04 June 2014

Ulysses Update

I feel like I finally turned a corner with my reading of this novel.  Initially I hated the book.  Totally hated it.  Maybe not as much as I hated Heart of Darkness, but definite hate.  I couldn't understand what was happening.  Without the Sparknotes and the audio, I would have been utterly lost.  I am in total awe of all of the people who read the book way back in the day before such aids or to people nowadays who read the novel without aids.  The novel reminded me of my darkest days as an English major.  It felt like Joyce was going out of his way to convince you that he was so much smarter than you were and that he couldn't give two shits about your opinion.  I am not the type who likes for everything to be completely spelled out for me.  That insults my intelligence.  I more follow the Hemingway model of the author should give you chunks and you are left to fill in the blanks.  That's my speed.

Anyway, I gave up on understanding what the sam holy hill was going on.  I begrudgingly determined to slay the beast and not let the impenetrability of the novel stop me from crossing it off my list.  And that's how I continued for quite a while.

Then today, I feel like I turned a corner.  I still rely on the episode summaries and the audiobook (which really helps distinguish between what is thought, dialogue, and narration and sets the pace [I am a super slow reader for some reason]).  But I am starting to appreciate more of the novel, which means a lot to me because I was feeling pretty bad about myself for a while there.

I wouldn't say that I have favorite passages or parts or episodes.  But there were parts that I appreciated.  For instance, I appreciated the part where Leopold Bloom was thinking about death.  It was so simple and basic, but interesting to read.  I enjoy his inner monologues a lot more than I enjoy reading about him interacting with other people.  I did not enjoy the Stephen Dedalus episodes.  They were really difficult for me.  Maybe, though, that was because I wasn't yet used to the stream of consciousness style.  Who knows?

Then I saw this post on BookRiot about reading out of your depth and I think that it really kind of summed up my experience since turning that corner.  The writer talks about "feeling dizzy" and "read[ing] the letters but not the words, the words but not the sentences, the sentences but not the structure."  YES!  EXACTLY!  Like the author, I know I am missing things and I know that there are things I don't even know that I am missing.  But, at this point, instead of getting angry and hating the book, I am just going to embrace it and move on.  I can enjoy the parts that I enjoy and just shrug my shoulders over the rest.  I wrote a post over at The Broke and the Bookish recently about some of my reading rules.  I had already acknowledged that I won't like everything that I read...but I hadn't really acknowledged that I won't understand everything I read and that's OK.  In a way, it's kind of freeing.  I can just peruse the book.  I don't have to stress about understanding every single reference (I mean, I had already given up on that when I decided that I would get too bogged down if I used a guide that explained the references, but maybe I hadn't accepted that that meant not understanding everything).  It's kind of a pleasure to be delightfully lost.

At this point, I am looking forward to pressing on and reading more of the novel.  I know that it is about to get interesting because Joyce switches up the delivery.  I think the thing I am most looking forward to, and I have no idea where in the novel it occurs, is the part that focuses on Molly.  I've heard that that episode (or those episodes, I am not sure) are stunningly beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to you for even attempting it and to making peace with it!