Book Review: Ulysses by James Joyce

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10/16/2012 by Stephen Silke

Ulysses by James JoyceJames Joyce, Duh!

Have patience: it becomes funny, moving, then genius.

If, like this novel, you never want your day to end, if you don’t mind an author torturing, humiliating and exploring the utmost depths of an Irish Jew, if you want to go head-on with the most pretentious Irish author ever, if you have the stamina to read, even though you don’t understand, if you can deal with a 44 page sentence (in the Vintage edition that I read) with no punctuation and six paragraph breaks, if you want to meet Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailor and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailor and on and on including Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailor and did I mention Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailor?; if you don’t mind consulting your dictionary and/or electronic translation device for four to eight words per page excluding Irish colloquialisms, bawdy banter, Italian, French, German, High Church, Latin, bastardized Joycian eurospeak (so like, with my vocabulary, you’d have to like, look up like 3,500 words), If you love sentences, if you have a tongue-in-cheek, bookish sense of humor, if you really want a sense of accomplishment, if you want to disrupt your fellow coffeehouse patrons with your guffaws and objections as you try to read quietly to yourself, if you want to throw a book at a wall and feel not one ounce guilty for it and then pick it up again and underline, highlight and define phrase after precious phrase, if you want a book which you will return to your whole life for nuggets of insight and top-of-the-craft structure, wordsmithing and sentencemanship, if you want to learn how to construct the most beautiful prose you can write, if you can stomach long stretches of flat out drivel and gratuitous doggerel, if you want to risk going “cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo,”

A First Edition by Egoist Press, Shakespeare and Company, Paris, 1922 if you want to study Eire, Shakespeare, human character, sexuality, foreign language, the complexity of human relationships, from a wily, witty and hilarious narrator, attend a funeral, read an old turn of the (last) century newspaper, vicariously feast on the internal organs of all kinds of beasts, if you want to attend a spectacular fireworks celebration occurring simultaneously with an ambiguously described masturbatory session of flirting and a high church service, if you want to sneak home late at night and enjoy a cup of cocoa with a friend while your wife is in bed dreaming about her life, if you want to ponder the future of Ireland, if you fancy yourself a serious or curious reader, writer, liver, friend, lover, philosopher, psychologist, politician, student, epicurean, astrologer, European, cosmopolitan, artificer, usurper, friend of literature or artist, and if you’re fascinated that all of the previous list and much more that could possibly happen in one day, then read Ulysses by James Joyce, if not, then Nulla Bona, Jack, but read it later anyway (and then you may even meet Darkinbad the Brightdayler).

Five of Five Stars


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