Okay, I’m only up to page 310, but I’m going to celebrate gosh darnit! Why? Because it’s rude and delicious and I’m enjoying it very much.
So what is it all about? you may ask. This guy (who owns 15 copies of Ulysses) explains it better than I could right now, at this half-way through stage.
Here are some of my favourite passages thus far ( just roll around in the language with me a bit):
‘Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.
And no more turn aside and brood
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys.’ (p. 10)
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‘Warm sunshine merrying over the sea. The nickel shaving-bowl shone, forgotten, on the parapet. Why should I bring it down? Or leave it there all day, forgotten friendship?’ (p. 12)
‘That phrase the world had remembered. A dull ease of the mind. From a hill above a corpsestrewn plain a general speaking to his officers, leaned upon his spear. Any general to any officers. They lend ear.’ (p. 28)
‘With envy he watched their faces. Edith, Ethel, Gerty, Lily. Their likes: their breaths, too, sweetened with tea and jam, their bracelets tittering in the struggle.’ (p. 29)
‘Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.’ (p. 34)
‘On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.’ (p. 45)
‘I am almosting it. That man led me, spoke. I was not afraid. The melon he had he held against my face. Smiled: creamfruit smell. That was the rule, said. In. Come. Red carpet spread. You will see who.’ (p. 59)
‘A quiver of minnows, fat of a spongy titbit, flash through the slits of his buttoned trouserfly. God becomes man becomes fish becomes barnacle goose becomes featherbed mountain. Dead breaths I living breathe, tread dead dust, devour a urinous offal from all dead.’ (p. 63)
‘A bent hag crossed from Cassidy’s clutching a noggin bottle by the neck. The oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman’s: the grey sunken c**t of the world.
Desolation.’ (p. 73)
‘He tore the flower gravely from its pinhold smelt its almost no smell and placed it in his heart pocket. Language of flowers. They like it because no-one can hear. Or a poison bouquet to strike him down.’ (p. 95)
If we were all suddenly somebody else.
Far away a donkey brayed. Rain. No such ass. Never see a dead one, they say. Shame of death. The hide. Also poor papa went away.’ (p. 139)
‘ – The ghost walks, professor MacHugh murmured softly, biscuitfully to the dusty windowpane.’ (p. 156)
‘It’s always flowing in a stream, never the same, which in the stream of life we trace. Because life is a stream. All kind of places are good for ads.’ (p. 193)
‘ – Sad to lose the old friends, Mrs Breen’s womaneyes said melancholily.’ (p. 198)
‘Hot mockturtle vapour and steam of newbaked jam-puffs rolypoly poured out from Harrison’s. The heavy noonreck tickled the top of Mr Bloom’s gullet.’ (p. 198)
‘Never knowing anything about it. Waste of time. Gas-balls spinning about, crossing each other, passing. Same old dingdong always. Gas, then solid, then world, then cold, then dead shell drifting around, frozen rock like that pineapple rock. The moon.’ (p. 212)
‘A warm human plumpness settled down on his brain. His brain yielded. Perfume of embraces all him assailed. With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore.’ (p. 214)
‘Walking by Doran’s public house he slid his hand between waistcoat and trousers and, pulling aside his shirt gently, felt a slack fold of his belly. But I know it’s whiteyellow. Want to try in the dark to see.’ (pp. 232-233)
‘Glittereyed, his rufous skull close to his greencapped desklamp sought the face, bearded amid darkgreener shadow, an ollav, holyeyed. He laughed a low: a sizar’s laugh of Trinity: unanswered.’ (p. 236)
‘Space: what you damn well have to see. Through spaces smaller than red globules of man’s blood they creepy-crawl after Blake’s buttocks into eternity of which this vegetable world is but a shadow. Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.’ (p. 238)
‘He walks. One life is all. One body. Do. But do. Afar, in a reek of lust and squalor, hands are laid on whiteness.’ (p. 259)
‘Jest on. Know thyself.’ (p. 277)
‘A laugh tripped over his lips.’ (p. 277)
And hundreds of pages left to go! Here are some other people’s words, which may or may not convince you to go for it:
* There is a new book out titled Ulysses and Us, by Declan Kiberd. It is reviewed in the Independent by John Walsh, who also shares some facts. I like this one: ‘Devotees of the novel will be intrigued to learn that the author wrote much of it lying on his bed, often in a white suit “so that the light would be stronger and his eyes less tired”; that he seldom ate at lunchtime but drank copious amounts of white wine…’
* Here’s another thoughtful review of Ulysses and Us: ‘It is time to reconnect Ulysses to the everyday lives of real people. The more snobbish modernists resorted to difficult techniques in order to protect their ideas against appropriation by the newly literate masses; but Joyce foresaw that the real need would be to defend his book and those masses against the newly illiterate specialists and technocratic elites. Whereas other modernists feared the hydra-headed mob, Joyce used interior monologue to show how loveable, complex and affirmative was the mind of the ordinary citizen.’ If you’ve read it, what do you think? Is it for the people? Should it be?
* Here’s a different (odd, interesting) take on Ulysses, in the Stranger: ‘Ulysses‘s primary project is to break the ruling power of English and transform its energies into its opposite, a liberating power.’ I might re-read this when I’m finished the novel.
* Here’s something fun: an online graphic adaptation Ulysses “Seen”.
* And a first edition copy of Ulysses recently sold for a record amount of dosh….