…at 23h33, January 5th, 2011.
Unite to give praise to Ulysses; those who will not, may content themselves with a place in the lower intellectual orders.
All hail those of higher intellectual orders! Although Ulysses is only 3/4 the length of my other favourite novel, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, it took me twice as long to read. However, much like Infinite Jest, now that I am done I feel as though I have lost a good friend. I bought Ulysses the first month I arrived in Vancouver. Since then, I have moved across the world, and James Joyce with me every step.
For those considering Ulysses, I strongly suggest purchasing the Oxford World’s Classics edition. It includes the book’s publication history, two different schemata for interpreting symbolism, a chronology of the author, explanatory notes, and even a map of old Dublin. Here is an author’s quote from the introduction, perfectly outlining Ulysses’ position in Modernist literature :
In realism you are down to facts on which the world is based: that sudden reality which smashes romanticism into a pulp. What makes most people’s lives unhappy is some disappointed romanticism, some unrealizable or misconceived ideal. In fact you may say that idealism is the ruin of man, and if we lived down to fact, as primitive man had to do, we would be better off. That is what we were made for. Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put romance into her, which is false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms. In Ulysses I tried to keep close to fact.
And ‘close to fact’, it is. Ulysses’ basic ‘plot’ (if you can call it that), is based on the quotidian goings-on in Dublin on June 16th, 1904. Nothing special happens. The true allure of Ulysses is its variety of literary devices. As Jeri Johnson summarizes with regards to the book’s initial criticism, “Ulysses looked like a novel, but it also looked like drama, or catechism, or poetry, or music depending on which page one happened to open.” With regards to this variety, Joyce said :
I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I mean, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.
James Joyce, immortal Dubliner, you have stolen my heart and scarred my soul.