Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ulysses: What's the Fuss?

When I decided to read the 100 Best Novels, I simultaneously decided to start at the top of the list and work my way down.  Initially, I was going to read both the Editors' and Readers' lists simultaneously, but I have changed my mind after starting with Ulysses by James Joyce.  I am going to focus on the Editors' list and move to the Reader's list upon completion.

Why the shift?

Well, I am really enjoying (yes, you read that correctly) Ulysses. 

Throughout high school and college, I had heard many people disparage Ulysses.  "Yes," everyone said, "You think you like Joyce, but that is until you read Finnegan's Wake and Ulysses.  You'll change your mind after those."  As a consequence, I never started reading either one.  And, to be completely truthful, the library's copy of Ulysses has been sitting on my bedside table for about two weeks now, and I just got the courage to open it.  Talk about an intimidating book.

What a letdown!  After all the drama, I expected the book to be incomprehensible, terrible, and way over my head.  BAH!

Granted, I have only read Part 1, dealing with Stephen Dedalus.  There is a lot of novel left, and it may get increasingly difficult as it progresses.  So far, however, it is just the rambling internal monologue of Dedalus as he goes through the day.  Yes, there are a lot of allusions, but that is not entirely unexpected in literature.  Yes, it is stream of consciousness, but this is a girl that digs it.  No, there is not a lot of action, but you don't always need a  lot of action.

At this point, it seems as though Dedalus is consumed with guilt over his mother's death, and much of the interior monologue deals with his mommy issues.  There is other guilt, as well, however.  From my impressions, there is a lot of Catholic guilt--a phenomenon I seem to vaguely recall from Portrait of the Artist and Dubliners

In any event, I am actually enjoying what many have called the "worst best book" on the list.  I can't wait to get further and see if my initial impressions change.

And, I am too excited about other novels on the Editor's list to worry about reading Battlefield Earth and  The Fountainhead.  Both probably deserve a read, but I am putting them at the bottom of a hundred other books!

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