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