Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Ulysses by James Joyce


Author: James Joyce

Publication Date: 1922

Genre: Classics



In the past, Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and even unreadable. None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book.

William Blake saw the universe in a grain of sand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a day distinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom's case) masturbate. And thanks to the book's stream-of-consciousness technique--which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river--we're privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.

Jenn's Thoughts:  I really, really, really tried to like and finish this book, but I just couldn't do it. I read 20% of it, and still wasn't getting the point of the story. I feel like I was mostly reading incoherent thoughts that randomly jumped around, constantly. Maybe one day I will try to finish it, but I got 130/650 pages read and just can't look at it right now. I find it super hard to pick up this book and it was causing me to not read anything because I felt guilty for not reading it. I'll try to come back to this book, but probably won't for years if I do.
Meghan's Thoughts:  I never did finish this book so I can't really give a full review. This book was nearly impossible for me to finish. I got about 130 pages in, and getting that far was serious work. Reading this book was like reading every fourth thought in the head of someone whose thoughts go a mile a minute. It was hard to connect anything or follow anything. I would read a page and minutes after finishing I wouldn't be able to remember what it was I just read. 

Maybe if I was more learned in English or Philosophy I could look into the meaning of every seemingly unrelated sentence and enjoy it. But, I doubt even that. I picked it up in the first place because it was on our top100 list, how exactly it got there remains a mystery to me. Even more surprising is that it is close to the top of the list. I guess there are people out there who really enjoyed it. I'd love to have them enlighten me. 

Most of the time reading this I just felt like beating my head off the pages, and when I wasn't feeling like that I was falling asleep from reading a bunch of words I couldn't string together. I am sorry James Joyce for giving your book such a bad review :( I really don't like to talk about about books since they are high among my favorite things in life. But I really disliked this book and I wouldn't recommend that any one pick it up.


  1. Aaah, I remember studying these books that were written to resemble the subconscious thought process. I had to read one with this one line that's stayed in my head since:

    "...laying on my side drinking frogs in the water..."

    I was like what?! Couldn't get my head around it! I won't be reading more by authors who wrote in the same vein.

    I completely agree with you: the reader has to spend far too much time figuring out where the sentences start and stop to actually enjoy it.

    1. Soooo not sure what that means.. lol
      I definitely wanted to smash my face into the book more than once.. Didn't really understand much of it..

  2. I had to read James Joyce for an English course, and I HATED it! Yuck-o. Great review, though!

    1. It was so awful :( I felt bad for not finishing a book, but I just couldn't force my way through..

  3. I have never read James Joyce, but this does sound like an uphill battle and that's not why I read now that I'm done with school.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. It's an uphill battle in 10 feet of snow, in a blizzard. I agree that it's better to read for fun than try to force your way through a book you dislike.

  4. I know what you mean! I hate when the author have "incoherent" thoughts D: It just make it so hard to like.

    1. Yes! I have so much trouble following a book if it's constantly having random thoughts.


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