Sisters Book Club Mid-Month Check-In: Ulysses

We’re halfway through the month…how is Ulysses going?

ULYSSES with Hemingway Signature - NARA - 192691

ULYSSES with Hemingway Signature – NARA – 192691 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started early and am just shy of halfway through. I just finished the infamous Nausicaa chapter, which is much less obscene and much more nuanced and poignant than I expected.

Initially, I avoided reading any “helper” volumes. I wanted my first reading of Ulysses to be just my own interpretation of the book before I added anyone else’s impressions. But I got myself Joseph Campbell’s Mythic Worlds, Modern Words, as a birthday present this past Monday.

I chose Campbell because (according to an Amazon review I read) he disliked Ulysses so much when he first read it in 1927, that he sought out the publisher in Paris to tell her so. She introduced to him Joyce’s influences, and Campbell started really getting into the book. With the reaction I was having to the book (“What the heck did I just read?” was a common one, as well as “This is why I dislike Modernist literature.”), I figured I needed the writing of a Joyce convert.

I’m glad I got the Campbell. I’m finding it enhances the experience of reading Ulysses and gives me confidence to forge my own avenues of interpretation. And it’s just fun to read. The sections about each chapter aren’t long, so I’m reading a chapter in Ulysses and then following it up with the corresponding section from the Campbell. It’s working well so far.

I really enjoyed Joyce’s use of language and the images he used even when I was completely confused about what was going on. Now, however, I accept that most of this novel is lived in the heads of the characters, not much really happens and that it’s is so chock-full of mythical symbolism that I’m unlikely to catch all of the allusions anyway, so I’m just enjoying the ride.

So, how are you enjoying Ulysses? Are you using a supplemental text, or flying solo?

If you’re not reading Ulysses, what are you reading for December instead?

(And yes, I’m still reading City of God and The Seminal Gospel, but I’ll write about them in another post.)

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Sisters Book Club: Ulysses by James Joyce | Imperfect Happiness
  2. Wilson Varga · December 15, 2013

    Thank you for sharing mid-month. (FYI: there are three occurrences of the word “buttermilk” in Ulysses. See http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~rac101/concord/texts/ulysses/ulysses.cgi?word=buttermilk .) Please consider answering at month’s end and may other first time readers likewise answer:

    What edition(s) of Ulysses did you read? Why?
    What other edition(s) of Ulysses did you consult? Why?
    What guide(s) did you use? Why? (Already answered mid-month.)
    What guide(s) did you avoid? Why?
    In what order did you read the episodes (e.g. as published first to last, easiest first, hardest first, as published but last to first, other ordering)? Why?
    Would you read Ulysses again? Why?
    What advice have you for a first time reader of Ulysses?

    Like

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