"By far the most challenging book I have ever read."
How I did it: The version I read was the original Vintage Books first edition, published in 1961. It was the first time Ulysses had ever appeared in paperback. I obtained my copy at an auction that was held about twenty years ago when a friend named David suddenly passed away of a stroke in his late 30s. The money that was raised was used to pay for his final expenses, so the book has always meant something special to me. According to a stamp on the inside front cover, David had bought it at the Valley Book Center in Fresno, CA, probably as a used copy.
I tried starting it three times over the years and never got past page 70 or so. It has been on my "to do" list for nearly a quarter century, often added as a New Year's resolution, and added as a goal on 43T since a week after I joined in 2006.
In February 2010, I resolved to give it another go, but this time with a more strategic approach. I would carry it with me whenever I rode the bus and read as much as I could each trip. Sometimes that was only a page or two, and some weeks I didn't ride the bus at all, but I kept at it. I literally read the cover off it, as the taped spine indicates.
Numerous conversations started with others riding on the bus who were curious to know what such a thick and obviously well read (dog-eared) book was all about. In trying to explain it, I grew more knowledgeable about what it is (and is not) and how it differs from most other writing. I discovered how to read it in a way that was actually enjoyable. Joyce's language can be savored, even when it is most opaque or rambling.
So now, nearly 14 full months later, the journey is done. Leopold Bloom and I have made our sojourn together. Mr. Joyce has been a reliable traveling companion. His buzz will be in my head for a long time to come. For me, this was akin to climbing the Mt. Everest of literature. Challenging, frustrating, exhausting, ultimately satisfying, and not to be repeated.
Lessons & tips: Don't bother trying to understand too much in the first 100 pages or so, just keep on reading so you can get into Joyce's rhythm. Let him carry you on Poldy's shoulders. Keep an eye open for marvels of language along the way.
Resources: Joseph Strick's 1967 film version of Ulysses.
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