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."