Sunday, 17 June 2012

Bloomsday 2012 or How I began reading Ulysses

Well Bloomsday has arrived and as promised I have started Ulysses.

For those that are not aware Bloomsday is on the 16th June and it marks the day on which James Joyce's Ulysses is based. It is now used around the world to celebrate Joyce's work. A few of us decided to read Ulysses to mark the occasion. Some were going to try and read the whole thing in one day. I'm not one of those.

As some of you know I took one look at the book and freaked the crap out. This thing is massive and the writing is completely different to anything I've experienced before. There are a lot of phrases in other languages which require translation, much of it is in a stream-of-consciousness style and really overall it's just tough to read.

But I've started and that's the main thing. The beginning hasn't been as difficult as I expected but I want to make sure I actually understand what's going on so I'm taking my time and reading up on some guides at the end of each episode.

Ulysses is split up into sections and I'll briefly chat about each one as I go through the book. I'm also going to be reading The Odyssey around the same time to help understand the references made in Ulysses.

This is the break down of the first episode of the first part. The Telemachiad.

PART I: The Telemachiad
Episode i: Telemachus - The Tower - 8am
Episode ii: Nestor - The School - 10am
Episode iii: Proteus - The Strand - 11am

Episode 1 is set in a Martello Tower which after some reading I found out that James Joyce did actually live in for a couple of months and it's now a museum. I'm trying to think if I have seen a Martello Tower in my travels around Ireland but can't recall any.

We are introduced to Stephen "Kinch" Dedalus (apparently also a character in A Portrait of the Artist which I haven't read) and his roommate Malachi "Buck" Mulligan. Stephen is mourning the death of his mother and from what I've read is supposed to be a semi-autobiographical Joyce and Malachi is funny, stately and plump and well rather blasphemous. They also have an English visitor Haines who is chilling there and I think is studying Ireland or Irish folklore or Irish history or something like that.

I really do adore some of the language he uses, from describing the art colour as "snotgreen" and using the term "the scrotumtightening sea", I know I'm in for some fun passages throughout this book.

I have a few guides I'm using to help me out, one has the translations to phrases, another has a breakdown of the characters and the third summarises each chapter. I'm finding these very helpful to help decipher this book.

Over the coming weeks (and probably months) I'll be updating here and there with new episodes across Ulysses and also The Odyssey which I'm going to be reading together but only in drips and drabs so I don't overwhelm myself.

Happy Bloomsday everyone. I hope you have been able to enjoy some work of Joyce's today.