Saturday, June 16, 2012

Post: Reading Ulysses on Bloomsday

Our Man 
Post by Ingrid

That's right, I'm going to read Ulysses today! (Well, part of it.) o from delaissé is hosting a little Ulysses-reading event today to celebrate Bloomsday. As you may or may not know, Ulysses takes place within a single day, June 16, 1904. And because we're cool like that, we're going to try to read as much of the book today, June 16, 2012.

I'm not sure how many of them plan to read the entire book today, but that seemed to be the goal. I know that o reads insanely fast, so go check out her blog and see how she's getting along. She's also provided a wonderfully helpful breakdown of the novel here. Also, go check out the sign up post to see the other participants.

I found a cheater version of Ulysses on my Kindle that has summaries and explanations at the end of each chapter, so maybe that will help with smoother sailing ... I'll update this post as I read and let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck!

10:30 am: Well hi. So I started last night by reading some of the extra material in my Shmoop ebook edition (Oh look, here it is online.) It was a nice, easy introduction to what I know will be extremely difficult reading. I like how the writer(s?) of this guide encourage different interpretations of the text instead of only presenting one, as if that is the definitive interpretation (like Sparknotes does.)

This morning I've read about half of the first section, Telemachus. It is quite difficult but the Kindle dictionary is helpful (prepuces=foreskin? Nice.)

Here's a quote from the Shmoop guide about Joyce's difficult writing that I quite liked:

[S]ome of Joyce's sentences can be quite hard to process. You read the same sentence over and over again and you really have no idea what he's saying. Frustrating as these may be, you have to realize that as you struggle with the sentence, Joyce has forced you to bring much more attention to his words than you would have otherwise. Your eyes can't just move idly over the page in Ulysses. It's an active book, and as a reader you have to put in a great deal of effort in order to figure out what the sentence is saying. One way to think of these sentences is as Gordian knots, seemingly impenetrable riddles. But once you undo the knot and make the sentence go flat, you'll often find that the realization inside is pretty remarkable and probably couldn't have been communicated any other way.

Now back to reading!

4:15 pm: Alrighty. So I just finished the second section, Nestor. I'm starting to realize what makes Joyce's writing so difficult - he doesn't explain what is happening really at all. When he writes in stream of consciousness, he's just inserting all of these random bits without writing something like, say, "Stephen thought." It's just ... there. This forces you to read the book differently, and it's uncomfortable at first. (Well, it's still uncomfortable for me, but I'm hoping that as I get used to it that will change.)

It's also difficult to tell when people are making fun of things. I didn't catch on that those Latin phrases in the first section were there because Mulligan was making fun of the Catholic mass until the nice Shmoop guide explained it to me. It seems like it would be impossible to read this book without some help!