I have spent most of my life “studying” Irish literature. But like most of the world, I have never completed James Joyce’s Ulysses.
I have given it a few half-hearted attempts over the years, but like Yeats did, quickly gave up.
I have read other James Joyce, of course, the more accessible Joyce: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, his Collected Poetry. But I had long ago abandoned any thought or desire of trying again to tackle what is often acknowledged as the greatest novel of the 20th Century, maybe the greatest novel ever.
Our recent visit to Dublin changed all that. A visit to Sweny’s Druggist (where my daughter Dylan bought two bars of lemon soap and a 6.00-Euro paperback copy of Ulysses) and a pint at Davy Byrnes pub (part of a Literary Pub Crawl) changed all that.
I came home, found a used copy of Ulysses, and started again. This time with a little Irish help. The “druggist” at Sweny’s had suggested to Dylan that she read it the first time aloud with a group of friends. Utilizing that idea, I got a copy of an audio book of Ulysses with Donal Donnelly narrating to read along with.
It has made a world of difference. This time I am able to enjoy the sound of Joyce’s language. I am now on Episode 5 and having the time of my life.
I have already climbed Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick, this year. And I have the scars to prove it. So now I am tackling Ireland’s literary mountain, Ulysses.
Two Irish mountains in a year would be quite an accomplishment. Wish me luck!