Ulysses

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dedalus
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Ulysses

Postby dedalus » Sun Jul 19, 2009 1:20 pm UTC

So, I've started the epic trek that is one of the hardest and most important books in the 20th century. I'm about 140 pages in, and it's really started to get hard to read. Has anyone else here actually read it in full? Care to discuss what the hell Joyce is talking about in his rambling train of thoughts? Anyone have tips for actually conquering the novel?
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Re: Ulysses

Postby 6453893 » Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:17 am UTC

One of the few books for which I actually recommend a reader's guide. Of course, you are welcome to question the merit of a book that is so genius you need an entire other book to point out how genius it is. Like if the world's funniest joke always needed to be laboriously explained for people to get it.

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Re: Ulysses

Postby ducknerd » Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:19 am UTC

I finished Gravity's Rainbow and I'm one of about eight people who stuck through all of Only Revolutions, but every time I open the text file of Ulysses on my computer my eyes glaze over in under five minutes.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby sje46 » Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:35 am UTC

The first chapter has really beautiful and pretty straightforward prose, in my opinion.
I haven't read the thing all the way through, but I "flip" through it on occasion (well, flip through the web pages on Wikisource. . .heh). I think I might have read the first seven chapters all the way through, if not a little more. I remember the funeral they went to, for sure. And I've flipped through the other parts, like the gestation of the english language one, which is a trip.
Don't try to be heroic and read it without help. Sparknotes is a godsend, really, and so is wikipedia (of course sparknotes goes into a lot more detail).
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Re: Ulysses

Postby dedalus » Sat Jul 25, 2009 1:01 pm UTC

Compared to the majority of the book the first chapter is fairly light. I'm at the 140 page mark and haven't read that much this week to be honest, just because it got that overwhelming. And yeah, wikipedia is a godsend just to figure out what on earth he's talking about.
6453893 wrote:One of the few books for which I actually recommend a reader's guide. Of course, you are welcome to question the merit of a book that is so genius you need an entire other book to point out how genius it is. Like if the world's funniest joke always needed to be laboriously explained for people to get it.

The reason why it's considered to be such an important work of literature is because of the imagery and language that Joyce uses, not because of the story. In fact, the story could almost be seen as the muse which the majority of the book is on. It's probably the main reason why you have to read in such depth, because if you just flick through and distil out the plot you miss the majority of the book.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby sje46 » Sat Jul 25, 2009 1:04 pm UTC

What chapter are you on? Page 140 doesnt really tell me a lot. Anything you need help in understanding?
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Re: Ulysses

Postby Clumpy » Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:18 pm UTC

The first time I really heard about this book I was fifteen and Orson Scott Card was going on about how it was just a mindless ego-trip on the part of the author that faux-intellectuals pretended to go along with only because they didn't have the courage to venerate any real fiction. Knowing OSC's occasionally embarrassing taste I can't even imagine what he was referring to.

Still, I'm perfectly capable of admiring a work of fiction for its scope and intelligence and still staying the hell away from the thing.

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Re: Ulysses

Postby aurumelectrum13 » Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:57 pm UTC

Just wait until you feel the urge to read through Finnegans Wake...

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Re: Ulysses

Postby dedalus » Tue Jul 28, 2009 3:27 am UTC

I think it was about the 1st sentence that I decided I wasn't going to try Finnigan's Wake. There's crazy, and then there's unintelligible.

sje: I'm up to the chapter with the news headlines. To be honest it's not so much that I need help understanding it, I just need time to digest. It is a good book, but it's only good in small doses.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:30 pm UTC

Clumpy wrote:The first time I really heard about this book I was fifteen and Orson Scott Card was going on about how it was just a mindless ego-trip on the part of the author that faux-intellectuals pretended to go along with only because they didn't have the courage to venerate any real fiction. Knowing OSC's occasionally embarrassing taste I can't even imagine what he was referring to.

Still, I'm perfectly capable of admiring a work of fiction for its scope and intelligence and still staying the hell away from the thing.

Having read much of OSCs writing I'd be hesitant to embrace his idea of "real" fiction.
Some stuff is dense and takes thinking about-showing more layers each time you approach it. Joyce is like that. Reading a bit, then mulling it over, then reading a bit more-not every book is supposed to be a page-turner.
If Card thinks the majority of serious thinkers who revere Joyce are "faux-intellectuals" he's sowing that he wasn't up to the text.
Then again, I bet he thinks The Book of Mormon is not fiction... Oh boy! Religious insults! - ST
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Re: Ulysses

Postby 6453893 » Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:02 pm UTC

dedalus wrote:
6453893 wrote:One of the few books for which I actually recommend a reader's guide. Of course, you are welcome to question the merit of a book that is so genius you need an entire other book to point out how genius it is. Like if the world's funniest joke always needed to be laboriously explained for people to get it.

The reason why it's considered to be such an important work of literature is because of the imagery and language that Joyce uses, not because of the story. In fact, the story could almost be seen as the muse which the majority of the book is on. It's probably the main reason why you have to read in such depth, because if you just flick through and distil out the plot you miss the majority of the book.

I don't see how that negates my point. The readers' guide (at least the one I flicked through in Borders) contains very little to do with plot. It highlights all the textual features, wordplay, "echoes" of words and imagery, and fore/backshadowing.

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Re: Ulysses

Postby dedalus » Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:48 am UTC

6453893 wrote:
dedalus wrote:
6453893 wrote:One of the few books for which I actually recommend a reader's guide. Of course, you are welcome to question the merit of a book that is so genius you need an entire other book to point out how genius it is. Like if the world's funniest joke always needed to be laboriously explained for people to get it.

The reason why it's considered to be such an important work of literature is because of the imagery and language that Joyce uses, not because of the story. In fact, the story could almost be seen as the muse which the majority of the book is on. It's probably the main reason why you have to read in such depth, because if you just flick through and distil out the plot you miss the majority of the book.

I don't see how that negates my point. The readers' guide (at least the one I flicked through in Borders) contains very little to do with plot. It highlights all the textual features, wordplay, "echoes" of words and imagery, and fore/backshadowing.

Well a lot of the book relies upon knowing 50-60 OTHER texts/authors/cultures of speech that not everyone does. It's a genius book because of what it does and how it does it, but that doesn't mean that it's easily readible. And yeah, having a reading guide which actually explains what joyce is talking about is a good idea.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby 6453893 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:53 am UTC

I think we're in agreement, but it's hard to tell. Were we ever actually arguing or did I just misinterpret the tone everything up to this point?

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Re: Ulysses

Postby dedalus » Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:59 am UTC

Probably, unless you were taking snipes at the book itself, which I think I interpreted as the main point of your first post.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby 6453893 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:04 am UTC

Oh I wasn't limiting the idea to Ulysses, though Ulysses would likely come in to a serious debate on the matter. I proffered it as a talking point; I certainly do think the question of whether a work of true genius should be immediately understandable as such (as opposed to requiring rigorous study or lengthy exposure) is a fascinating topic. I have not come to a decision either way on the issue though.

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Re: Ulysses

Postby dedalus » Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:43 am UTC

That is a good question, though I think that you'd have to consider individual cases rather then just generalising everything. Maybe a SB topic?
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Re: Ulysses

Postby lu6cifer » Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:59 am UTC

So, how many times have people even attempted Ulysses? I've tried it three times myself.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby tamerlane » Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:22 pm UTC

I've read it, and enjoyed it very much, but it is a tremendous amount of work to read. I found the Gilbert and Linati schemata (linked-to from the Ulysses wikipedia page) to be invaluable. However, I agree with dedalus; it's not about the plot so much as going along for the ride. Joyce makes the best puns.

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."

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Re: Ulysses

Postby Bobofthedead » Tue Aug 04, 2009 3:30 pm UTC

Well, I've read it through twice now, and I feel that I've barely scratched the surface of this tremendous book. I know full-well that I'll never comprehend the full value of the book: every time I read even a page, I see some new aphorism or metaphor or just beautiful phrase.

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Re: Ulysses

Postby Bloopy » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:11 am UTC

Bumping this because I read Ulysses last year. All of last year, it took me at least 12 months. I'd heard of Joyce as a kid because of his vocabulary and made-up words, and always wanted to read something by him without having much idea of what it'd be like. The first quarter was kind of readable, but the rest was ridiculous. I got what I was looking for I guess, a book with crazy vocabulary. I'm glad I read it but I wouldn't bother with another book like it.

The words didn't convey much meaning to me, but I didn't really care to know more. There's absolutely no way I would consult notes while reading every other line of a book. That would just make the endeavour twice as long and torturous. If I enjoy something and it makes me curious, sure I'll seek out a better understanding later, but I read books for a "quick" thrill, not as some kind of academic study. :P

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Re: Ulysses

Postby centrifugal » Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:34 pm UTC

When I was younger I had heard that Gravity's Rainbow and Ulysses are literature's Everests. I've already climbed the first one. Tried to climb the second one too, but I got distracted with work. Will have a second attempt at it once I finish Les Miserables.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby serutan » Thu Aug 07, 2014 4:55 am UTC

I tried to read it once, but gave up after 10 pages - I think that plot is the most important
aspect of a novel.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby no-genius » Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:11 pm UTC

serutan wrote: I think that plot is the most important aspect of a novel.


If that were true, most novels would only be about ten pages long. (If you don't think this is true, imagine Borges summarising it).

I've read Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite Jest, House Of Leaves, the Baroque Cycle (which I think are of similar difficulty to GR), and about 100 pages of Ulysses. Definitely want to try again some day.
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Re: Ulysses

Postby tarascon » Mon Jun 22, 2015 2:13 pm UTC

Forgive my Necromancy. :wink:

6453893 wrote:One of the few books for which I actually recommend a reader's guide.


I agree, though Ulysses is not as difficult as the general public believes.* I find novels like Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf tougher going--probably because it isn't as allusive as Joyce. Ulysses can be a chore but close attention will supply clues and the book has levels to it which doesn't require one to get each and every allusion. Now, Finnegans Wake is an entirely different sort of beast and definitely requires a lot of preparing for. See: viewtopic.php?f=24&t=36446

* Another example of an author purported to be difficult is Proust but, really, that's because he isn't read that much anymore... and I suspect a lot of that reputation is due to the length of the novel itself. Proust is like an fin de siecle gossip columnist.


no-genius wrote:I've read Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite Jest, House Of Leaves, the Baroque Cycle...


I've read those; of the four, I got to the middle but never finished GR because it started to bore me. It takes a lot to bore me. I first bought a copy back in 1974 and have made three attempts to read it in full. Fail.
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