Tuesday, May 16, 2017

For first-time readers of Ulysses

  • It studies very very minutely a single Dublin day in 1904.
  • The hundreds of riddles are far subtler than anyone knows, so don't believe anyone who claims to have 'read' the book with comprehension.
  • Commit to reading it at least twice, though your first reading can just be turning the pages and skimming the dialog. (Each chapter has a distinct 'feel' you'll start to pick up. Dialog is indicated by dashes, not quotation marks.)
  • Joyce intentionally chooses language that barely hints its meaning, often requiring serious research to decode. The style tends to get harder and harder toward the end.
  • The most useful companion-text is the first half of Ellmann's biography "James Joyce"
  • Chapters 3, 9 and 14 are the hardest, dominated by Joyce's brainy alter ego, Stephen Dedalus. You can skim or skip them the first time thru.
  • Chapters 4-15 are Bloom's odyssey, paralleling Homer's Ulysses in facing and triumphing over twelve moral challenges. Joyce considered Bloom an ideal man.
  • The main character, Leopold Bloom, is absent from the first three chapters, while Stephen and Bloom are together for most of the last half.
  • Almost everything that happens is daily trivia, hardly worth even gossiping about for the many characters. The motives of most of these characters are barely hinted at.