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Ulysses – final thoughts

with 20 comments

My final thoughts on Ulysses, in the style (sort of) of Episode 18, which should give you some idea of what reading this book was like…

Yes I say YES I have finished Ulysses and I say yes Joyce is most definitely whacked and yes indeed he spews and yes that song was more prescient than I ever could have guessed and yes I should have just read this comic that Erin‘s husband found or even listened to the words of Joyce’s own wife that Other Jill sent to me because even Nora thought that her husband’s writing was crap only she said chop suey and he should write “sensible books that people can understand” so yes I am so damned glad this book is over this piece of shit piece of crap book that Trisha talked me into reading and if she ever asks again I will say no I will say HELL NO I will say Joyce is demented and Bloom is a hypocrite and godonlyknows what the point of Stephen or any of it was and there is no way I am ever reading this piece of shit piece of crap book again (and I call it that because that’s what I feel but also because Joyce had an obsession with piss and shit and I’m being nice and explaining why I included that unlike Joyce who didn’t explain squat and filled his book with obscure references that I’m convinced only he knew or maybe even made up and at this point I could give a flyingfuckall about any of it) or any other novel that Joyce penned and if I even mention it please smack me upside the head with a waffle maker because holycrapola I cannot stand the way he writes and yes chop suey really is the best way to describe it besides piece of shit piece of crap and yes I admit that I can’t figure out what the point of it all was other than to create misery and baffleloathment and WTF’ery in my mind my heart even my soul and yes wow Joyce really knows how to suck the reading mojo right out of a person yes he does but for now I will rejoice yes indeedy I will exult I will exclaim and yes I will exclaim in all caps because they are ohsoapropos HALLELUJAHTHANKGODPRAISEJESUSANDALLAHANDYAHWEHANDZEUS (but not Joyce, oh no never him) I have finished and this readalong is over and done with it’s alldone it’s finis it’s put to bed oh yes it’s nevereverEVER happening again.

Written by softdrink

March 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Posted in read-along, Ulysses

Jousting With Joyce (is it over yet??)

with 12 comments

It’s time for our third Ulysses update, and before I get to my thoughts, let’s start with a brief summary of episodes 10-15.

Chapter 10 (Wandering Rocks): This episode gives us a brief glimpse of many different characters as they go about their day.

Chapter 11 (Sirens): Another bar scene (unfortunately, nowhere near as entertaining as the famous Star Wars bar scene). Bloom obsesses over Blazes Boylan’s progress towards Molly’s bed. He also writes a letter to Martha (what is up with that, anyways?).

Chapter 12 (Cyclops): Yet another bar. This time we get to listen in as people gossip about Bloom. One man, a “citizen,” begins to insult Bloom, at which point he inconveniently arrives at the scene. As Bloom is escorted out of the bar, he responds to the citizen, who is insulting Jews, with a list of famous Jews.

Chapter 13 (Nausicaa): Bloom goes to the seaside, where he watches and listens to three young women. One of them teases him by lifting up her skirt. Bloom is so excited he jacks off.

Chapter 14 (Oxen of the Sun): Bloom stops by the hospital to see if Mrs. Purefoy (mentioned earlier in the book…she’s been in labor for forever and a day) has had her baby yet. He joins Stephen and a group of medical students as they sit around talking and drinking (evidently medical school in the early 1900s was quite lenient). This chapter is meant to show the development of prose styles through literary history. And I only know that because I’m also reading the Spark Notes.

Chapter 15 (Circe): The most memorable thing about this chapter is it’s length…180 torturous pages, written as if it was a play, complete with costume and stage directions. After the party at the hospital, Bloom follows Stephen to a whorehouse, and he has some trippy hallucinations along the way. His parents make an appearance, as does his grandpa. Bloom also imagines himself as king of Bloomusalem, adored by his subjects. Until it all goes wrong, at which point he turns into a woman and gives birth to multiple yellow and white children.

And now that the summary is out of the way, let’s move on to my thoughts…

Is anyone besides me still reading this piece of crap?

Okay, crap might be a bit harsh, but this book is driving me freakin’ crazy. I was fine until I hit the halfway mark, at which point Joyce totally lost me. Not that I was totally getting it prior to the halfway point, but I was at least following the general story (which means 90% of the book was still over my head). But when Bloom meets up with Stephen Dedalus at the hospital and Joyce starts spouting off in different literary era, he really started to lose me. And then the chapter written like a play and filled with hallucinations? O. M. F. G.

Jason left a comment a few weeks ago wondering if I found this worse than The Brothers Karamazov, which you may recall, I hated with a passion. At the time, I was thinking no, nothing would or could ever be as miserable as that reading experience. However, I’m rethinking that. Because I honestly don’t know what Joyce was trying to accomplish beyond confusing the HELL out of his readers. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t read to be confused.

However, I’m this close to finishing (only three more chapters!), so I’ll be damned if I’m quitting now. But I know for sure that I will never, ever, EVER be reading this book again.

********************

P.S. I was going to do a Mr. Linky, but I think most of my fellow readers have jumped ship. If you do have a post to share, just leave a link in the comments.

Written by softdrink

March 7, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in read-along, Ulysses

Jousting with Joyce: Update 2

with 11 comments

Here we are at the end of week 3 of the Jousting with Joyce readalong. If you’re following the reading schedule, you’ll have just finished Episode 9.

I haven’t. Finished Episode 9, that is. But I’ve started it! So I’m not that far behind. But I’m finding Episode 9 quite painful, especially since I was feeling like I was finally finding my rhythm with Episodes 7 and 8.

Let’s discuss what’s happening:

In my first update, I summarized Episodes 1-3, which focused on Stephen Dedalus. Today I’ll give a brief overview of 4-9.

Episode 4 (Calypso): We finally meet Leopold Bloom. And it’s a memorable meeting, as we learn the man loves his meat (there’s even a harangue against vegetarians in a later chapter).

“Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” p. 55

Oh gawd, gag me with a spoon. Or a kidney. That’s just nasty. And so it’s breakfast time in the Bloom household, and Leopold hies himself off to the butcher to pick up a kidney. Once he’s back at the ranch, he takes a breakfast tray and the mail up to his wife, Molly, who seems to be a pampered singer (seriously…does anyone else think this woman is unjustly spoiled?). She received a letter from her latest maybe lover, who goes by the astonishing name of Blazes Boylan. Molly downplays the letter to her husband (it’s just business, dear) and then stashes it under the pillow. Bloom runs off to rescue his burning kidney, and then spends some quality time in the outhouse (I’ve noticed Joyce is a bit obsessed with bodily functions), and then takes his leave.

Episode 5  (Lotus Eaters): Bloom stops at the post office to pick up a letter for Henry Flower (Flower, Bloom, get it?). I can’t quite figure out if he’s having his own clandestine affair, or what. After that, he buys some soap at the pharmacy, and then goes to the baths. Along the way, there are conversations and fantasies.

Episode 6 (Hades): Bloom attends the funeral of a friend, Paddy Dignam. So does Stephen Dedalus’s dad. For awhile I thought it was Stephen, which was confusing.

Episode 7 (Aeolus): Bloom sells ads for a newspaper, and in Episode 7 he stops in at work. I loved this episode because it’s told in the style of newspapers, with a headline and a short article. It did make it hard to follow (well, that and the fact that there were lots of people popping in and out), but it was clever.

Epsiode 8 (Lestrygonians): Bloom is back to walking the streets of Dublin, as he searched for a place to have lunch. His first stop turns out to be a bad choice, and the description of the smells in the restaurant is vivid enough to turn your stomach. Luckily, Bloom leaves and ends up at a pub, where he has a glass of red wine and a cheese sandwich.

Episode 9 (Scylla and Charybdis): And now the story turns back to Stephen, who is in the library debating with some fellow students. At which point I got bored and decided I’d had enough for the week.

Despite the song I posted last week, I’m not hating this as much as it would appear. Sure, some of the chapters are excruciating, but when I’m able to concentrate I can usually follow the story. I’ve found the chapters where Bloom is out walking the streets are much easier than the ones where there is dialogue…mostly because I can’t figure out what the heck they’re talking about.

One thing that has surprised me is all of the colloquialisms (if that’s even the right word) that I recognize. Of course, I can’t think of any off of the top of my head, but phrases similar to “the bee’s knees” pop up and I think “hey, my dad said that!”

And despite all of the other characters popping in and out, really this is just a look inside of a man’s head. A very unfiltered look. Think about all of the fractured thoughts and musings that pop into your head in the course of a day…as you eat, work, talk with friends and lovers, and yes, even use the toilet. Sometimes the thoughts are profound, sometimes they’re disjointed, and sometimes they’re profane. Joyce just happened to make a book out of that. As I said two weeks ago, the man was either a genius, or whacked.

********************

Have you posted an update as to how you’re doing with Ulysses? If so, leave a link!

Written by softdrink

February 21, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in read-along, Ulysses

Joyce Spews

with 21 comments

For the first and most likely only time, you can listen to me. I know, you’re so excited. But you’re going to have to wait for a few paragraphs.

It’s turning into a musical weekend, here at chez softdrink. Last night I posted With a Book, which motivated me to finally finish another song (and no Cass, I haven’t forgotten I’ve promised you “I Like Big Books” for the readathon). I figured if anyone was deserving of a song, it was Joyce and Ulysses (and my brave readalong posse). And lately, Hamburger and I have been hugely amused by Cee Lo Green’s hit F*ck You. You can see where this is going, right? If you’re not familiar with Cee Lo Green, please do me a favor and go listen. If you don’t want to watch the uncensored version, you can listen to the alternate version, Forget You.

Now that you’ve got the song in your head, it’s your job to remember the ooo, ooo, ooo parts, ’cause you’ll need to fill those in. Because have I mentioned I don’t sing? Seriously. I was the only girl in 6th grade not in choir. So you get more of a spoken word performance of my re-make , “Joyce Spews.” And if you prefer not to hear my gawdawful voice, here are the lyrics so you can sing it yourself (the audio file is hiding at the end of the post):

Joyce Spews

See, I’m tryin’ to read Ulysses
With some of my friends and I’m like
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo
As if reading Dostoevsky
Wasn’t enough I’m like
Fyodor spews!
And uh, Joyce does too!
Trisha’s all “let’s read Ulysses, it’s a bree-eze”
Ha, now ain’t that some shit? (ain’t that some shit?)
Now there’s some dread up ahead
And a pain in my head, ‘cause um,
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo

Yeah I’m sorry, this song’s not more genari
(If Joyce can make up words I can too)
Ulysses is as chewy as calimari
Hope you won’t commit hari kari

I pity the foo-ooo-oool that’s not reading it too
‘Cause readalongs are the shit
Don’t sneer. Joyce would like that bit.
Ooooooh
I’ve got some news for you
Yeah you go run and tell your little blog all about it

See, I’m tryin’ to read Ulysses
With some of my friends and I’m like
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo
As if reading Dostoevsky
Wasn’t enough I’m like
Fyodor spews!
And uh, Joyce does too!
Trisha’s all “let’s read Ulysses, it’s a bree-eze”
Ha, now ain’t that some shit? (ain’t that some shit?)
Now there’s some dread up ahead
And a pain in my head, ‘cause um,
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo

Now I know, it’s gonna be slow
A little sleazy, kinda queasy
Trying to get through it, trying to get it
‘Cause reading Ulysses sure ain’t easy

Still. I pity the foo-ooo-oool that’s not reading it, too
‘Cause readalongs are the shit
Don’t sneer. Joyce would like that bit.
Ooooooh
I’ve got some news for you
Ooh. I really hate Chapter 3 right now

See, I’m tryin’ to read Ulysses
With some of my friends and I’m like
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo
As if reading Dostoevsky
Wasn’t enough I’m like
Fyodor spews!
And uh, Joyce does too!
Trisha’s all “let’s read Ulysses, it’s a bree-eze”
Ha, now ain’t that some shit? (ain’t that some shit?)
Now there’s some dread up ahead
And a pain in my head, ‘cause um,
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo

Now Jamie, Jamie, Jamie, why’d you wanna wanna confuse me so bad?
(abstract, abstract, abstract)
I’m trying to understand it but man
Your prose is really whacked
(it’s whacked, it’s whacked, it’s whacked)
I’m like huh? Say what? Are you kidding me?
Whhhy Jamie? Oh! I love you oh!
No, I hate youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. Ooooooooh!

See, I’m tryin’ to read Ulysses
With some of my friends. I’m like
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo
As if reading Dostoevsky
Wasn’t enough I’m like
Fyodor spews!
And uh, Joyce does too!
Trisha’s all “let’s read Ulysses, it’s a bree-eze”
Ha, now ain’t that some shit? (ain’t that some shit?)
Now there’s some dread up ahead
And a pain in my head, ‘cause um,
Joyce spews!
Oo, oo, ooo

*******************

And now, the moment you all haven’t been waiting for, Fizzy B, aka Softdrink, aka Jilli Vanilli, performs the audio version of her latest hit:

joyce spews

***Warning…the word shit is said often, so please don’t crank the volume if you are listening to this somewhere where you shouldn’t be, like, oh say, WORK.***

***And disclaimer: Alternate pronunciations may have been used in the making of the above audio file.***

Written by softdrink

February 11, 2011 at 9:41 am

Jousting with Joyce – initial thoughts

with 14 comments

We’re three chapters into our readalong of Ulysses, and I’ve come to following conclusion:

Joyce was a genius. Or whacked.

I can’t really decide.

Let me explain. Ulysses is full of allusions. The whole thing is modeled after Homer’s Odyssey, but it seems like every word, every character, every line of dialogue, is meant to evoke some meaning or memory. The thought of someone coming up with this beast of a book just boggles my mind.

On the other hand, there are moments when the book is also practically incomprehensible (ahem…chapter 3).

So. Genius. Whacked. Genius. Whacked. Which is it?

Maybe both?

And that’s where my thoughts stand at the moment. Now, let’s chat a bit about what’s happening. This is where, if you’re going to ever read this (although judging by the comments on prior posts, I’m guessing that’s not many of you), you’ll want to leave.

In Chapter 1, Telemachus, we meet (or, if we ever read The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (which I haven’t), we’re re-introduced to) Stephen Dedalus. Stephen is our young hero, the counterpart to Odysseus’s son Telemachus. He lives with Buck Mulligan, an obnoxious medical student who likes to party and bullies Stephen into lending him money and paying the rent. Like Telemachus, Stephen needs to learn how to stand up for himself. And like Telemachus, he’s saddled with moochers.

In Chapter 2, Nestor, Stephen heads off to work, teaching history to young boys at a small, private school. It doesn’t take much time…he teaches for an hour, and then meets with the headmaster to collect his wages. The headmaster goes off on a few tangents that are meant to evoke Irish history and remind us of Nestor, Telemachus’s first stop in his search for papa Odysseus (I know this only because I’m consulting Stuart Gilbert’s analysis James Joyce’s Ulysses).

Chapter 3, Proteus,  is a long, rambling monologue. Stephen walks to the sea. Along the way he stops to visit his uncle Richie. At least, I think he does. It may have just been imagined. It’s hard to tell when there’s no actual dialogue. In fact, it was hard to know what Stephen was thinking for most of this chapter. Mostly what I remember is that there were things mentioned in other languages, there was a dog, and there was the sea. This is the chapter that makes a good case for Joyce being whacked. I offer you this proof:

Come. I thirst. Clouding over. No black clouds anywhere, are there? Thunderstorm. Allbright he falls, proud lightning of the intellect, Lucifer, dico, qui nescit occasum. No. My cockle hat and staff and his my sandal shoon. Where? To evening lands. Evening will find itself. (page 50)

Yeah. Chapter 3 was pretty much one great WTF.

So that brings us to the end of the Telemachus, the first book in Ulysses. Besides my genius-whacked debate, the thing that really stood out for me was the sea. It’s everywhere. Even Buck had to talk about it:

God, he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look. (page 5)

epi oinopa ponton = the wine-dark sea, which was a phrase Homer used often in the Odyssey

thalatta = the Sea

See what I mean? Sorry. Bad pun. I’ll stop now, with this final observation: how did people read this book before Google?!?

********************

If you’re reading along with us, and you’ve written a post about the first week’s adventures, please leave a link so we can visit and commiserate!

Written by softdrink

February 7, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in read-along, Ulysses

Jousting with Joyce…we're off!

with 9 comments

Today is the start of our Ulysses readalong (it’s never to late to join in!), so I thought I’d post some info on Joyce and his novel:

  • Ulysses takes place entirely on one day, June 16, 1904, which is the day that Joyce had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.
  • It was first published in 1922, by Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare and Company. Prior to that it was serialized in an American journal (and also partly in a British journal). Until the smutty stuff showed up…
  • …and the book was later banned in the US and England due to charges of obscenity.
  • The main character, Leopold Bloom, is a modern, everyday version of the Homer’s great hero Odysseus. Bloom’s day mimics Odysseus’s adventures. Check out the Gilbert Schema, which maps out the chapters, their themes and connections to Homer’s Odyssey. I have this puppy printed out and stashed in my book. And no, I don’t consider it cheating. Also, this short essay describes how the schema works, as well as Joyce’s intent behind some of the symbolism.
  • Bloomsday is celebrated each year on (of course) June 16th. The day is a celebration of both Joyce and his famous novel, and many people walk the route Bloom takes through Dublin in the book.
  • This site will take you on a chapter-by-chapter photo tour of Ulysses and Dublin.
  • It’s been said that Chapter 3 (Proteus) is the stopping point for many a reader. However, it’s also a short chapter, and if you make it past this roadblock, there’s a good chance you’ll make it through the book.
  • A list of characters in the novel might come in handy.
  • And finally, here’s an overview of the whole shebang, including themes, style, and chapter summaries.

Leopold Bloom, as drawn by Joyce

Written by softdrink

February 1, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in read-along, Ulysses

Jousting with Joyce (the Ulysses readalong)

with 56 comments

This is the official announcement of our Ulysses readalong…Jousting with Joyce.

James Joyce’s Ulysses has a reputation of being difficult (hence the joust), confusing, smutty, and the epitome of the Modern Novel (Modernism?!? oh god…shoot me now).

We will begin reading this famous book on February 1st. The plan is to read 3 chapters (aka episodes) a week. And since there are 18 chapters (more on that in a minute), we should finish in mid-March.

If you’re lucky, you have an edition that indicates the chapters, which have been named thusly (note the connections to characters and events in the Odyssey)…

Part I: The Telemachiad

  • Episode 1 – Telemachus
  • Episode 2 – Nestor
  • Episode 3 – Proteus

Part II: The Odyssey

  • Episode 4 – Calypso
  • Episode 5 – Lotus Eaters
  • Episode 6 – Hades
  • Episode 7 – Aeolus
  • Episode 8 – Lestrygonians
  • Episode 9 – Scylla and Charybdis
  • Episode 10 – Wandering Rocks
  • Episode 11 – Sirens
  • Episode 12 – Cyclops
  • Episode 13 – Nausicaa
  • Episode 14 – Oxen of the Sun
  • Episode 15 – Circe

Part III: The Nostos

  • Episode 16 – Eumaeus
  • Episode 17 – Ithaca
  • Episode 18 – Penelope

I say if you’re lucky, because Joyce didn’t include the chapter breakdowns or names in his original edition. And the copy I have seems to be faithful to Joyce, dagnabbit. I see some quality time with page flags in my future. If you’re wondering how to figure out where the chapters start, supposedly the first line of each episode in the novel appears in small capital letters. This is true for my copy, so thank god for small favors.

So. Because some of us are lacking the chapters and may get lost, and we’d like to check in with everyone occasionally (we’re gonna need lots of support to get through this puppy), the plan for posting on your progress/thoughts is as follows:

  • End of week 1: thoughts on Section 1, chapters 1-3.
  • End of week 3: this is midway through Section 2, through chapter 9.
  • End of week 5: thoughts on Section 2, through chapter 15.
  • End of week 6: Section 3, end of book.

So…are you feeling crazy? Or, want to be driven crazy? Or, think we’re crazy but you’re still willing to read along with us because you think book bloggers should stick together? Then you should join us! It’ll be good times! Trisha (and if you want to point fingers, this was HER idea, which she suggested as we were reading the Odyssey), Trish, Joanna,  Jason and I will be diving in on February 1st…if you’d like to play along, you can sign up below the cartoon.

Written by softdrink

January 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Posted in read-along, Ulysses