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Ulysses ()

New York Public Library's Books of the Century

    In spite of its very numerous qualities--it is, among other things, a kind of technical handbook, in
    which the young novelist can study all the possible and many of the quite impossible ways of telling
    a story--'Ulysses' is one of the dullest books ever written, and one of the least significant. This is
    due to the total absence from the book of any sort of conflict.
           -Aldous Huxley

    OK, I never read Ulysses from beginning to end, but then again, neither, I believe, has anybody
    else, including most of the writers and scholars who declared it the greatest English-language book
    of the century in that Modern Library list last year. I have read the first one hundred pages at least
    three times, and then, longing for a story, I never got further.
        -Richard Bernstein, book critic, The New York Times

I will say it once and for all, straight out: it all went wrong with James Joyce. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is less a bildungsroman than the chapter-by-chapter unraveling of a talent that, if "The Dead" is any indication, could have been formidable, while Ulysses is nothing more than a hoax upon literature, a joint shenanigan of the writer and the critical establishment predicated on two admirable, even beautiful fallacies that were hopelessly contingent upon the historical circumstances that produced them: William James's late Victorian metaphor of the stream of consciousness, which seems at this point closer to phrenology than modern notions of psychology and neurology; and T.S. Eliot's early modern fantasy of a textual stockpile of intellectual history that would form an allusive network of bridges to the cultural triumphs of the ages, a Venice without the smell of sewage, or mustard gas. [...]

If you are not a novelist, you cannot imagine what it feels like to write such heresy. Though I normally write in the morning, I am writing this in the middle of the night, like a fugitive; and my hands are shaking as I type. The excision from the canon, or at least the demotion in status, of most of Joyce, half of Faulkner and Nabokov, nearly all of Gaddis, Pynchon, and DeLillo, not to mention the general dumping of their contemporary heirs? The enormity of my presumptuousness cows even me. And then there's that other strain, which I can hardly bear to slog through, the realists and the realists and the realists, too many to name, too many to contemplate, their rational, utilitarian platitudes rolling out endlessly like toilet paper off a spindle. Who am I to say these brutal things? But a piecemeal approach won't do anymore. The problem is too widespread within the insular literary and publishing world merely to pick at its edges: the entire scab must be ripped off.

Learning to like experimental literature was, for most readers, a monumental task, and unlearning it is positively Sisyphean. It's not hard for me to find people who agree with me about certain writers: this person dislikes Moody, that person can't stand Wallace, another just doesn't get Whitehead. But dissing them all? And the people who produced them? Eyes glaze over; tongues get tangled. Yet almost anyone will admit that literature is an inherited form, that each new generation learns from its predecessors. If we can accept that we build on our predecessors' strengths, then why can't we accept that we might build on their mistakes as well?
    Hatchet Jobs: A CRITIC'S LIFE IN A WORLD OF STEPFORD NOVELS. (Dale Peck, 11.26.03, New Republic)

Okay, before we start, I know you've never read Ulysses--sure you've dabbled or read the first 100 pages, but no one's ever actually read it--so pay a quick visit to Ulysses for Dummies and then we'll continue.  There, wasn't that easier than muling your way through the entire crappy book?

I knew I wouldn't be able to read this beast--I've tried & failed three or four times--but I figured I'd read some criticism about it.  Well, the critics have such overblown & grandiose interpretations of the book's meaning & Joyce's importance that they were alternately making me laugh or become violent.

But last night I had an epiphany.  It occurred to me that Ulysses is the greatest hoax of the century, ranking with Conan Doyle's Piltdown Man.  Surely, Joyce must have realized that Ulysses was the inevitable & fitting conclusion to the Romantic Age.  Art, cut loose from the mooring of God,  had steadily drifted away from the universal & towards the personal.  Ulysses is the culmination of this trend--a novel that could only be read, understood or enjoyed by its author.  Spare yourself.

GRADE: Hard to give a low enough grade to the single most destructive piece of Literature ever written, try (F x Googolplex)

[N.B.--see the review of The Death of a Joyce Scholar: A Peter McGarr Mystery (1989)(Bartholomew Gill 1943-) for an excellent analysis of both Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake.]


Grade: (F)


James Joyce Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: James Joyce
    -ESSAY: James Joyce Was a Complicated Man: Ireland rejected him; did he reject it back? (HENRY OLIVER, MAR 12, 2024, The Fitzwilliam)
    -ESSAY: A Book Club of Two: The Time I Started a James Joyce Reading Group in College: Kristopher Jansma on the Special Magic of Reading “Ulysses” (Kristopher Jansma, June 14, 2024, litHub)
    -ESSAY: Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’: a new reading (Jeffrey Meyers, The Article)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce, John Senior, & the Illumination of the Modern World (R. Jared Staudt, November 17th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce’s divine comedy: For the Irish, atheism will always be religious (TERRY EAGLETON, 8/30/22, unHerd)
-ESSAY: The earned smugness of Ulysses readers: Not even Joyce’s biggest fans can say it’s an easy read (Mark Solomons, June 16, 2023, Spectator)
    -ESSAY: Misreading Ulysses (Sally Rooney December 7, 2022, Paris Review)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce’s divine comedy: For the Irish, atheism will always be religious (TERRY EAGLETON, 8/29/22, UnHerd)
    -ESSAY: On James Joyce, Ulysses, and the Irish Jewish Community: Jo Glanville Chronicles Her Family's Story in Ireland (Jo Glanville, August 17, 2022, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: walking words, words walking: There’s never been a better to read James Joyce’s Ulysses (don’t be scared!) (COLIN FLEMING, 06/13/2022, Smart Set)
    -ESSAY: You Must Read This: Terence Killeen on the monumental rewards to be found in Ulysses (Terence Killeen, June 11 2022, Independent IE)
    -ESSAY: Spinoza’s shillelagh: Some thorny issues in the first words of Ulysses (Paul Muldoon, 6/17/22, TLS)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Portrait of the artist’s politics: Ulysses at 100 (Emer Nolan, 6/02/22, TLS)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce’s Humanism: On its centenary, the classic Irish novel promotes tolerance over violent extremism. (Brendan Ruberry, 6/16/22, Persuasion)
    -AUDIO: : Listen to the first ever recording of James Joyce reading from Ulysses (Emily Temple, February 2, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -ETEXT: Read the Original Serialized Edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1918) (Open Culture, February 4th, 2022)
-ESSAY: Borges Translates Joyce Who Translates Himself (Mark Harman, March 30, 2022, NER)
    -ESSAY: Every picture tells a story: When James Joyce and Italo Svevo played bowls (Riccardo Cepach, 1/15/21, TLS)
    -PODCAST: The Critic Books Podcast: 100 years of Ulysses: What has changed since Joyce’s novel was first published? (The Critic, 2/01/22)
    -SPECIAL EDITION: Ulysses at 100 (Our Editors, June 1, 2022, The American Scholar)
-ESSAY: Portrait of the artist’s politics: Ulysses at 100 (Emer Nolan, 6/02/22, TLS)
    -ESSAY: What Joyce Got Wrong (About The Interior Monologue); An Interlude In The Language And Thought Series (David J. Lobina, 3/14/22, 3 Quarks)
    -ESSAY: Still Rejoyceing After All These Years (Thomas O’Dwyer, 2/14/22, 3 Quarks)
    -ESSAY: Dangerous, voyeuristic, transgressive, exciting: Anne Enright on James Joyce’s Ulysses at 100: My mother considered it a dirty text, but this profoundly democratic book has liberated female Irish authors (Anne Enright, 1/29/22, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: The Seductions of “Ulysses”: Since its publication, a century ago, James Joyce’s epic has acquired a fearsome reputation for difficulty. But its great subject, soppy as it may seem, is love. (Merve Emre, 2/14/22, The New Yorker)
    -TRIBUTE: Ulysses Turns 100!: Celebrating a Modernist Classic (Literary Hub, 2/02/22)
-ESSAY: The Book in the World (Joe Cleary, February 2022, Dublin Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Censoring Ulysses: In reviewing the UK Home Office files on James Joyce’s Ulysses, a historian found baffled officials afraid to bring more attention to it. (Livia Gershon February 2, 2022, JStor)
    -ESSAY: Ulysses at 100: ‘Joyce gets up people’s noses and that’s what a great writer should do’ (Kirsty Blake Knox, January 22 2022, Independent IE)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce, Nora and the odyssey of upheaval that led to a masterpiece: As the centenary of its publication approaches, we can see how Ulysses was shaped by a nomadic existence and strong women in the author’s life (Nuala O’Connor, February 02 2022, Independent IE)
    -ESSAY: The Ultimate Novel (Thomas Jones, 2/02/22, London Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: How Ulysses shaped the modern world: 100 years on, we still live in the shadow of James Joyce's masterwork. (Patrick West, 2/01/22, spiked)
    -ESSAY: A World of Waste, Stripped of Transcendence: James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ at 100 (Jared Marcel Pollen, 31 Jan 2022, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: How to enjoy the greatest book you’ve never read: Ulysses by James Joyce has a reputation of being impenetrable and impossible, but there is a way to make it easier to understand, and appreciate, what is considered one of the best novels ever written (Robert Gogan, January 30 2022, Independent IE)
    -ESSAY: Deadline “Ulysses” (hilip Keel Geheber, 2/02/22, LA Review of Books)
-ESSAY: Dear Mr Joyce: an essay by Edna O’Brien: As Ulysses turns 100, O’Brien tries to pin down what its extraordinary author was really like (Edna O'Brien, 2/02/22, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: Eduardo Arroyo’s Dreamy, Abstract Illustrations of Ulysses: A Sneak Peek at a New Edition of James Joyce’s Classic (Literary Hub, January 27, 2022)
    -THE MILLIONS INTERVIEWS: An Unexpected Encounter: On the Illustrated ‘Ulysses’: The Millions spoke with Judith Gurewich about Arroyo’s legacy, the challenges of reading Joyce, and her international collaboration with Galaxia Gutenburg. (Sophia Stewart January 6, 2022, The millions)
-ESSAY: Reading James Joyce Amidst Winter Snow, ‘Where Dwell the Vast Hosts of the Dead’ (Herman Goodden, 14 Jan 2022, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: Swift and Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (Jeffrey Meyers, 1/05/22, The Article)
    -ESSAY: How to Read Ulysses By the Numbers: Breaking Down a Surprisingly Revealing Technique (Eric Bulson, January 11, 2021, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: The joy of Joyce’s Ulysses is that it isn’t intuitive at all: Though the classic book is considered a stream-of-consciousness novel, we should perhaps regard it as the opposite (John Scholar, 1/24/21, Independent)
    -ESSAY: Why James Joyce said he was a Jesuit (but rebelled against the Catholic Church) (Ray Cavanaugh, January 03, 2017, America)
    -ESSAY: 'You ought to allude to me as a Jesuit,' Joyce once remarked (Bruce Bradley, , Jun 14, 2004, Irish Times)
-REVIEW: of Ulysses by James Joyce (Edmund Wilson, New Republic)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Dubliners: Reading Ulysses is a kind of strenuous dream (Anne Enright, 1/13/22, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: Ulysses Unbound: A Reader’s Companion to James Joyce’s Ulysses by Terence Killeen (Jeremy-Noel Tod, The Prospect)
    -REVIEW: of Ulysses Unbound (Dermot Bolger, Independent IE)
    -REVIEW: of The Guide to James Joyce’s Ulysses Patrick Hastings & Ulysses, James Joyce: Illustrated by Eduardo Arroyo (JP O'Malley, Independent IE)
-REVIEW: of Annotations to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ by Sam Slote, Marc A. Mamigonian and John Turner (Colm Toibin, LRB)

Book-related and General Links:
   Encyclopaedia Britannica:  Your search: "james joyce"
   -Work in Progress: The Writings of James Joyce (Temple University)
   -International James Joyce Foundation
   -James Joyce Resource Center (primary reference source for anyone interested in Joyce studies)
   -In Bloom: A James Joyce Homepage
   -James Joyce (1882-1941)(Kobe University)
   -The Brazen Head: A James Joyce Public House
   -OVERVIEW: James Joyce 1882-1941 (Brown University)
   -IQ Infinity: The Unknown James Joyce
    -The Writings of James Joyce
    -James Joyce Web Page
    -World Wide Dubliners
    -Literary Research Guide: James Joyce (1882 - 1941)
    -Wallace Gray's Notes for James Joyce's "The Dead"
   -PROFILE: Top 100 People of the Century: James Joyce (Paul Gray, Time)
   -ANNOTATED ETEXT: Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
   -ARTICLE: The Fate of Joyce Family Letters Causes Angry Literary Debate (CARYN JAMES, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Dublin Journal; 90 Years Ago, Leopold Bloom Took a Walk . . .  (JAMES F. CLARITY, NY Times)
    -ESSAY:  Richard Ellmann: The Politics of Joyce
    -ESSAY: LITERARY FOOTNOTE; ELLMANN REJOYCING (Richard Ellmann, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: A Fine Madness  (Dr. Joseph Collins, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce's comic messiah  (Robert Alter, American Scholar)
    -ESSAY:  James Joyce's Zurich  (PAUL HOFMANN, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Whose Life Is This, Anyway?  (James Atlas, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: A Not-So-Lit'rary Bloomsday (FRANCIS X. CLINES, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Virtually A-Wake (Robert Sullivan, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce by H.G. Wells The inventor of science fiction defends the  experimentation of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. (1917, New Republic)
    -ARTICLE: Terence Killeen traces the history of a manuscript which offers nothing less than a glimpse of Joyce's incredible creativity in progress (Irish Times)
    -REVIEWS: New York Review of Books Archive
    Finnegans Wake by James Joyce - in lieu of review (The Guardian, May 12 1939)
-REVIEW : Review of the new edition of Ulysses, by James Joyce, with an introduction by Richard Ellmann (Anthony Burgess, June 19, 1986,  The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: John Banville: The Motherless Child, NY Review of Books
        James Joyce by Edna O'Brien
    -REVIEW: of JAMES JOYCE By Edna O'Brien (Robert Sullivan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of   `Reading Alcoholisms: Theorizing Character and Narrative in Selected Novels of Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf,' by Jane Lilienfeld. (Shelley Cox, Library Journal)
    -REVIEW: Richard Ellmann: The Big Word in 'Ulysses', NY Review of Books
        Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition by James Joyce
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Yes, NY Review of Books
        Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom by Brenda Maddox
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Scrabbling in the 'Wake', NY Review of Books
        Shakespeare and Joyce: A Study of Finnegans Wake by Vincent John Cheng
    -REVIEW: Michael Wood: Joyce's Influenza, NY Review of Books
        James Joyce in Padua edited by Louis Berrone
        Afterjoyce: Studies in Fiction After Ulysses by Robert Martin Adams
        "In the wake of the Wake" edited by Elliott Anderson and David Hayman
        The Consciousness of Joyce by Richard Ellmann
    -REVIEW: Stuart Hampshire: Joyce and Vico: The Middle Way, NY Review of Books
        The Exile of James Joyce by Hélène Cixous and translated by Sally A.J. Purcell
        Ulysses on the Liffey by Richard Ellmann
        Closing Time by Norman O. Brown
    -REVIEW: Matthew Hodgart: Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Adulterer, NY Review of Books
        Giacomo Joyce by James Joyce and with an Introduction and Notes by Richard Ellmann

    -REVIEW: Denis Donoghue: Huston's Joyce, NY Review of Books
        The Dead a film directed by John Huston and based on the story by James Joyce
    -REVIEW:  Richard Ellmann: Bloomovie, NY Review of Books
        Ulysses produced by Walter Reade and directed by Joseph Strick

    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Mulligan Stew, NY Review of Books
        A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers by Hugh Kenner