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James Joyce

Discussion in 'Author Discussion' started by warm_enema, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. Irene Wilde

    Irene Wilde New Member

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    Joyce took years off his life writing that book...I don't think he risked body and soul just to show off. However, what he did do was create a deeply complex, densely layered narrative that pushed the limits of what is writing and indeed, what is reading. When I first read "Ulysses" I was given six weeks to do it as part of an English Lit. course at uni. I wept and cursed and swore I would hate that prof forever and all time. But over the summer, I felt an odd compulsion to go back to that humongous paperweight of a book and have another go. Something about the fluidity of the writing, the memorable phrasing, the layers of history, mythology, psychology, and imagination, wouldn't let me discard it. Having an entire summer to read it made a tremendous difference. I know it isn't an "easy" read and, having read it twice more in the course of my life, I know it's impossible to glean everything from the book in one go. Personally, I've found the more age and experience I have, the more I "get" out of "Ulysses." People ask what's that one book that changedyourlife/madeyouloveliterature/willstaywithyouforever/whatever, and for me that book has always been "Ulysses," so I try to encourage people to stay with it, go back to it, and give it another try. And many thanks to Prof. Pollack, wherever she is!
     
  2. Rigana

    Rigana New Member

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    Some very insightful posts here. I always backed away from Joyce because of what I heard about "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's Wake", thinking that I wouldn't manage to get through them anyway. I'll have a look at "Dubliners" now, though.
     
  3. Irene Wilde

    Irene Wilde New Member

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    Sadly, you are probably not the only one here to have backed away from Joyce or some other author. This is just my personal impression, but I think people get put off of certain writers partly because of bad experiences with high school English classes and partly because of a perceived "snob-factor" attached to people who love literature (and honestly, in my experience, sometimes that does exist). However, the work of great writers lives on because it offers something very special to the reader. Is Joyce for everyone? Probably not. But would Joyce be a good choice for a lot of people who think Joyce "isn't for them" because of what they've "heard" or because they also read writers who are less challenging in their prose? Absolutely, yes!
     
  4. Rigana

    Rigana New Member

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    I never had bad experiences with high school classes, neither does the "snob-factor" put me off, but when I read a word like 'contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality' I get discouraged. I couldn't possibly figure out what this means all by myself, and I'm not so sure whether a German translation would be that much of a help, either.
    But some day it will be time for "Ulysses". I clearly can see that it can be a very giving experience - the books I appreciate most are usually those I had to work for very hard. :)
     
  5. Ell

    Ell Well-Known Member

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    To Dorian and Rigana, I'll echo Ms Wilde in saying don't give up even if it gave you conniptions the first go round.

    This actually applies to all great books that seem daunting. Sometimes denser, more complex works benefit from you, as a reader, maturing. So put whatever it is down for awhile, read some other stuff that's challenging to you and come back to it in a month, two months, a year, whatever it takes. At the same time, read what others have to say who actually 'like' the book and find out why they like it, what they got out of it. You don't have to be an English major. Take it in small doses with an eye to challenging yourself. Don't stop reading light, entertaining books, if that's what you like, but if you want to improve as a reader and find out why the great classics are great, then you have to put a bit of effort into it.

    OK, lecture over.
    ell
     
  6. Irene Wilde

    Irene Wilde New Member

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    Hmmm...being a pathetically monolinguistic person (my greatest failing in life, I think), I've never considered what a ponderous job it would be to put "Ulysses" into another language. However, with the invented language that some authors employ, it's always best to break it down into it's component parts, keeping in mind the themes the author is utilizing. The author isn't trying to confound the reader, or see how long it takes for the reader to throw his book across the room in frustration. He's trying to find the "notes between the notes" to borrow a phrase from music. In Joyce's case, he was trying to recreate human thought, which is often a mishmash of several ideas, and their associated meanings, occurring simultaneously. Yes, "Ulysses" will ask a lot of you, but, when your "some day" comes along, it will offer you a lot in return.
     
  7. czgibson

    czgibson New Member

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    Hello everyone,

    I'm new to the forum, so I thought I'd make my first post about my favourite novelist. So, completely one-sided, subjective opinions are to be expected!

    Ulysses, as far as I'm concerned, is the greatest novel ever written. It's also the funniest book I've ever read. I think a lot of people might get put off Joyce partly because he often uses difficult language, and partly because people assume he's always being serious when he does so. In a sense, you can look at Ulysses as being the most complex, involved joke ever written. I think the intention of a word like "contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality" at one level is to make you laugh, to see how the author is messing about with the language. Think of all the hints of words and bits of words that could be seen in that long, mixed-up word:

    transubstantiation
    magnificent
    actuality
    tangentiality

    as well as the prefixes con-, contra-, trans-, magni-

    All the ideas that could be expressed using these words and fragments are contained in the creation: "contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality". This is a precursor of the main linguistic technique used in Finnegans Wake, except there many more languages are used.

    A lot of what Joyce is trying to do is to explore the limits of words and meaning, to see how they can be used to conceal or reveal meaning. This can involve parodies, puns, sound effects, sudden dislocations, use of the forms of other texts (e.g. the play script of the Circe chapter) personal uses of language (e.g. the unique style of Molly Bloom's chapter), and many other techniques.

    Joyce is not an easy read if you expect books to be clear, and to understand them the first time round. I think the best way to approach Ulysses is to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man first. Ulysses is the sequel to Portrait, and it develops the ideas and writing techniques found there.

    Above all though, remember that Joyce's aim is usually to make you laugh. Take this delightfully absurd passage, for example:

    The unnecessarily complex language here almost disguises the fact that it's simply about two blokes in a garden relieving their bladders, but it shows a certain precise, pseudo-logical way of depicting this simple event.

    Words can be made to do anything, and reading Joyce makes someone much more aware of how language can be used and misused - it turns someone into a better reader, I think.

    Sorry to go on so much in my first post - I hope my passionate enthusiasm can be forgiven. :)
     
  8. ions

    ions New Member

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    I do plan on reading Ulysses and have taken this advice. I found a copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man at the local library. They've had this particular printing since 1968 according to the stamp inside. It's to be my very next read. Once upon a time and a very good time it was...
     
  9. ions

    ions New Member

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    Now, over a year later I have started Ulysses. Fifty pages in and I am still alive. Unfortunately the version I have is not annotated. When the day comes for a second reading I will make sure I have an annotated copy for closer reading. This time is just for the ride.

    As a side there are quite a few people banned who appear to be very well read and informative. Am I to assume this was because they did not suffer fools?
     
  10. Snow

    Snow New Member

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    I was wondering about the exact same thing reading this thread.

    nyways.. good luck with Mr Joyce - I've tried Ulysses more than once, always gave up at around page 100 and have decided he is just not for me and probably overrated. :D I've lived in Ireland for 2 years and I have to tell you, even the Irish think he and his work has been totally blown out of proportion (kinda like Frank McCourt :rolleyes: ).

    However, I enjoyed reading, re-reading and analyzing 'Dubliners' as part of my written exam in Ireland. Genius.
     
  11. ions

    ions New Member

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    I'm now around p. 130. I can't say it's easy and that I know what's going very well. I got that Stephen went to the beach, I got that Leopold Bloom had liver for breakfast. My problem lies in the stream of conciousness. It may be allegorical, it may really be nonsense too, but I feel like I'm on the outside of an inside joke. Here is where annotations would come in handy I think even if they would really slow me down. I will trudge on.
     
  12. Heteronym

    Heteronym New Member

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    I have finished this nonsensical Ulysses at last, and am free!

    Looking back, I regret having wasted so much time and energy, having agonised about its meaning, and having convinced myself to persevere just to prove a point. How many more, and better and funnier, books I could have read instead of this collection of words that took me almost a year, and several stops to regain patience, to finish.

    I have retained almost not a single impression from this novel: not one line of dialogue, not one piece of prose, not one character. I trudged through the words and they never got together to build something semantically coherent. It was like having my eyes scan a blank page, 933 blank pages! I did not laugh, I did not cry, I did not care about anything either.

    Better writers, like Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez, have put Joyce's innovative style to better use. Molly Bloom's stream-of-consciousness monologue was ridiculous: if this is an accurate portrait of the mind's inner workings, then I'm surprised how humans ever managed to keep their minds straight for two whole seconds to invent or develop anything. If we are to believe James Joyce, the human mind is a piece of shambles fragmented into smaller pieces of shambles, and which follow no train of thought. Or perhaps stream of consciousness is just a fraud; this seems more convincing to me. I'm sure it seemed pretty hot when Freud was the big name in all things mental and the subconscious was the word in the streets.

    But Freud has gone the way of the Dodo. Why hasn't Joyce too?
     
  13. Snow

    Snow New Member

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    Congratulations! :eek:
     
  14. Gem

    Gem kickbox

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    Heteronym,

    I had a slightly different impression of Ulysses.

    I'd made it through Finnegan's Wake - just about (taking many naps and trashy book breaks along the way), and I figured that's it, I'm done with Joyce. Then, a member here recommended Ulysses and she made it sound very intriguing, and since I'm a huge fan of the Odyssey, I thought I'd give Ulysses a go. I started at the beginning of July and was done by the end of September - but I didn't approach it the same way as Finnegan's Wake;where I had put aside everything else and concentrated on reading huge chunks of it at a time. Instead I continued reading other books, and would read Ulysses along with them, in small chunks.

    I didn't even try to interpret it or to find the meaning behind it all. I'm under no illusions about my brain capacity, and know full well that it's going to take another few reads before i'm even on the first step of understanding. But despite myself, I could see something to it (that may just have been me assigning my own meaning to it and interepreting the words to mean something that suited me) but it wasn't just empty words. I didn't care that the story was almost non existent but there were (at least to me) ideas and themes to be explored. I was lucky though, as I had someone at hand who had read the book about a dozen times before, and it made such a difference to be able to discuss things through with him.

    Also I enjoyed the language, and found myself reading out loud some of the passages, and I don't do that often.

    I'd agree with you that not much in the way of dialogue, character or even prose is lodged in my brain - but ideas and thoughts are - and I'm more thoughtful of the way I look at & interpret things/situations.
     
  15. Heteronym

    Heteronym New Member

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    I said I retained almost no impression ;) I enjoyed the penultimate part, a collection of short sections each starting with a question and written in over-the-top scientific babble. That was funny.

    The 'prālāyā, tālāfānā, ālāvātār, hātākāldā, wātāklāsāt' joke was brilliant too. I'll admit Mr. Joyce can make great word puns. But so can Lewis Carroll :D
     
  16. ions

    ions New Member

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    I finished Ulysses. Easily the most challenging read I've ever had and not always in a good way. I don't know how to properly rate it or review it so I won't. At least right now I can't/won't. Perhaps after a bit of fermentation I'll come back to this. If the book stays with me, and right now I'm not sure it will or won't, I'll give it a reread one day. I'm glad I read it, glad I stuck it out to the end. I did almost quit a couple times. If you enjoyed Portrait and want to read a challenging book that influenced many writers and thinkers give it a go. Bring assisstance.
     
  17. Heteronym

    Heteronym New Member

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    Come on, Ions, it has nothing to do with Portrait. Nothing in Ulysses comes close to the terrifying third chapter, the sermons about Hell, Stephen's moral guilt, his fear of sinning. That chapter has more vitality than the 933 pages of Ulysses.

    But the fifth chapter does already show traces of Joyce losing his mind :rolleyes:
     
  18. ions

    ions New Member

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    Other than the same major characters and the same style I guess Ulysses has nothing to do with Portrait.
     
  19. Heteronym

    Heteronym New Member

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    The Dedaduls of Portrait has nothing to do with the vaguely-sketched character of the same name in Ulysses. And I don't recognise the same style in both novels. If I had, both would have been unbearable for me to read ;)
     
  20. ions

    ions New Member

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    Well Ulysses uses various styles but there are certainly overlap between the two books. It's inarguable. The Stephen Dedalus is the very same two years on from the end of Portrait and is in fact still struggling with many of the same issues.
     

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