Monday, 16 December 2013

Ulysses, and Literary Cluedo.

So we go on capping these resemblances, and each time we succeed, dipping now into the novel, now into the letters, a little glow of satisfaction comes over us, as if novel-reading were a game of skill in which the puzzle set us is to find the face of the writer. 
- Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader Series II
James Joyce wrote that in Ulysses, he "put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant". Both long and exceedingly complex, Ulysses is one of the most alarming books in literature. It seems impossible to simply read it: I feel as though I need to be armed with Homer, a history of Ireland, a book on World War I, The Portrait of an Artist, several biographies on Joyce, and as many study guides I can possibly lay my hands on. Owing to time constraints, I've contented myself with reading the introduction to my silver Penguin, written by Declan Kiberd. Kiberd writes so apparently effortlessly, but I'm not reassured. Furthermore, he writes,
For a long time, criticism of Ulysses became little more than a detective game of literary Cluedo.
By Stuart Gilbert. Large version here.
Take from Dvnia Joyce.
Literary Cluedo is, I feel, the only chance I have with this, despite Virginia Woolf's warning in The Common Reader that this is no way to read a novel. Clearly, when my most favoured and familiar genre is Naturalism and Realism (Kiberd writes, "Farewell Zola, goodbye Flaubert"), Modernism is, at least, somewhat of a concern, despite my familiarity with Virginia Woolf. Every time I plan to read it, and it has so far left me defeated, I've had a hundred webpages open; all kinds of maps and guides. But that makes it so much worse: that table by Stuart Gilbert (here) is frankly horrifying.

So, when I start reading Ulysses later today along with Adam and a few others, I am going to do just that, and only that: read it. I may, it is true, consult Apollodorus (The Library of Greek Mythology) for a reminder of Homer's The Odyssey, and it is possible that, having read a section, I will do a little further reading. But Kiberd's introduction is my only prep, and only after reading a part will I seek further material.

And, Kiberd suggested it may help to read aloud - I may perhaps do this also, with the budgies as an audience. Not all of it, though. 

Adam suggests that we read about 40 pages or so a day. I looked at the different parts, and thought it best to read one part a day six days a week, however there are a few parts that could not be read and understood in a single day. I want to get ahead slightly today, and then follow his advice. 

Wish me luck!


  1. I wish I was reading this with the group. It's a matter of too many books, too little time for me. You have done so much research on Ulysses already, I'm sure you will make some wonderfully insightful posts!

    Again, this is another "books I live in fear of" category. Thanks for exposing me to my demons! ;-)

    1. I wouldn't be so sure! Going to write a post later, the crux will be that I really got into the first and second part, and was hopelessly confused by the third :S

    2. I'm sure you're just joining others in their confusion. Me? I'm confused and I haven't even started the book yet. ;-)


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