30 Days of Books: Day Ten
Posted by Jen Moore
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Ulysses by James Joyce. I know, I know, I sound like an absolute wanker saying that, but I do love it. It might help that I read parts of it first for a class on variations on the Odyssey, and later the whole thing in an Irish Literature class that I took while studying abroad in Galway, so I had a very good overview of exactly why it was supposed to be good.
The thing about Ulysses is that it isn’t really a story, and it certainly isn’t a novel (for all that people like to use it to talk about “the modern novel”), it’s a game. There’s a whole chapter about the gestation of an infant that’s written, in nine paragraphs representing the nine months of gestation, in nine sequential phases of the development of the English language. Most people are never going to read the Old or Middle English bits, and hell, you don’t have to. All you have to do to get the chapter is to understand that it’s about growth and change, and move on to the next chapter. Some chapters, I admit, I don’t get: I do not understand the point of the crack-filled carnival play halfway through the book that basically recaps the action so far. Some chapters I really enjoy, like the Cyclops chapter in which Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew, engages in an argument about whether the Irish or the Jews are the most oppressed people in all of history. And then he gets a brick thrown at him. It’s really very like Odysseus’ conflict with the Cyclops, and it has the benefit of being kind of hilarious.
It’s still not a novel, though.