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le 9 juin 2004
We're approaching the 100th anniversary of the action in Ulysses and I've taken my copy out and began to reread it. No other book I know of has more power to inspire or instill creative thought. His symbolism and skill is simply astounding. Anthony Burgess once said that many times he'd think of Ulysses and then think about his own work, "Why bother?" I know what he meant, but the power of the characters and style gives everday writers like myself something to strive for. This book is worth more than ten creative writing courses in the Ivy League. Even if I wanted to, I could never forget it.
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le 19 juillet 2004
I wrote this review previously w/ my other Amazon account but now that I changed email addresses, I'm going to publish this review in this account
Ulysses is considered by me to be the greatest book ever written. Now the following review is just the very basic storyline, in order to even begin to fathom the magnitude of it's magnificence, you need to read the other reviews and so here it is. It describes in florid detail a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and Stephen Dedalus, a young would-be-writer -- a character based on Joyce himself. Bloom, a Jewish advertising salesman, spends the day wandering through the streets and offices, pubs and brothels of 1904 Dublin
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le 25 juin 2004
This is certainly one of the most important audiobook performances available. Whether you have already read this masterpiece or you are beginning to study it, you will gain immeasurably from these narrators' idiomatic diction and narrative fluency. They bring the book alive and impart a level of clarity and coherent understanding that offsets the reader's tendency to get bogged down in details. No matter where you are coming from in relation to Ulysses, this reading will dramatically increase your appreciation for it.
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le 13 mars 2006
If you’re looking for a modern page-turner, a la “Da Vinci Code” by Brown or “Katzenjammer” by J. McCrae, then look someplace else. This is NOT it. ULYSSES is a classic in the same way that Proust’s work is, but easy to read? Don’t think so. It is worth your time trying to get through this tome, the same way it is with “Atlas Shrugged” or other classics that take a bit of getting used to. Most readers probably won't be able to approach this famous novel without some outside aid, but don't let that deter you. I've read parts of it many times and still haven't any idea what the central theme is supposed to be, yet it remains a fascinating work. The book is less about plot and character as it is about the creative use of language - stream-of-consciousness, changing narrators, parodies and other rhetorical devices are some of the techniques Joyce uses to the fullest. This is one of those rare books that can be read over and over and something new understood each time. For that alone, I recommend this to curious readers.
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le 6 décembre 2003
Brilliant book, a web of words encompassing centuries of literature and philosophy and its impasse on the overeducated lower middle class, a perfect allusion to a work of great literature (The Odyssey) that this book has matched well. Perhaps this is the first book to transcend the ability of what it has parodied. To those who have denied recommending it to someone of sixteen or seventeen, I had been upon this earth for a decade and a half when I came upon it, and just reread it one year later. Granted, you need a Latin dictionary and a good book of annotations to thoroughly understand it, but this book has made me realize just what a waste my public rural high school education was--Ulysses is literary heaven and hell and propagator of autodidacticism and eschews all principles of what has ever been said to create this century's magnum opus. I am exactly one-hundred years younger than James Joyce (and Stephen Daedalus), and on the sixteenth of June in 2004 I plan to! take the route of Leopold Bloom to vicariously relive it. One thing to be forewarned about: it is highly addictive. I have developed Ulysses codependency, as will anyone who gets through it. My head aches after reading it, for it is the best kind of masterpiece, the kind that attacks physically and intellectually at once. It is vulgar, carnal, and base (for its time, that is) and at once completely holy and pure because it has allowed the world to start over. Joyce is the avant-garde. He is our master philosopher and psychiatrist, who wrote the book that will never be shredded.
le 13 août 2011
Last month saw an article in the Guardian regarding some comments made by Gabriel Josipovici, former professor of comparative literature at Oxford University. The thrust of his argument was that the works of the current batch of lauded English novelists are the hollow works of 'prep-school boys showing off'. To quote him in full he said "Reading Barnes, like reading so many other English writers of his generation -- Martin Amis, McEwan -- leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner. The irony which at first made one smile, the precision of language was at first so satisfying, the cynicism which at first was used only to puncture pretension, in the end come to seem like a terrible constriction, a fear of opening oneself up to the world'.
Josipovici argues that Lawrence Sterne is still far more avant garde than the current self-proclaimed avant garde are. 'An author like Salman Rushdie takes from Sterne all the tricks without recognising the darkness underneath. You feel Rushdie's just showing off rather than giving a sense of genuine exploration'. For all the knowledge of technique they produce books that follow established plot-lines and in the end leave us unaffected because at heart they really have nothing to say.
You can choose whether to agree with Josipovici and it probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that he has a book coming out and so would profit from some timely but controversial words however I will say that there is nothing around now that can challenge Joyce for his ingenuity or inventiveness. Take David Mitchell's much lauded 'Cloud Atlas' for instance, for all his quoting of Nietzsche, his episodic structure and his thin and ultimately trivial connections between the unconnected he cannot offer up the dish of intertextuality or inventiveness of the narrative form that takes place in Ulysses.
Joyce too was frustrated with the state of literature in Ireland at the time he wrote, so much so that it drove him to continental Europe, to Paris and Trieste. He left a country, the servant of two masters (England its colonial master and Italy, its spiritual master), a country trying to muster up some semblance of national pride with a rebirth of Celtic ideals; Joyce also saw the dangers of the new nationalism inspired by people like Yeats and Synge and these ideas are parodied throughout Ulysses.
It is interesting to note that in last years batch of books longlisted for the booker prize that there is no place for Amis or McEwan or Rushdie so perhaps Josipovici is correct but I will also bet you that within the Booker's dozen there will be no author who breaks ground like Joyce did and I think we are all the worse off for it.
le 23 juillet 2004
The introduction of this book is wonderful, it helped me understand, not only the book itself, but also Joyce's state of mind while writting it. The book itself is one of the most amazing literary achievments, but if you haven't read any Joyce before, I suggest you read A Portrait of The Artist As a Young Man first to get a feal for the style and Joyce's writting. This a very long book (933 pages-the introduction is around 50) but I can almost gaurentee you will find something you absolutley love in the book unless you didn't understand it at all. Well if you do finishing reading this and want more of the same style of book, try to read Gravity's rainbow, but take a pen and paper so you can take notes on the more then 400 characters so you'll remember them near the end of the book, and also try to pay attention to who is narrating because of the constant and occasionally abrupt changes from character to character. Well anyway I hope you find this reviews helpful. And if you read this book for nothing else, read it for the sake of saying you've read it You won't regret it.
le 18 juin 2003
Ulysses will get you, if you give it enough of a chance. The first time you read it, it will be difficult - maybe even impossible. The second time you read it, you will begin to suspect that Joyce is actually writing about the contours of your own mind. The third time you read it, your earlier suspicion will prove true as you successively laugh, gasp, swear, snort, breathe, moan, think, and yearn in anticipation of the occurrences of these events on the page. By the fourth time you read it, you will realize you never stopped reading it - that even the interlude of years between your first and second reading was only a momentary pause to catch the breath of your life outside the Book; and that you made a habit of the yearly 16-June read merely for the sake of ordering that interval of months between the readings - and during those intervals you will find yourself repeating passages in your head that you would never have imagined to be memorizable. Each time you emerge from this book you will find yourself unmistakably changed - your eyes opened to a further deepness of what it is to be human, what it is to be yourself. Joyce will demand everything of you, but he will give you a greater everything in return.
If you have tried to read this book before, and didn't make it - well, i understand. The first time, it is admittedly extraordinarily difficult. But turn, if you will, to page 903 of the hardback Knopf Everyman edition, and read the bit of catechism "What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier returning to the range, admire?" that extends through 905. Then go to the beginning, or wherever you left off if you prefer, and start again. If not now, then someday - maybe years from now - but do it. And then do it again.
le 12 juin 2003
It seems, in this new century of total instant access to everything, that the accepted way of persuading people to read "Ulysses" is to say that it's a damn fine book but you need to be an experienced reader with a lot of time on your hands and plenty of patience...etc. Let's get a few things clear. This is not the "Critique of Pure Reason". There is not some algorithm you have to work out in advance in order to enjoy this book. It's a novel. It's a good read. The other stuff, the background stuff, the structural cunning and the wide-ranging allusiveness, is there in case you want to read it again. Basically, this is an unusually intelligent novel, in a basically comic mode, that plays a few games with the ways that we (sometimes lazily) tend to read. The rest is just a bonus. Joyce is just so generous in his joking and his desire to give us more than we normally expect from a book that we can get a bit overwhelmed by the cornucopia of stuff that he lays at our feet.
I first read Ulysses when I was about 17 - I was still in what Americans would call high school, I wasn't reading it because I had to, but because I had heard it was supposed to be one of the best books around and it was set in the city around which I had grown up. I found the first three chapters a bit tricky but I kept going, because it seemed to me that the guy knew what he was doing. Then I got to the fourth chapter, and it suddenly became much easier. It seemed to me that this was the kind of thing that most of the writers I liked were trying to do, but most often failed at, because they just weren't this good. Joyce is supremely good at conveying the physical sensations of being alive - what it's like to be hungry, sad, lustful, worrisome, tired, hopeful, nervous. As the book went on, I knew I wanted to trust this guy. In the later sections, Joyce seemed to be expecting what I wanted to happen, and seemed determined to persuade me that how I wanted the book to develop wasn't necessarily the best way for the book to go - and I believed him. Since I hadn't read many "great" novels, his changes in style seemed to me to be exactly the sort of thing that an adventurous writer should be doing. I thought then, and still think, that he can be a bit garrulous, but he's such a skilful writer that I don't wish he'd made the book any shorter than it is.
By the end, Ulysses had come to represent my basic idea of a really great novel. I had no notion that most novels aren't anything like as daring or as enjoyable. The only other novels I've read since which are both as courageous and as entertaining as this one are Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow", Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and Melville's "Moby-Dick". Which, I know now, will tell you a lot about my taste in fiction.
You really don't need to be an expert reader to appreciate "Ulysses". If anything, it's better if you have either read everything, or next to nothing. The notes are handy, if you want to know all that's going on - and I don't see why that should hurt. But even without them, Joyce - as they used to say of a certain brand of beer - can reach parts that other writers (or for that matter, beers) can't reach. He is a truly wonderful writer, and I'm (foolishly) proud that the greatest of novelists in the English language was an Irishman.
People are still writing great novels - Pynchon's last was a lovely late masterpiece, and Don DeLillo is as vigorous as ever. But my personal opinion is that Joyce kicked a flagging Victorian form into new life, and the impact of his scuffed tennis shoe is still raw and smarting. "Finnegans Wake" is still awaiting the readers it deserves. In the meantime, there's no reason why any curious reader shouldn't get something out of "Ulysses". It's my favourite novel. It's also the best Irish book so far. Mind you, I can't wait till Mairtin O Cadhain's "Cre na Cille" gets translated into English...
le 1 mai 2003
To smash your skull against a maddening, beautiful brick.
Let me just begin by stating how much I loathe Ulysses. I hate Stephen Dedalus. I hate Leopold Bloom. I hate Molly Bloom. I even hate their cat. They're all fatuous and arrogant and dull and dishonest and insecure and insincere and superficial and greedy, and they all take part in a story that's a boring, tedious, frustrating, incoherent, big fat waste of my time and energy. Anyone who claims otherwise is either a massive liar or a sick masochist who deserves to have a bag slipped over their head and be taken away from society. As such it remains one of the most astoundingly honest and ambitious works in modern literature. There is not a book currently existing which is simultaneously as repelling and compelling. Is there a more divisive stirrer of passionate debate in the field of art? Normally a very relaxed, some may say apathetic and pacifistic, individual, I once heard my English teacher saying that Ulysses was nothing but complete garbage. I calmly stood up and punched him in the throat, and I received polite applause as I was escorted from the classroom. Later on, when I reread a section of Ulysses near the middle, I discovered that he was completely right. But you know what? That's life. And that sense of living pours off Joyce's pages and through his eccentric mouldings of the English language like a waterfall. It's almost too much to bear at times. We eat, we drink, we urinate, we defecate, we sneeze, we fart, we stink and we have sex, and after a few decades we die. No hidden wisdom. No great awakening. No grand nobility. No spiritual nirvana. That's LIFE. And the sooner you come to terms with that, the more depressed you'll be. Wonderfully, wonderfully depressed.