Yeah, I'm pretty nerdy, but I think I'm in good company.
Ulysses, of course, is not so neat and tidy. It's more of a crazy, chaotic mess. One that will take more than one reading to make any sense of, and then, I suspect, it will still be a crazy, chaotic mess.
So I threw aside the notebook, shunned any outside commentary, and began to read Ulysses naked. (Meaning the book, not myself. Not that Joyce would mind a bit of nudity. I'm sure he would fully approve of me reading on, say, the toilet or in the bathtub, and then relating all of the details on my blog.)
And then, here comes the shocking thing: I actually like it! It's a true Life moment:
What I am most enjoying is the random rhythm of the writing. I couldn't say exactly what it is, but my brain is entertained by it. I don't even have to know what he's talking about [sigh of relief]. Something about the combination of short phrases, incomplete thoughts, one-word "sentences", words scrunched together, and playful alliteration all add up to a some sort of drunken party of language. I've come to look forward especially to phrases that are sort of ticklish:
- "Croppies lie down" (38).
- "Oot: a dullgarbed old man from the curbstone tendered his wares, his mouth opening: oot" (116).
- "Lovephiltres. Paragoric poppysyrup bad for cough" (104).
- "Boys are they? Yes. Inishturk. Inishark. Inishboffin. At their joggerfry. Mine. Slieve Bloom." (70).
Perched on high stools by the bar, hats shoved back, at the tables calling for more bread no charge, swilling, wolfing gobfuls of sloppy food, their eyes bulging, wiping wetted moustaches. . . A man spitting back on his plate: halfmasticated gristle: no teeth to chewchewchew it (215).And some passages I do find darkly beautiful:
A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far.
No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea: no fish, weedless, sunk deep in the earth. No wind would life those waves, grey metal, poisonous foggy waters. Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain: Sodom, Gomorrah, Edom. All dead names. A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest, the first race . . . (73)
There is one statement that actually sunk in a bit--I can at least pretend I understand what he's getting at:
"Like him was I, these sloping shoulders this gracelessness. My childhood bends beside me. Too far for me to lay a hand there once or lightly" (34).I have found that I do not like the conversational bits. I am not offended by the unconventional dashes, I'm just bored by their dialogue. I'm more comfortable inside Bloom's brain. Frightening!
I have also been largely ignorant of the many allusions I've heard about. Of course I can see The Odyssey intertwined into the plot, and a few things that gave me vague Shakespeare vibes, but that's about it.
So, for now, I'm enjoying the novelty of Joyce's experimentation. But I am wondering how long it will take for the "novelty" to wear off. There are many more pages for it to morph into "been there, done that." (I'm behind in my reading, I'm not even sure where I'm--my edition has no chapters.) But maybe Joyce has more up his.