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Ulysses

UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story of typical people from Dublin being ordinary is one of the oddest novels I’ve ever read. Though there are many admirers, it’s clear that the target audience for this book is James Joyce, and it celebrates his self-pleasure and creative freedom. This novel was published in serialized form, and we see a wide diversity in form. Some chapters spill from narration into actual script. Other chapters are pure stream of conscious, unattributed dialog, pages without punctuation, song… you name it. No restrictions at all, and about as extraordinary as a tale of the ordinary can become. There are run on sentences, there are comma splice like this one. Also, for then, for his time, there was daring obscenity (there still aren’t many books that talk about a man shitting) and subjects like masturbation, orgasm, and homosexuality.

Ulysses is the ultimate response to “You can’t do THAT.” Chapters like "Eumaeus", in turn, ask "Why would you do THAT?" or "Don't you like the readers?"

Still, it gives me hope that you can do whatever you want as long as you have talent.

So, why only 3 stars? Though in chunks it is a beautiful book, altogether it’s a slog. I’ve read this 3 times now and still don’t realize why I should care about Stephen, Molly, or Bloom. I have 3 ebook copies of the book (the free version is awful, the illustrated version with Dubliners pretty bad too… my recommendation is to pay a few bucks and get the integrated study guide from Shmoop - at least the table of contents is right.)

Anyway 5 stars for the art, but 3 stars for the book itself. It sounds fair to average and give 4 stars, but it seems generous, so 3.4444... Ulysses is a book to reflect upon, to admire Joyce’s courage, but not so much to read for pleasure. I mean put it this way, would you rather have sex or watch someone else masturbate?


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