ulysses by james joyce

i have had ulysses on my to-read list for so long, i can’t remember why it caught my interest in the first place.

over the last ten years i have tried to actually read it at least four times. first in translation, then in original. most of the attempts ended around page 300-350. lack of plot and hostility of the text didn’t make it easy, but determination to conquer it only grew with time.

when reading ‘infinity jest’ last year, i tracked progress every day in a spreadsheet. seeing the neat columns of numbers helped me to get over the hump to the point when ij gets actually interesting. so i used the same trick when gearing up for the fourth ulysses crusade.

don’t waste your time on this book, unless you are forced to. the novel lives up to its reputation – plotless, dense, experimental prose. at times i felt like joyce actively hated his readers, while still wanting to show off what he can do to english language.

and yet, i enjoyed it (one of my friends called it stockholm syndrome). juxtaposition of country fate themes with bloom’s haphazard, filthy thoughts and small deeds was a surprise; serves me well for not doing any research on the book (though that was intentional – didn’t want any spoilers). now i get why it was banned so widely. before reading i presumed it was for political reasons.

ulysses gave modern literature inner monologue and tangled netting of allusions. without it we would still have all that, but in a parallel universe way.