Ulysses (Gabler Edition)
The model for all others
Every author who has either used the stream of consciousness style or been labeled anything near "postmodern" is probably just following in the footsteps of this novel and very few have ever come close. Joyce shows here that to get the technique down right you need more than technique, even more than a command of the English language, you need a good viewpoint. And Ulysses has many, from Bloom to his wife Molly to Dedalus, every person is detailed through their thoughts and words with enough dimension to make you wonder if this is a novel or a true account. Is it difficult to read? Yup. Most parts you can at least figure out what's going on but some, like the play section toward the middle, at times makes absolutely no sense (and what is up with that, is it a dream or something), but some parts that you think would be impossible, like the massive sequence at the end with Molly not only is nearly compulsively readable but quite beautiful at the same time. It's weird to say this but at times I wanted the book to be longer. Simply put, one of, if not THE greatest novel ever to come out of the English language (though I'm a Pynchon fan first . . . sorry), one of those few novels that everyone should at least attempt, if only to immerse yourself in the complexity of the language.
Joyce's Ulysses stands as a mountain in the centre of the wasteland of 20th century fiction. It is the landmark that reaches into the pages of every novel written since, it is polymath.
But it's a darned difficult read. Each chapter is written not just in a new form, but in a completely new style. It demands a shift in mindset as one progresses through the book. In some cases that shift is required from sentence to sentence, or indeed from word to word.
It's not a novel for the casual reader. To get anything out of it, one must be experienced. The annotations do help, but a broad knowledge of international literature, and indeed international language would be a boon when working one's way through the time-honoured pages.
Personally, I'd buy it just for the 'Ithaca' chapter. It's pure art (or science, in fact), and in my humble opinion an incredible achievement in anti-narrative that is unsurpassed.
Enough sycophancy. Ulysses is glorious, and that is truth.
a triumph of content
This is a brilliant novel. And it will find its salvation not because it is a triumph of form--which it is. Admittedly it packs intellectual poetry into every syllable, carefully constructed. But this means nothing today. Joyce was the only modernist who seemed to know that eventually the modernist form would fade and people would just wonder why The Wasteland is so damn hard to read. This book will find a salvation because it is more classical than any other book in the 20th century canon. And because it is a realist work before it is anything else.
Anyone who doubts that Joyce is a realist writer needs to take a glance at Dubliners. It is, more than likely, the realist tint of Ulysses that made upper crust elitists like Woolf dislike it. In his failed poet Stephen, Joyce offers a critique of the aesthete lifestyle. His hero, Bloom, is an impotent Jew suffering in sexual silence for the sake of his wife. The spiritual motivation of the book is a near-illiterate woman. There's little for the oversexed anti-semites of 1930s Paris to appreciate here.
Joyce wrote this book for his wife. It is his gift to her; fill in the details, ask yourself why that particular day, and you will see how Ulysses is perhaps the most profound love ode in the English language since "The Divine Comedy." It abolishes identity, language, politics, ethnicity and class in favor of a simple love poem. Read and be moved, but never say it is without content.