Book review: Ulysses is an epic fail

1922 edition published by Sylvia Beach, Paris

1922 edition published by Sylvia Beach, Paris

I expected James Joyce’s Ulysses to be dense. I looked forward to it. Was I not equipped for the experience? I had been reading books for a long time; I enjoyed ‘Dubliners’ for its superlative renderings of human beings; I knew the route and streetscape of Ulysses and could picture the settings of the day; I was familiar with the Dublin vernacular and a good mimic of the accent to boot; I had schoolboy Latin hanging on by a thread to my vocabulary (both Joyce and I suffered Jesuit colleges); my Greek mythology was weak but could be bolstered by Wiki-places so yes, all in all I felt well equipped. I was wrong.

In Ulysses Joyce invented a literary voice and for this experimentation and courage he has become justifiably celebrated. This famed ‘Stream of Consciousness’ or ‘interior monologue’  has been emulated ever since, becoming a mainstay of modern literature and giving impressive voice to authors like Jack Kerouac, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Campbell, Samuel Beckett, Flann O’Brien, uncountable others and those yet writing.

To the professional reviewers who have phrased some of the most beautiful language and metaphors ever used to describe a piece of literature I say, ‘bullshit’.

Ulysses is not a good book. Joyce failed the most basic test of any author – Continue reading

The Bachelor

You waited for Friday night to come around. There were some weeks when it arrived in nothing flat and the other weeks when you’d nearly give up on it arriving at all.  You’d have the cows milked a bit early, shave, dress and when your father looked up from staring into the coals in the fireplace he’d say, “Are you goin’ out then?” Rather than risk argument, you’d remain silent, just nodding and holding your hand out for the ten-bob note that he eventually had agreed to give you.  A grunt would serve as acknowledgement, then off with you into the fading light for the two mile walk to the village chewing on a pig’s cheek by way of dinner. Within a mile the collar stud might be biting into your throat and you’d curse yourself for not leaving it out until you reached your destination. The old fella’s greatcoat from the war kept the mist off your brown pinstripe suit. The cloth cap you bought on your first and last trip to Dublin nine years ago kept your head dry.

The walk was distinguishable by its sameness. Continue reading