Modern Library's 100 Best Novels Challenge - Ulysses by James Joyce
Wow, I did not like this book. I decided I would just tackle the 100 Best Novels from the beginning, and I had a feeling this would be a tough read for me, so I thought I just dive in and do my best. And what I can tell you is, I did not like this book.
Ulysses is a novel by James Joyce, first serialized in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922, in Paris. It is considered one of the most important works of Modernist literature.
Ulysses chronicles the passage through Dublin by its main character, Leopold Bloom, during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904. The title alludes to the hero of Homer's Odyssey (Latinised into Ulysses), and there are many parallels, both implicit and explicit, between the two works (e.g., the correspondences between Leopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus and Telemachus). June 16 is now celebrated by Joyce's fans worldwide as Bloomsday.
Ulysses totals about 265,000 words from a vocabulary of 30,030 words (including proper names) and is divided into 18 "episodes". The book has been the subject of much controversy and scrutiny since its publication, ranging from early obscenity trials to protracted textual "Joyce Wars." Ulysses' stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—full of puns, parodies, and allusions—as well as its rich characterisations and broad humour, have made the book perhaps the most highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
This was not at all an enjoyable reading experience for me. I made the decision to read it along with a study guide - I think the first time I've ever used Cliff's Notes! - and that was actually a good decision, because otherwise I'm pretty sure I would have had no idea what was going on. I consider myself to be a pretty smart person, in general, but I am NOT smart enough for this novel. Wikipedia refers to puns, parodies, and allusions - all completely over my head. I have noticed in the past that I don't enjoy stream-of-consciousness, and that proved true here again. I feel like it was an educational reading experience, but not even a little bit fun. I'm glad to say I've read it, but don't ever want to again.
Also, I had planned to read ALL the books on the list - even if I have read something already, I was going to read it for this challenge. However, after Ulysses, I've changed my mind. I've already read Joyce's The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and I'm calling it done. I don't think I can face another book like this one. Whew, I'm glad it's over!
***Edited to add rating - 3/10