Friday, February 26, 2010

Ulysses: The Good and the Bad, so far.

Well, I am continuing to slog through Ulysses as we speak.  I am only a little over a third of the way through, but I am finding certain aspects of the book insanely boring.  On the other hand, there are elements that I find brilliant, and poor Nathan has to deal with my random Joyce quotations or theories on a nightly basis.

My primary challenge, it seems, is that I was going to ignore a lot of the scholarship when reading this list.  After all, I don't have time to read the entire list and all of the associated criticism.  Ulysses alone would consume my life.  Already, I am tempted to start research onto some of the multitude of themes, issues, and ideas in the novel.

There is a lot of discussion about Irish Home Rule, with major players appearing, theories espoused, and speeches quoted.  Although I know next to nothing about the issue, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the book, and I am thoroughly tempted to venture beyond Wiki research into detailed, authenticated discussion of Ireland at the turn of the previous century.

The last episode I read, too, was a challenge because it had me reaching for the Shakespeare anthology and absolutely dying for comrades to discuss the mystery surrounding Shakespeare's identity, Anne Hathaway, and such.  It is the "Scylla and Charybdis" episode, and it takes place inside the National Library.  Stephan Dedalus is expounding upon an essay he has written regarding the Bard, and I was riveted. 

Which brings me to my primary issue with Ulysses.  As a novel, it is somewhat less than fulfilling.  As a work of social commentary and literary criticism, it is invaluable.  The puns and allusions are fantastic.  The turn of phrase is brilliant.  The stream of consciousness is skillfully executed.  But the plot is duller than anything I've read in a long time.

Leopold Bloom is, thus far, a boring loser.  And that is putting it politely.  It appears he is lousy at his job, his boss, co-workers, and supposed friends tend to ignore him, and, from all appearances, his wife is having an affair.  Having to read a day's worth of his thoughts is torture.  I suppose we're all like this, but, boy, does it make for a lame read.  If you're reading a novel primarily for plot, this is not the work for you!

That said, I am planning to finish Ulysses soon.  I need to put down some of the crafts and pick up the novel.  Hopefully, Bloom will not continue to disappoint.

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