:

I was hoping to bring this fascinating discussion back to life.

 

I have had my eye on Ulysses for a while now but I am in two minds; should I try and read Ulysses 'on my own' or with a companion guide?

 

I've heard that Ulysses is best enjoyed reading aloud and taking in the prose. But I'm also aware it's a book I will stumble over and having a companion guide as back up might be helpful.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Aloud and in an Irish accent seems to be the way if going down that route.

 

Personally, the first time I read Ulysses I didn't use a guide as I wanted to form my own opinion first of all without being guided by someone else's interpretation. I did use guide books on subsequent readings.

 

As to which guide you'd be looking to use wholly depends on how much time you want to spend analysing allusions made throughout.Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses is useful and as an added bonus is written by a personal friend of Joyce, under his guidance. A more general guide is Harry Blamire's The New Bloomsday Book which gives neat summaries of each chapter. If you're looking to go on a Joycean treasure hunt, try Ulysses Annotated by Don Gifford & Robert J Seidman or Weldon Thornton's Allusions in Ulysses: An Annoted List: An Annotated List.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did once read this book right to the end and I can't say I'm glad I made the effort. I can't even really remember what it's about if I'm completely honest, but it reminded me of a supposedly legendary jazz saxophonist named Roscoe Mitchell I once saw perform at a festival - it just seemed like a random blur of notes to me, and this is the literary form of a random blur of notes. It's arguably quite well written but in terms of accessibility there's not even a hint... or maybe I'm just thick and don't get it ;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It gets better the more you read it. That's when you find the little gems within the blur.

 

I'm biased, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×