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.

ulysses update number four

i did it!!!

Ulysses is for sure the most difficult thing i’ve ever read. War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and other Russian classics have nothing on this monster of a novel.

i now know how ultramarathoners feel after the run.

a more coherent book opinion will come later. it will take several days, if not weeks to digest everything.

we are okay by nina lacour

“we are okay” is a skilfully written and edited book. some details did resonate, but overall it’s not for me. some young-adult fiction reads well regardless of reader’s age, and some doesn’t.

however, i don’t regret time spent on this book. mostly because it wasn’t a long read by any means.

agency by william gibson

this is is an acutely time-sensitive book; a reader would get most out of it if they read it right now or at least within couple of years after publication. there are so many time signifiers from our reality, anchoring the plot firmly in 2016-2017. to name a few: pussy riot; lock her up; brexit; n95 mask; notre dame fire.

the protagonist left the impression that she was just a vessel for Eunice and the object of the plot. i think it was intentional, to contrast Eunice’s will for agency with an average human being caught unawares.

considering rarity of new gibson books, i am happy to have anything new from him. but in the overall line up, i don’t expect “agency” to be among the classics. i’m afraid, it won’t age well.

to summarise, if you are already familiar with gibson and like his books, go and read “agency”, bump it up in your reading queue. but if you are lukewarm on the entire sci-fi thing, then pick something else.

brooklyn follies by paul auster

Sometimes I like to buy random books, without checking who is the author and what is the goodreads rating. Usually I judge just by a paragraph or two in the middle of the book and the cover (yes, i know, i know).

Brooklyn Follies was bought exactly like that.

Oh well. It’s not like I regret reading it, but upon few months passing I can’t say this book gave me anything of value. It’s decently written, its assortment of characters suitably eccentric, as is expected of New York dwellers. And that’s it. I have nothing else to say. The plot seemed bland to me.

Truly, I don’t really get why this book got re-published.

stonemouth by iain banks

The story is tight, sometimes claustrophobic, and would be a great candidate for a chamber theatre adaptation. Small town with its set in stone rules and rulers; love story interrupted by an unnamed tragedy and family feud; everyone has some kind of history with each other. Action takes off immediately, carrying the reader through an intense weekend and plenty of flashbacks from main character’s past.

Maybe it’s just me, but in this book Banks made Scotland feel exotic and mysterious, whereas in his other novels the country was just a location, blurry backdrop to the story.

I would not recommend to start with Stonemouth if one is not familiar with Banks, but it’s a good option for the third book, right after The Crow Road and The Wasp Factory.

Side note of bragging: I have this book in hardcover, signed first edition, making it one of the valued exhibits of my library.