Monday, February 21, 2011

Ulysses: Read-along - Part 2

Ulysses – James Joyce (Read-along)
Evan’s ESS = TBD out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG – 13 (Adult Content, Very Mild Language, Morbid Reflections, Wandering Contemplations)

Well, time for another check in, and truthfully, the name of this second post should be called: What in the world did we sign up for...  We definitely needed considerable “help” to navigate through the first half of Part 2 and we owe a debt of gratitude to the many online resources available.  Unfortunately, there’s no online guide to describe our thoughts on this next section.  Soooo, in sticking with the theme of the novel, we’ve decided to utilize more of a random thought model... 

Summary of what we think we read:  Part 2 opened with Leopold Bloom carrying on a conversation with his cat and reflecting on the nature of his pet. Maybe not the most exciting way to start a historic day, but at least we were finally introduced to the main character.  From there, we encountered a post office, a morbid funeral service, and multiple restaurants.  A whole lot of other stuff happened; unfortunately we don't really know what they were.  Oh, and there’s an uneventful chance encounter between Mr. Bloom and Stephen Dedalus.

Random thought: While the narrative jumps are quite disorienting, it’s that much more rewarding when you actually comprehend a string of paragraphs.  You want to smile, as if to say “Ha! I’m wicked smart too!”  Then you realize the people nearby are wondering why you have a weird grin on your face and you feel stupid all over again.

Interesting way to describe suicide:  “Death by misadventure.”

Condemning thought on main character:  We felt some mild disappointment in the main character, highlighted by the following example.  If one is going to go through all the trouble to create a secret alias, they’ve got to do better than Henry Flower.  No offense, to anyone named Henry Flower, but if the entire alias naming world is at your disposal, surely you can do better.  We’re thinking something like... okay, maybe this is harder than we thought.  Still, our disappointment remains.

Another random thought: As you read Ulysses, the novel does have a sort of style and elegance.  Like it’s just a little too brilliant to fully grasp.  Like Joyce was way too smart and wanted to play a joke on “normal people” like us... 

Stream of Consciousness at its very best:  Right in the middle of a funeral service and without any warning or precedence, Mr. Bloom makes the following observation: 

“My kneecap is hurting me.  Ow.  That’s better.” 

We actually thought this little gem was pretty funny. 

Abbreviated wrap up: Okay, we’re dangerously close to going over our arbitrary word count limit, so until next time... chin up!


  1. Have you heard of Frank Delaney? He's an Irish author who wrote a book on how to understand _Ulysses_. In the process of writing his book, Delaney did force himself to read Joyce's epic and absolutely fell in love with it. Now he's taking the book apart line by line via weekly podcast. It's actually pretty interesting. (You can find it here:

    Oh, and as for your "Another Random Thought,: Joyce DID write it to confuse the heck out of people. According to Delaney, he prided himself on writing a novel that "would keep the professors busy for 300 years." Smart ass.

    (I got all of this info from a very interesting interview with Delaney on the Diane Rehm show on NPR. You can read the text of it at They start talking about Joyce at around the 11:32 mark.)

  2. It's hard to like a man who wrote a book that is almost impossible to understand. I'm sure Joyce would've thought I was too stupid to bother with.

  3. And yet. AND YET!! Joyce supposedly adored 'the common man' ; perhaps this book IS a joke on the professors. i am spending entirely too much time thinking about Ulysses, reading about Ulysses and not reading any of Ulysses. Sigh. But I am hooked in a way that I can't explain at all. And am having too much fun telling people that I am reading it to see the reaction. "A certain spot in hell for such __"

  4. I loved that line about his kneecap too! There's some funny stuff in there amongst the gibberish.