Review: James Joyce’s “Ulysses”

by Miles Raymer


Right so asking a guy like me to critique James Joyces Ulysses is like asking a blind man to critique a silent film Ive neither the know how nor the gumption to properly assess something I have little chance of understanding and would be skeptical of anyone who claimed to comprehend it comprehensively so rather than get into all the secondary mumbo jumbo lets just jump in and see how this thing affects the old noggin quote everything speaks in its own way unquote so how does it speak to us well this is one of the best books Ive ever read and also one of the worst it seems like the sort of book whose idea outpaces the actual text so then scholars are tripping over their bookmarks to comment on it because the whole world is dying to say something everyone will remember and soon the whole world is piggy backing on a book like this and some people surely know what theyre doing but how do we know that they know anyhow to me the average page appeared completely nonsensical and I could hardly make out any conceivable plot Joyces style is poetic in the extreme and I often felt victimized by his lassitude inducing bloviations but then from time to time a passage would strike like a bolt of lightening and rent my brain like quote every life is many days day after day we walk through ourselves meeting robbers ghosts giants old men young men wives widows brothers in love but always meeting ourselves unquote now that is some bang diggity word working and Id tip my hat if it had a brim now this book is something of a record of values stuck in time like those damned mosquitoes they used to resurrect the dinosaurs oh but thats another tale and Ulysses is the one Im talking about well Joyce seems to have been a rather pompous racist and his views about women wouldnt exactly fly in the twentyfirstcentury but wait you say he was a man of his time okay I reply but he could obviously see so many other things so damned clearly that it strains the mind to think he could also have been so bigoted but thats how bigotry works you say and I say fine you win Joyces mind seems to have lived on a knifes edge between extreme locality and a fledgling globalized consciousness we see every dingy corner of Dublin and meet an unending parade of proper nouns scurrying around Joyce knows how little we are quote our lust is brief we are means to those small creatures within us and nature has other ends than we unquote so he is diving into the depths of the mundane and trying to resurface with a godlike view to understand that we are all one Clarke and Kubrick and Sagan would be proud quote Its a patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live around the corner and speak another vernacular so to speak unquote hear hear where was that idea when you were accosting people with different skin and vaginas well Id buy you a pint anyway to celebrate the presence of that thought in your mind your mind your mind your mind was clearly singular and you pulled a universe from nothing not nothing from our collective past that must have been tiring quote I am exhausted abandoned no more young I stand so to speak with an unposted letter bearing the extra regulation fee before the too late box of the general postoffice of human life unquote so it was tiring I cant imagine otherwise you were trying to cram an Odyssey of human existence into a single day in Dublin didnt your mother teach you to only bite off as much as you can chew but didnt life teach you to want and want and want and you sharpened your teeth and bit away and now the world has this literary wormhole with all our stories jumbled together at once and all times are this time and its so chaotic this wordy Charybdis of human pain and suffering and desire and joy and hope that youve sucked us all into and even if we drown in it perhaps we dont mind for me it came down to beauty extraction there is a lot of beauty here that I missed but some of it walked right up and tweaked my nose so I couldnt ignore it quote Id love to have the whole place swimming in roses God of heaven theres nothing like nature the wild mountains then the sea and the waves rushing then the beautiful country with fields of oats and wheat and all kinds of things and all the fine cattle going about that would do your heart good unquote yes it did my heart good when I could reach outside my silly critical training and open up to possibilities this is not easy for me so its good to get nudged occasionally this book had me nudged and fudged and flat on my back with the sun shining on a shore that exists only between bookends.

(123, 213, 387, 564, 486, 703)

Rating: ?/10