Reader’s Notes: “Ulysses” by James Joyce

Reader’s Notes here at ClimbingSky are not “book reviews” but are notes and impressions about books and poems and writers.

ulysses_james.joyceThe part of the world where I now live is covered with trees and water. I grew up in places that were semi-arid. Where the air was clean and dry and the horizons vast and clear.

I have said before that there are times when the tangle of brush and trees that surround me here get to be too much and I feel the pull toward open spaces, toward prairies and plains and badlands and mountains.

I suspect there is a metaphor there. I do afterall gravitate by nature away from the clutter of details toward the clarity of big pictures.

I cannot tell so far if James Joyce’s Ulysses (I am only on Episode 7) is really a novel at all. Bogged-down as I am in the details of reading,  it seems so far less a novel than a Modernist prose poem… the “Wasteland” or the Cantos with a narrative frame.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Ireland was the presence of real landscape. Distant horizons and open spaces close to my heart. The eye and the imagination were free to wander.

In Ulysses, Joyce the Irishman seems to be trying to balance the overwhelming detail of Modernism (and the modern experience) with the open space that is Ireland. In that way, he is probably mirroring the city of Dublin where it is set.

He achieves this balance with his wonderful Irish language and word play. In phrases that I find myself marking with my pencil and repeating to myself.

“…cleft by a crooked crack…”

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts; secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

“loudlatinlaughing”

“…upstream, silently moving, a silent ship.”

“The wheels rattle rolling over the cobbled causeway…”

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