Sunday, February 8, 2009

TSS - Modern Library's 100 Best, #1

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.

From Wikipedia:

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.[1]

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)[2] 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.[3]

My thoughts:

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


Molly said...

Congratulations on sticking it out.

I don't think I would have the perseverance nor the endurance to do so.

Hope you are selecting a "fun" read for the upcoming week :)

Ruth @ Bookish Ruth said...

You deserve a fun, light read after that. Kudos to you for staying with it -- I doubt I would have.

Anonymous said...

You know what? I think I am wierd becuase just the title of the book make me NOT want to read it. And I don't ven know what it means. I hoped you would have enjoyed it more.

Kerrie said...

I had to read ULYSSES for my English major decades ago. The lecturer decided to deal with a chapter a week and then went sick after the third week and never turned up again.
I heard about a male reading group who were discussing a page of Ulysses every week and all I could think was how many other books there were that they should be reading.
Having said that,it was a novel that broke conventions with its stream of consciousness style and it broke new ground in English literature. I'm not sure it is meant to be enjoyed

bermudaonion said...

I've never read Ulysses and really don't have a desire to do so.

Mom said...

So, on your Rating System, where woul dyo rank this one? 2? 3? You are a better woman than I!

Mom said...

Can I correct my atrocious spelling on that last post? Sheesh. Don't tell my students . . .

Elizabeth said...

Molly - yep, nothing but fun for a while!

Ruth - thanks! I do feel like I accomplished something, I think..

violetcrush - no, that does not make you weird. I think it makes you smarter than me! =)

Kerrie - that's why I stuck with it, because I knew it was "important". Gah - reading a page a week sounds horrible.

bermuda - smart lady!

Mom - I went back and added a rating. And I won't tell about the spelling. =)

Mo said...

LoL...I've decided for myself that for the 09 Celebrate the author challenge, I was - AM! - going to read some of the classics I'd "missed" growing-up; I started in Jan. with Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth", and came away feeling quite the same way you did after this - glad to have read it and gotten it "under my belt", but can't say that I'll be looking for more of her work, anytime soon. (I prob'ly should'a went for "Ethan Frome", I think; it was not only her writing style I didn't like, but moreso, the subject matter of Lily Bart.)

Anyway...congrat's on finishing that tome! Our copy sits, unread by ME, on our living room shelf. After your review, it may stay dust-covered for awhile longer!

Zibilee said...

I have never had the urge to read this book. I don't like stream of consciousness writing at all, so I am sure this book would not be for me. Kudos to you though, for getting through it!