Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Day After: Well Bloomsdayhas come and goneand I don'tfeel anymoresurrealordirtyor"modern" than the day before.

Okay sorry about that - just my tiny tribute to the crazy one-eyed Irish ex-pat.

I've picked up "Ulysses" twice. Once to buy it, once to read it. I confess however to being one of those who didn't get through the first 50 pages. I then put it down, where it sits on my shelf, cursing at me.

Now, I'm not shy about dense, modern books. Hell, Eno knows well my love for the post-modern genre (although Ulysses is technically just "modern"). From "Gravity's Rainbow" to "Infinite Jest", I have not ducked those thousand page books, with their footnotes, thrice-removed derivative references, and hallucinatory excursions.

With Ulysses, I just couldn't get my foot far enough in the door for it to latch hold. Well, I'm going to try once more. Not because I intend to brag about it, or that my self-image as a man of all seasons needs burnishing. Just because I want to understand what all the fuss is about. Maybe I won't like it; and if that's the case I'll be man enough to admit it. But I should try, at least.

Once I finish my current book "Whirlwind" by Clavell (no slouch himself in the page number department) I shall once again embark on Joyce. It may be a while, but I will fill you in on my findings.


enobarbus said...

Why bother? Joyce was a waterheaded babbling Francophile idiot. My hacks through the pigweeds of Finnegans Wake and Portrait of the Oddest ("Hey ottist, paint this!") took up too much of my valuable time.

Better to spend that time on the likes of your Clavell; at least you'll enjoy it. As I mentioned regarding music a few weeks ago, I'm a firm disbeliever in the "take your medicine" school of the arts, the idea that you can't be well rounded until you've read, say, Ethan Frome.

Hogwash. Read what you like, and like what you read. There are no chores in the arts. Some books may be more difficult than others, but why should they be lacking in delights? Ulysses, it seems to me, is part of that web of art for the winking set -- the kind of people who think challenging visual art means vivisected sharks or stacks of canned human feces. Experimental art.

That's not to say that one shouldn't experiment with art; but one should be able to tell the failed experiments from the successes.

enobarbus said...

By the by: Sorry I haven't contributed today. I'm having trouble getting Blogger to cooperate. I almost had to e-mail you and ask you to add the above Joyce comment, to your own post, on my behalf.

Razor said...

I agree with your sentiment, but I really hate to start a book and not finish it, unless I hate it.

I didn't hate Ulysses; I just couldn't get focused. Now, I may end up hating it, but I should give the book the chance.

"Gravity's Rainbow" took me a bit of effort, but by the end, I really was quite enthralled (even if I didn't understand half of the allusions). Still a great work of art. I want to see if "Ulysses" will give me that same sense of happiness, even if I don't necessarily approve of the whole experience.