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

Widescreen Radio

WidescreenRadio

My TV channel count is gone up to a much-duplicated 55 but 8 are actually radio channels. “WTF is SBS Radio doing thinking it’s a TV station?” asks Melbourne comedian Dave Hughes in his raucous new live stand-up act. And he’s right! Slyly infiltrating my Electronic Program Guide (EPG) using an alias like ABC Dig exceeds the duplicity of the pirate radio station I was once part of way back in the North Sea radio heydays when I fancied myself as their landlubbing prosopopoeia. But this is legal – though it seems somewhat incestuous. Or at the very least a bit bi.

Imagine all those poor, what…viewers? listeners? – the ‘populi bewilderus’ who just sit there listening to watching the music and waiting for a phantom TV show to start with the patience of Ratzinger’s gay admirer. Continue reading

A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemingway

A moveable feast

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast will usher you into the romance (and it was romantic) of 1920s Paris just like Woody Allen transported Owen Wilson there in his 2011 Academy Award-winning screenplay, Midnight in Paris. As in the movie and this celebrated book, you will meet such luminaries as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and of course, Hemingway himself amongst many other notables from all schools of the arts. I personally was moved to pound the pavements of Paris tracing the journey of these pages and would do so again before ever traipsing through the Dublin of Ulysses like so many Joyce aficionados do on Bloomsday each year. And I’m Irish!

But before any inspirational people populate the pages, the book is principally un hommage to the city itself. Continue reading

The (Scheduled) Fall of the Facebook Empire

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Social networks bring people together but like any gathering, the time comes to split. People move on, just like they did from Bulletin Boards, from Chat Rooms and from My Space. QED, historical analysis proves Facebook’s imminent and scheduled demise. The argument is put that users will always need Facebook to contact their friends but that’s what they said about the phonebook. The pendulum on Facebook’s fifteen fleeting minutes of fame has been winding down since it reached its zenith in May 2012 when its ownership went public.

Mark Zuckerberg is a talented man but he is not a businessman. His forte rises above mere commerce. Yet he presided over the halving of Facebook’s share price following the most overhyped IPO since Noah floated the Ark. I won’t delve into the apocryphal IPO debacle here but given the result that the original stakeholder(s) raked in bazillions of dollars in cash that day, I believe that the IPO marked the Facebook mission as ‘Accomplished’. The owners cashed out, regardless of what was to happen afterwards. Any shares they kept could be used as confetti because the overpriced issue on that May day got them twice what it should have. Continue reading

Big Sur

by Jack Kerouac

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Big Sur – wild and organic with a unique ecosystem and microclimate caused by its asperous profile. That description could just as easily characterise Jack Kerouac himself.

Located a couple of hours south of San Francisco, this land area of spectacular forest and coastal beauty was termed ‘El Sur Grande’ by the Spanish (The Big South). Kerouac installed himself there in Bixby Canyon for six weeks in 1960 to escape the attention and fame his book On The Road brought to his life. Continue reading

Patently preposterous

preposterous

The legislation in place to protect patents seems to have been around since Noah invented bulk livestock carriers. But it hasn’t provided safe harbour since the great ship of modern technology let slip her moorings on the day the music of the rotary-dial telephone died.

Critical junctures such as this one tend to happen cyclically over the eons. Mankind usually trims the sails to manage the winds of change but in this instance there is gale force resistance to changing tack. Historical lessons that prove the benefit of pulling together rather than standing apart are forgotten. Nobody remembers how the Wright brothers destroyed their reputations by defending their patent for aircraft flight control until the American government had to step in to allow the allied air forces equip themselves for World War 1. 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

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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This book is a refreshing departure from more regular coming-of-age stories both in style and approach. Stephen Chobsky takes a literary risk in requiring his readers to follow the narrative in epistolary mode – the central protagonist communicating entirely through his letters to an unnamed confidante. The risk pays off once the reader gets the cadence and language of the first-person writer and from there the voice becomes very natural for both the character and the story.

Clues like Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and the popular practice of boys making music ‘mix-tapes’ for girlfriends, put the action in the early nineties. The wallflower is Charlie, a mid-teen schoolboy without friends until he ventures to approach fellow students Samantha and her gay stepbrother Patrick. Continue reading

Fairy tale update

Little Red Riding Hood grew up and moved to the city. She met some more wolves who got her hooked on crack so she turned to prostitution to feed her habit. When Prince (the artist formerly known as Charming) was in town for a concert at the MCG, he booked her for a quickie and was so impressed that he paid for her rehab then set her up in her own brothel. Continue reading