Wednesday, February 02, 2011


February 2, 1922 was the day Sylvia Beach published James Joyce's Ulysses. Long considered a masterpiece of the twentieth century and the subject of a landmark obscenity trial, Ulysses is a complex novel of several hundred pages set in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Joyce spent eight years writing the novel, completing it in the fall of 1921. He spent the next few months editing and saw it published on his fortieth birthday, his self-imposed deadline.

I have not read Ulysses. I have begun it several times, never reaching beyond the first few pages. I am not afraid of the book. I simply am hesitant to commit to several hundred pages of the same story. I know the book's plot. I understand its place in the literary canon, but I have yet to fully experience its lyrical writing and beautifully disjointed storytelling. Marilyn read it. Countless others have read it.

Ulysses sits near the top of my 2011-to-read list. Some other long classics I have yet to read: Moby Dick, War and Peace, and the second half of The Brothers Karamozov. I do not know if I will read them all this year, but I'll try.

What are classics you have avoided, but might tackle this year?


Anonymous said...

'Moby Dick' is an incredible book. Really worth taking the time to read.

I still can't get through 'Wuthering Heights' but I know what it's about.. it's just to dreary for me.

How about 'Ironweed'.. you couldn't pay me to read that one.

and 'Finnegan's Wake' ~ if Johnny Depp invites me to Little Hall's Pond Cay, then I'll give it a shot while we sip something cold and fruity from the blender. :}


Trevor said...

Marilyn read it, and looked great reading it, to boot. I also tried to read Ulysses and didn't get past maybe a hundred pages. It was years ago, but I think I remember having a lot of trouble following it.

Brothers Karamazov is a big classic I would like to get to this year, for sure.

I read Moby Dick in 2009, after years of putting it off. Wonderful read! Couldn't put it down! My favorite part was when the black fellow falls off the boat and floats alone in the sea for hours and hours. He goes crazy, of course.

Anonymous said...

Several of my friends and I formed a classics reading group. Every summer we tackle one of the classics that have challenged us by reading a section every week and meeting to discuss the passages we found most interesting. We read both "Ulysses" and "Brothers Karamozov." To help flesh out the difficult parts we invited professors from UT to come talk to us and they came! The camaraderie, wonderful conversation, and sense of accomplishment are what I appreciate most from the group discussions.

Maybe a similar group would benefit you!

Aleph said...

I think I am the only human being that haven't read the Latin American classic "A Hundred Years of Solitude." I know it is an eternal bestseller in all languages but I have to found the right moment to read it. Yeah... may be this is the year!

Anonymous said...

I've read all around Ulysses (Portrait of the Artist, The Dead (great movie), and a lot about James Joyce (Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation), and I've skimmed Ulysses for the dirty parts (they're cryptic) and put a toe into Finnegan's Wake and quickly withdrawn it.

I'd like to read The Red and the Black. I started it and thought it was really good, but put it down for some reason and then never picked it up again.

Bubba said...

Ulysses is one of my favorite novels, along with The Brothers K. Once you get started with Ulysses, it really moves along. It's one of those books that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Even though I read it 20 years ago, I can still remember certain passages, and where I was while reading them. You're in for a treat.

binarydays said...

I recommend "The New Bloomsday Book" by Blamires to anyone tackling "Ulysses."

As for me, this might be the year I finally read "All the Pretty Horses" and the second half of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

liblairian said...

Arborescence--that is a great idea. Perhaps I'll try roping a few friends into reading Ulysses with me.

Bubba--Novels that stick with you for years are rare. I look forward to remembering Ulysses down the road.

binarydays--Thanks for the book recommendation. I will pick it up.

Anonymous said...

James Joyce's 'Ulysses' is also available on CD at the Austin Public Library if you don't have the time to read it. :}