RAL · Reading

Dabbling in Dublin

I’ve heard tell that today is Bloomsday, that day on which the events of James Joyce’s Ulysses take place, 1904. Had they actually happened, that is, 108 years ago. And Ulysses is some 90 years old, 94 years since first serialization.

Which is something to think about. Readers utter “Ulysses” in tones of awe or fear. It is difficult. Modernist. Important. So when I think about it, I’m expecting something somehow “contemporary,” perhaps in part because we use “modern” to mean “contemporary” or “current,” because we forget that there’s a style “Modern” which means specific style, specific concerns, not “what is now.” So I look at that date, June 16, 1904, and it strikes me, this is quite old, these characters are Edwardian, teetering on the front edge of Modernism, not having experienced the Great War or the Depression or WWII, the women still are corseted, the men wear suits and hats, horses still abound. I would not have thought of them that way, before I saw that date, somewhere, on a a Bloomsday post or article. It gives a different coloring, somehow, to the story, as I dip in and out of Joyce’s words. Set so long past, not current. But nothing like any other book I have read.

I haven’t read much, only scattered pages here and there, across the novel. I started the first chapter and read a bit before I realized that if I read too much more I might become ensnared and feel the need to read it all, but I don’t wish to take the time it requires just now. Nor do I have the mental energy for such a book when the days are hot as this has been. (And I really should reread The Odyssey first or concurrently.) But I have read enough to demystify it a bit. Difficult, yes, abstruse, yes—but they are still just words on a pages, albeit words shoved together or words unknown, foreign, or words spun together in unexpected ways. But still just words, just a book—books, words can be conquered. Someday. I didn’t include Ulysses on my Classics Club list, nor will I add it just yet. I just know now, certainly, that someday I shall read it. Which I was never sure of before.

Many thanks to O of Délaissé for hosting the Bloomsday Ulysses readalong today which inspired me to pick up this intimidating book! You can find other actual participants at her site.

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6 thoughts on “Dabbling in Dublin

  1. Yikes! This one IS on my Classics Club list, but I am probably waiting a while before I try to seriously tackle it. I explored a tiny bit today — but that’s all. I can say I’m scared but intrigued. 🙂

    1. Yes, after reading a bit I’m very intrigued. I can tell that it’s one of those books you can’t read without putting in a lot of effort, but I think the challenge of it is in part what grabs me. The other is that just the little bit of the first chapter that I read really began to pull me in–I could picture the characters, the scene, so now I want to know what happens next. At least there are a lot of resources out there we can refer to if (when!) we get stumped!

  2. You’re a braver woman than I! My phobia is utterly ridiculous. But I know I’ll pick it up someday, because I’d like to be one of those people who can say, ‘Why, yes, I’ve read Ulysses.’ How much of a snob does this make me? 🙂

    1. Brave? I don’t know…more like crazy! I’m not sure wanting to say that you’ve read Ulysses can really count as all that snobbish (maybe just a little) as it seems that a lot of people read it for that reason. It’s the only reason my dad made it through it, after all!

  3. oh my it is just wonderful the best book ever written Joyce was a height of his powers when he wrote it caught dublin in amber it is a day in life of a changing city ,all the best stu

    1. I love to hear that, Stu! Ulysseys has such an intimidating reputation, but trying it out a bit, and hearing your glowing recommendation, makes me less scared to commit to the whole thing at some point down the road.

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