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The Goal: Ulysses

The last book I will read during this 101 book project will be Ulysses.

If you don’t know the story behind that, I’ll briefly share. The list upon which this blog is based, created by Time Magazine, features what they deem as the 100 greatest English-speaking novels since 1923. As luck would have it, Ulysses was written in 1922.

James Joyce’s Ulysses is widely viewed, at least in critical circles, as the greatest novel ever written. So, for kicks and giggles and possibly self-torture, I threw Ulysses into the mix to make it a nice round 101.

On top of that, I decided to save Ulysses for the very end. A “celebratory” read, I guess you could say.

The novel will be challenging. I know from experience because I’ve read it. Back in college, I took a James Joyce class. In that class, we read two books: 1) A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, which we covered in a couple of weeks. And 2) Ulysses, which we spent the next several months on.

I have a copy with notes in the margins and underlined passages all throughout. So I’ll have my old James Joyce professor to thank for that—when I finally get around to this book.

So Ulysses is my ultimate goal. It’s the finish line, the proverbial icing on the cake. What kind of masochist am I to “celebrate” by reading a James Joyce book? Why didn’t I pick Harry Potter or something like that?

When will I get there? I’m thinking the blog has about two more years left on it, at least in its current format.

If my wife and I have more kids in the next two years, then you can probably add a good six months on to that. I have a theory that each child you have takes away 25% of your reading time. No peer-reviewed research has been done on that theory. But I stand by it.

Anyway, Ulysses. One day. I’ll be there.

Thanks for continuing to go on this journey with me.

Anyone have experience with Ulysses?

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great book, and one of the greatest Joyce’s experiments!

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  2. More kids = more “kindle” reading time. Standing around, waiting, bored need something to do…bust out the Kindle app on your iPhone. (Stat from the not-Pew Charitable Reading Trust)

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  3. I’ve read “Ulysses” several times both in English and Polish, the same for his other works. It still remains one of the most powerfull novels I’ve ever read. My plan for this year is to finally dig through the “Finnegans Wake”, also both the original and the fresh Polish translation. I’m not sure if there’s any chance for me to succeed…

    Like

    February 26, 2013
    • Finnegan’s Wake just seems like torture to me.

      Like

      February 26, 2013
  4. Emily #

    There is also a class in my school that we read that. I think i might have to take it.

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  5. I tried last year and gave up. I’m going to give it a go again this year, and I’m just going to read it…without using a guide. I think it was trying to understand too much and use a guide that stopped me in my tracks last year.

    Like

    February 26, 2013
    • Yeah, I can’t do guides. I tried that a little with Infinite Jest. I like just reading through organically and embracing my stupidity!

      Like

      February 26, 2013
      • Hahaha! I loved the guide for IJ, but the guide for Ulysses wasn’t doing much for my understanding of the story, anyway. I’m going to embrace my stupidity for this one, too. Ha!

        Like

        February 26, 2013
  6. Hmm could you expound upon the 25% reading time? I read it as that you lose that much reading time especially as they get older, but seems like others have read it the other way. I’m hoping to get to Ulysses this year, but not until I’ve got some down time at work.

    Like

    February 26, 2013
    • That’s a typo. I fixed it. Meant to say that each child causes 25% less reading time. This is highly scientific research.

      Like

      February 26, 2013
      • That 25% would definitely have to be the average. I found I still was able to read a lot, however the material had changed… Goodnight Moon at least twice a night (with varying intonations to keep me awake) and repeated Dr. Seuess readings until my tongue felt like it was having a seizure… Maybe I lost 25% of my brain cells in there.

        Like

        February 28, 2013
  7. Good luck with tackling Ulysses (again)! I too took a Joyce class in college. I’m sure it will help to have your old notes 🙂

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  8. Yes! I took a Joyce class from a prof who “lived” Joyce. In addition to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, we read The Dubliners as prep. It’s my all-time favorite book of short stories, containing the best short story written in English, The Dead. I can never tire of reading the last few paragraphs of that story. ANYWAY, we also read/used Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated and Joyce Annotated, Ellmann’s James Joyce, Brenda Maddox’s Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom, Budgen’s James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, and the Viking Portable Library James joyce. It was a crazy class, and I must say that I loved some of the chapters of Ulysses and disliked others. It will be interesting to see how you read it now that you have more life under your belt. Looking forward to the discussion.

    As far as children and reading time are concerned, I think it also depends on how many extracurricular activities they’re involved with. Now that my son is more independent, I find that my “free” time is taken up by driving, pulling uniforms together, trips to Sports Basement to get “necessary items,” buying snacks, making food for potlucks, etc. I am in awe of parents with more than one child. Several of my friends with multiple kids limit the extracurricular activities to one or two each. But I do have a friend who’s child plays on two baseball teams, a soccer team, and a basketball team. And she’s a single mom with a demanding job. She also coaches the soccer the team. Me, I’m happy just to have the freelance writing freedom to schedule my work time around my “other” life. No parent I know ever gets enough sleep at night. :o)

    We were sitting at a coffee shop with some other parents a few mornings ago, waiting for our kids’ school play to start. We all looked like zombies gripping our giant mugs of coffee and trying to put together a few coherent sentences.

    Like

    February 26, 2013
    • dste #

      We’re reading Dubliners in my Irish Lit class right now! We haven’t gotten to The Dead yet, yet but your comment makes me look forward to it a little more.

      Like

      February 26, 2013
  9. Did an MA in English Lit. Ulysses is the hardest book I have EVER read. Took me a good few weeks in the library, a lot of coffee and a guidebook to help me understand. That being said, it is lovely once you squirm past its mean exterior. Good luck!

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  10. karlgdnr #

    I’ve read A Portrait of the Artist at university last year. I appreciated it as a literary text but didn’t enjoy reading it in the least… With this in mind I’m going to wait until you’ve reviewed it before deciding whether to try Ulysses or not 😀

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  11. Carly #

    I’m trudging my way through a similar list of books – I thought I was home free when I finished Ulysses, but I still have to make it through Finnegans Wake. I thought I could read anything until I took a look at that gem…

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  12. Good luck! I tried reading Ulysses last year…gave up after the first few chapters. People have told me that if I read it with a guide, I’d enjoy it more, but I don’t like the idea that I need a reading guide to enjoy a book. I figured, why waste my time struggling over a book I can’t possibly understand (or don’t have the time to understand), when there are so many other good (better) books out there.

    Anyway, good luck to you and your endeavor. I really hope you get through it and actually understand what it is Joyce wants to convey.

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  13. I; think it’s one thing to read and experience a book, and another to STUDY it. Ulysses can be studied, but it is also possible to just READ and experience it. Let Joyce work on you. Study can be very rewarding, but why not just experience the work?

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  14. Started reading Ulysses back in 2009, couldn’t finish it. There was something about the middle which stopped me from pushing forward. Tried reading it again in 2010 and still, the middle part proved to be a reader’s roadblock.

    I do promise to finish reading the novel (third attempt) sometime this year. I hope.

    Like

    February 26, 2013
  15. I fell in love with “Ulysses” during my undergrad days, and last year I finally had the privilege of flying to Dublin for the Bloomsday festivities. It was a great time. Check out my slideshow if you get the chance: http://adaywithj.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/i-can-finally-check-bloomsday-off-my-bucket-list/ It’s got pics and video from a lot of the spots in “Ulysses” along with corresponding text from the novel. Good luck getting to 101! 🙂

    Like

    February 27, 2013
  16. I think the whole idea of (re)visiting “classics” is wonderful, except many “classics” suck. Usually, cream rises and you will probably enjoy most of what has stayed popular, but I think that sometimes we carried away with an author’s self-importance and label their stuff as great when it’s merely the inane musings of a really smart person. Just a thought.

    Like

    February 27, 2013
    • THIS. I read Portrait in high school and have since held the belief that Joyce is/was a whiny, pretentious douche. And I’ve read passages of Ulysses, and it just doesn’t make any sense to me why anyone would waste what is obviously prodigious brain power on something that people need oodles of guides to read. I imagine that most writers write because they want to tell a story, right? Why would you bother writing a story that no one can understand except to say “look at me, look at how smart I am”?

      Like

      February 28, 2013
  17. It’s on my One Day list… probably once I have an empty nest if that ever happens.

    Like

    February 27, 2013
  18. I started reading Ulysses in college near the end of 2010…I still haven’t finished it. The only reason I keep at it and read a chapter every few months is so that I can say I read the whole thing eventually. But really it’s a pile of rubbish. I admire what Joyce could do (Dubliners is my all time favourite book), but Ulysses is too much.

    Like

    March 3, 2013

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