Is James Joyce‘s Ulysses a work of genius or a piece of work? That is the maddeningly germane question, as the book clearly strives to for genius of heroism in echoing Odysseus’ return to Ithaca after winning the Trojan War in The Odyssey. The attempt Joyce made was to echo that in Dublin with a turn-of-the-twentieth-century Dublin / Irish sensibility. The absence of any sense of heroism in Joyce’s telling was a disappointment for me.
The overall effort gets higher marks than the book The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass for being marginally more high brow and significantly more structured in the echoing of the narrative structure of The Odyssey. The echo of Homer was fully present in format, though the hyper-sexualized dullness of Joyce in trying too hard to be clever and demonstrative of being well-read proved tedious in a telling that felt like a prank on pompous intellectuals that teach literature at universities. (The well-read quality merited higher marks; the boorishness knocked the tale down in my estimation).
I was quite satisfied when the story finally moved past the wandering / odyssey phase of the tale. Ulysses and The Odyssey share this quality in common; I wanted both to get on with the resolution. The point-of-view of Molly at the end, in finally revealing that this long, strange, amoral, ugly, rambling, and incoherent statements of feeling adding up to realizations of yes, I’ll still love my filthy, hyper-sexual husband because ultimately I’ll get mine is what 600+ pages of text over a single day finally got around to sharing.
Thank goodness this nonsense is over; no thanks for keeping the selfishness real, incapable of uplift, and ultimately offering no nuggets of truth that I want to use in my life. That the long, dull ramble revealed what is truth for some is, in essence, where there is genius, if any exists, in this bloated tale. Goodness, I want some of that time back. Am I the reader that’s been pranked?
Like Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, I rate this book 3-stars-out-of-5.
Matt – Tuesday, January 24, 2017