[Almost sounds like the name of a poem. Doesn’t it?]
So after a sold two weeks of reading, and doing bugger all else, I have finished Ulysses by James Joyce. I am not even kidding with that opening sentence, I had so little to do so I read this book in two weeks; and when I finished the last chapter of the novel a weird thing happened: I was almost expecting more. Even though I could see the dates of when Joyce started the novel and when he finished it, and the name of the city where he finished it, I had to go back and read the last sentence twice again to make sure I wasn’t kidding myself. And when it dawned on me that I actually had finished the book I had this weird feeling that is really difficult to describe.
I loved Ulysses. I will say that as much. It was strange and unique, and amazingly well written. Stephen Dedalus is still one of my favourite characters in all fiction, and the Bloom family were also so well written I felt I knew them both intimately by the end. But as I thought back over the entire book, remembering individual lines that stood out for me, and remembering what parts I liked and what parts I didn’t, and what parts I just plain didn’t get I also got the feeling like I should read the entire thing again. I want to do this one day, not any time soon considering it’s a massive book. However Ulysses is not the type of book I want to reread because I want to relive the joy of it but because I fell that there is so much I have missed in it. It feels like there are entire layers hidden in the novel that I didn’t pick up on, only catching hints in this first reading. I want to reread it because I want to understand it fully I guess. If at all.
This novel, it is clear, had a strange effect on me. After finishing it I kept thinking back to when I finished Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, and how fulfilling that ending was; How amazingly overt and funny it was and I was comparing that to the ending of Ulysses, which is weirdly funny but more bitter and dark. I think it’s because I loved the first and second parts to Ulysses, but part three I just didn’t care for, and I’m not sure why this is. For some reason most of the moments in the book that I remember happened in the first 1/3 of the novel, and I’m not sure what this means. Maybe this is another reason I want to reread this colossus?
Currently I am still under this strange feeling, and I’m not sure if I can actually get to sleep tonight because of it. I keep thinking about Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom; about the little moments in the novel that so drew me into Joyce’s world and vision of Dublin on that one day at the turn of the last century. I’m not sure I understand the book completely, and I’m not sure I ever will, but it is weird just how much this novel seeps into your unconscious. So instead of leaving this off with some weak ending, I will at least try and hide the fact that I can’t think of a way to close this by asking the question: what does Ulysses mean to you?
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