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.