Thursday, February 10, 2011

Upcoming Series: Ulysses Reading Diary

*Update: I've placed links at the top of the post so readers don't have to scroll down to find them. Each post focuses on a chapter at a time.

Reading Log
Chapter One: Telemachus
Chapter Two: Nestor
Chapter Three: Proteus
Chapter Four: Calypso
Chapter Five: The Lotus Eaters
Chapter Six: Hades
Chapter Seven: Aeolus
Chapter Eight: Lestrygonians
Chapter Nine: Scylla and Charybdis
Chapter Ten: The Wandering Rocks
Chapter Eleven: Sirens
Chapter Twelve: Cyclops
Chapter Thirteen: Nausicaa
Chapter Fourteen: Oxen of the Sun
Chapter Fifteen: Circe
Chapter Sixteen: Eumaeus
Chapter Seventeen: Ithaca
Chapter Eighteen: Penelope

Hello, all,

I apologize for the severely slowed output as of late, but schoolwork has reared its ugly head (or heads, for, like the Hydra, every time I kill one assignment three more spring in its place) and I've been too busy to focus on reviewing. I should have two new posts by the end of the weekend, one on a film, another a continuation of my "Stuff I Like" series, where I spotlight an artist from any medium who has had an impact on me. For now, however, I still have some work to do.

Though I have not had time to sit down and digest a film in one go, I have been spackling the narrow cracks in my schedule with reading, and I've been both returning to old favorites and finally tackling classics that previously daunted me. The greatest blind spot in my literary awareness must be Ulysses by James Joyce, almost universally considered the crowning literary achievement of the 20th century. Joyce himself was foreign to me, considering I'd only ever read brief excerpts of his work with minimal explication.

I just completed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, however, and the wonderful time I had with it made the fears I had over tackling Joyce's titanic novel all the more transparently unnecessary. However, when my copy of a reprinting of the original 1922 text of the novel arrived in the mail, I turned to the back to check the annotations and found nearly 300 pages of notes explaining Joyce's esoteric, highly advanced and multilingual wordplay, in addition to notes delving into the novel's connection with Homer's Odyssey. So, some apprehension remains.

Therefore, I've decided to handle the book differently than my usual style, which is to just read like the wind because I can never stop myself. Instead, I will keep a running log here of my trek through Dublin, a post for each of the novel's 18 chapters. I should say that this will almost certainly not be a book review, insofar as analysis may be scant in favor of simply spilling out how I've processed the text and the notes. I hope it shall amount to more than a running list of characters, motifs and happenings like some second-rate SparkNotes, but we shall see how it goes. I do at least hope, in deference to Professor Nabokov, to put forward some idea of who the man in the brown mackintosh is. A catalog of the posts will be collected here for easier access once I'm finished.

See you at the top of the Martello tower in Sandycove, everyone.


  1. Good luck with Ulysses, it is definitely a book that you need to take your time reading. Although it is much easier to get through than Finnegans Wake

  2. Wow, that's great. I love Portrait of the Artist and Dubliners, but I've seriously started reading Ulysses at least 3 different times now and each time I give up after 1-200 pages. It's not that I don't like it, it's just so dense and complex, and I rarely get a chance to sit down for more than an hour or two each day to read, and I keep losing track of it and finally giving up. I really need to buckle down one of these days and read the damn thing.

  3. I tried reading the novel when I was doing my undergrad, but I couldn't finish it. It really does help when you read a novel like that in a classroom setting. That's how I got through Moby Dick. Good luck. I may try my hand at it since I am just a month away from finishing grad school. It would be fun to read along knowing that someone else is reading it and will be posting their thoughts on it...kind of like a little mini-book club, hehe. Anywho...good luck!

  4. Hahaha well now I'm a bit fearful again, if you guys couldn't get through it. Given my reaction to Portrait, I expect to be bewildered but also fascinated. I elided over mass chunks of endnotes on Portrait because I just didn't want to pause and look up the Latin or some esoteric pun. I hope I can settle into Ulysses' rhythm instead of seeking out meanings, but I'd also like to do some proper close reading so maybe I'll find the right balance. Unlikely, given this is my first time. But if I have to re-read a book again, ain't no thang. I am adamant in not trying to "solve" this book as I read it, chiefly because people far smarter than I will ever be have pooled their collective genius into a super-conglomerate and still failed. If nothing else, it would just be arrogant to get into the book too deeply on a first read, but I might get bogged down anyway.

  5. I didn't have any annotations on my edition, and I didn't feel the lack, tbh. The words are magic by themselves.

    That said, they may come in useful in the "Oxen In The Sun" chapter, which runs thru the whole history of English literature. That one left me feeling pretty lost...