Sunday, December 25, 2011
In Calypso, Leopold Bloom finally enters Ulysses, and I think we're all relieved that we get a small break from Stephen's ponderous stream of consciousness. Bloom's thoughts are a bit easier to follow, although they are also drenched with memories and personal history, introduced without too much explanation. Bloom is occupied with preparing breakfast for his sleepy wife Molly, and this is, as far as I'm concerned, a rather likeable Bloom. He's got his secrets, sure, but at the moment, it's not too bad. He may seem pathetic at times, but this is mainly due to the fact that he thinks he's not being watched. I'm interested in my fellow readers' thoughts about Bloom: what do you think of him? Do you like him, do you identify with him, or does he annoy you?
And another question: Who do you like more? Stephen or Leopold? I probably still like Stephen a bit more than Leopold at the moment, but that might have something to do with the fact that I'm closer to Stephen's age, and that he's got similar problems ordering his thoughts.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
All things considered, this is still a great chapter because it gives you so much insight into the – despite all his headiness – fascinating character that is Stephen. And a lot of James Joyce is in Stephen, as many critics note, so this chapter also gives you insight into the creator of Ulysses. One of the things I admire the most about Ulysses is its narrator's honesty. There are no boundaries in what Joyce describes and what his characters do or think about, which might not be to everyone's taste, but is still important when you think about literary progress. Joyce has opened many doors (and not only toilet doors) for his successors when it comes to what is possible in literature. He has tried something new with each chapter in this novel, just to mess things up a bit more with Finnegans Wake (which I'll try too, just for fun). After all of Stephen and his cerebral celebrations, I can't wait though to finally make the acquaintance of the great literary hero Leopold Bloom and his wonderful down-to-earthness again.
Favourite Shakespeare reference: "So in the moon's midwatches I pace the path above the rocks, in sable silvered, hearing Elsinore's tempting flood." (Is this Stephen thinking about suicide?)
Favourite line: "The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh."
Monday, November 21, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I'm participating in the @1book140 Twitter book club, and this month, some of the members have started their attempt to finally finish the juggernaut of a novel that is Ulysses. I've tried before but failed miserably every time before reaching the middle. So the decision to read it with book lovers in an online group was very welcome indeed. We decided against a strict schedule, everyone will just try to waddle through this gargantuan work, and whoever gets to the end will be celebrated with virtual fireworks or some such thing. I'll try to read a couple of pages a day (I'll read it out because of the wonderful English (or Irish?) of Joyce which surely is meant to be heard). After each chapter, I'll write a messy blog post about it, to put my mind in order.
So, once again, I've read Telemachus, the first chapter about "stately, plump" Buck Mulligan, who is mocking everyone and everything, and Stephen Dedalus, who is passively brooding about his mother's death and his "friend" Mulligan's offences, unable to speak his mind. Although Bloom is the main protagonist of the novel, we don't get to see him until chapter 4, so for now, the spotlight is on Stephen, who is the protagonist in Joyce's The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I should have read, because a lot of Ulysses is based on this novel. We are in the mind of Stephen for much of the first three chapters, which is one of the major difficulties of Ulysses. The stream-of-consciousness passages are still the most mysterious and tricky ones, sometimes only containing one word ("Chrysostomos"; "Usurper"). The narrator's voice, however, is quite straight-forward and sober – at least in this chapter. Granted, there are some fancy words (I like "blithe"), but compared to later chapters, this one is fairly easy, although it gets more difficult in the end, once they are out of the Martello Tower.
What I especially like about Ulysses is the multitude of references (that's what I like about Gilmore Girls, too), particularly Hamlet and The Odyssey. Joyce can seem like a showoff at times, and he can be terribly self-indulgent, but at least in this chapter, he uses the references economically and wisely. His Hamlet references, for instance, put an emphasis on the similarity of the play with the novel, e.g. Hamlet's mourning for his father is echoed by Stephen's mourning for his mother; the Martello Tower calls to mind the platform on Elsinore Castle at the beginning of Hamlet.
So, should one read Ulysses with annotations? Well, I've tried it before, and never succeeded, so I guess this time, I'll just read as much as possible without annotations, and get back to certain passages to look things up. If things are over my head, that'll be fine, I just want to finally make it through the novel finally. I think the Occupy Ulysses has started nicely, let's hope we'll make our way to the final "yes".
Favourite line: "He proves by algebra that Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father."
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
1. Romeo and Juliet 158.350 hits
2. Hamlet 114.727
3. Macbeth 101.863
4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream 69.710
5. Othello 64.979
6. The Tempest 55.252
7. The Merchant of Venice 44.192
8. King Lear 42.328
9. Much Ado about Nothing 40.935
10. Twelfth Night 35.608
11. As You Like It 32.701
12. The Taming of the Shrew 30.449
13. Julius Caesar 28.072
14. Richard III 27.045
15. Titus Andronicus 22.140
16. Coriolanus 21.542
17. Antony and Cleopatra 17.276
18. Henry V 16.803
19. The Winter’s Tale 13.449
20. The Comedy of Errors 12.887
21. Cymbeline 12.421
22. All’s Well That Ends Well 10.832
23. Measure for Measure 9.441
24. Henry IV, Part 1 8.717
25. Love’s Labour’s Lost 7.651
26. The Two Gentlemen of Verona 6.944
27. Troilus and Cressida 6.919
28. The Merry Wives of Windsor 6.498
29. Richard II 6.468
30. Henry VIII 5.168
31. Timon of Athens 3.869
32. Henry VI, Part 1 3.646
33. Pericles, Prince of Tyre 3.184
34. Henry IV, Part 2 2.880
35. The Life and Death of King John 2.436
36. The Two Noble Kinsmen 2.351
37. Henry VI, Part 2 1.883
38. Henry VI, Part 3 1.860
(Hits on en.wikipedia.org)
There are no surprises, I think, as to the most popular Shakespeare play on Wikipedia. There may be discussions among Shakespeare fans and critics as to which play is the greatest one (King Lear and Hamlet are frontrunners in that category), but there's no denying that Romeo and Juliet is clearly the one that most people will connect with the name of Shakespeare. Furthermore, I found it interesting that the first three plays are those which are labeled as tragedies, while A Midsummer Night's Dream is the first so-called comedy on fourth position. The first history play is Richard III (#14).
The plays that I will prepare for my exams are the five most popular tragedies on here: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear. It was important for me to choose a topic for my final exams that is highly relevant, and I thought Shakespeare would be a good choice. I'm reading King Lear at the moment, and I'm fascinated by Shakespeare's characters and plotting. He was ahead of his time, you get this feeling all the time when reading him. Unfortunately, some of the students at my university don't really like Shakespeare, as it is sometimes hard work to get to the bottom of Shakespeare's language. But I see Shakespeare's language as a kind of riddle, and if you find the solution, there's always a reward.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
So, I’ve started the Harry Potter project. It just means that I will read the seven novels, and maybe watch the films afterwards, all for the first time. Why now? you might ask. Well, no special reason, I’ve always wanted to read them, just to find out whether they’re any good. I mean, how’s the saying? One billion Harry Potter fans can’t be wrong. I’ve read five chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone so far, and reading them was fun but also felt kind of strange, mainly for the fact that I was somewhat familiar with many things that were happening and with parts of the plot, which is another thing that makes the Harry Potter franchise special. Even the people who haven’t read the novels or watched the movies know a lot about Harry. There are the names: Dumbledore, Voldemort, Hogwarts, the sport Quidditch. I’ve stumbled across them in the past, so it was nice to finally learn more about these characters and things. And everbody knows the story about the genesis of the novel: It all started in a café, right? But of course J. K. Rowling couldn’t have started without giving serious thoughts as to how the novel would develop. That’s quite clear from the very beginning.
The novel starts off with a nice bit of exposition. One of the reasons why it must have been so popular is that the reader and Harry are on the same page as to most of the topics which means that the main protagonist has no advantage over the reader and is even more clueless at times. Then there’s the battle of good (Dumbledore) vs. evil (Voldemort) which has been popular since the world was young and makes clear that Rowling knows her Lord of the Rings, among other things. And the Dursleys are as horrible as can be imagined, which reminded me of Grimm’s fairy tales (Aunt Petunia surely is a version of Cinderella’s step mother). The talk about magic is also pretty common to most fantasy readers. Unicorns, wands, books of spells. So, why did it become popular in the first place if it doesn’t offer anything new? Well, it does. Rowling invents a whole new kind of sport (Quidditch is “like football in the Muggle world”), which is very clever, and she basically conjures up a whole new universe for readers, which already worked for J.R.R. Tolkien. The first novel serves as an opening door to that universe, which feels fascinating. I mean, almost every reader wants to know how Quidditch and the magic potions work, and there are other mysterious objects, like the package from vault 713, the wand which is a relative of Voldemort’s, which add suspense to the story. I do not wish to say that she just copied elements from older books, that would be unfair. She created something very original here, despite all the familiar fantasy elements. I certainly want to go on that train from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters which will depart soon.
Monday, April 18, 2011
You can download the song "A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep" via RCRDLBL.
It's a slow burner, so you might want to give it a few listens.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
This should be a hit. The Modified Toy Orchestra uses modified toys to make music and it sounds more original than anything else I've heard this year. Maybe ever. The kraftwerky-looking video only adds to the fun. The lyrics are spoken by one of those toys which has annoyed thousands (or millions?) of parents immensely. This is fun.