Yesterday I read the final lines on page 682 of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’. Molly Blooms repetition of the word ‘yes’ in those lines seemed fitting as they echoed the disbelieving yes I sighed as I closed the books worn cover for the last time and threw it down on my bed.
Ulysses is one of those classic novels that most people have heard of, and most people are terrified to read. Never before has the book I’m reading received so much attention. Everyone noticed I was reading it, wherever I brought it, and even though they knew little about it, they never failed to raise an eyebrow at me. More than once it led to further conversation on both Ulysses and novels in general, providing me with an opportunity to talk to some really interesting people I otherwise would have never spoken to. So for that, and a few other reasons, I am so glad I made the time to read this book.
However, the book itself was difficult to read. Reading has always been something I enjoyed doing to relax, but every chapter/episode of Ulysses left my brain utterly fried. Even now, having finished the novel, I don’t feel like I could sit down and explain to someone exactly what the story is about. Ulysses is made up of so many layers that I wonder if each individual reader gets something different from it.
The novel took me all summer to read and I carried it in my bag everywhere I went. It accompanied me with more cups of coffee than any of my friends. It has left its mark on me- the book I felt so much relief finishing. But I’m glad I read it, I really am (and not just so I can be that pretentious reader who can tell everyone they actually finished Ulysses)
The novel itself exposed me to several different methods of writing and a wide variety of characters that were just so real. It brought me into a new world and allowed me to live a large part of my summer in it. I also read part Ulysses in Dublin, on some of the very streets parts of the novel are set in. Many of times I have walked similar streets to those of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus (though with a very different inner monologue) and I am grateful that I have had a unique experience with novel, one not every reader gets to have.
So, to anyone who is currently in two minds about reading Ulysses, I say go for it. Yes it will be difficult and time consuming but trust me, it will ultimately be worth it 🙂
(From the pretentious reader who wrote an entire blog post to prove she read Ulysses)