Thursday, December 11, 2008

75 years of Ulysses (and beer)

This week (or perhaps last week; different sources say either 6 or 11 December) marks the 75th anniversary of the trial that eventually allowed Ulysses to be imported into the United States.  The trial, a landmark of sorts, judged that since the book had no pornographic intent (i.e. it did not intentionally "stir the sex impulses") it was not obscene.  This trial was also interesting in that it gave clearer guidelines on a legal definition of "obscene".  

Coincidentally, this week was also the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

As Morris Ernst, one of the lawyers involved in the case, said:
"The first week of December 1933 will go down in history for two repeals, that of Prohibition and that of the legal compulsion for squeamishness in literature... We may now imbibe freely of the contents of bottles and forthright books."

On that note, I will now open a beer and continue reading Ulysses (as soon as I can find the #$^*&#^ bottle opener).

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Catty Observation

I thought it was interesting (and not altogether surprising) that Joyce doesn't use the traditional spelling of "meow" (or "miaow") to indicate Leopold Bloom's cat is making a noise. Instead, he uses such spellings as "Mkgnao!" and "Mrkgnao!" to make the noise.

I'd thought that perhaps "meow" hadn't been standardized yet, but in fact the spelling has been around since the early 17th century. So Joyce's use of his alternate spellings is a deliberate choice, not an invention of a sound before convention standardized it.

With that in mind, Joyce's spelling accomplishes three things. First, it gives the cat a little more personality than the average literary feline. Second (hand in hand with the first), it allows some more variation in the noises it makes. When sounded out, the noises actually sound fairly realistic. And third... makes the reader scratch his head and think, "what the hell?"

I can't help but wonder which of these effects was most important to Joyce.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flooding the Stream of Consciousness

Is it just me, or is the third chapter of Ulysses nigh-incomprehensible? Maybe it's just that the mind tends to wander when reading about someone as his mind wanders. Or heck, maybe Joyce intended it to be read four times before its secrets begin to become clear. Because I have to admit, three times isn't quite cutting it.

So here's what I think happens in this segment: Stephen Dedalus walks on the beach. At first he thinks about going to his Aunt Sara's house, but he gets lost in thought and wonders past it. Then he thinks about his lunch appointment, and how headmaster Deasy warned him not to spend all of his money. He doesn't seem to be happy with that option, either, although I can't quite be sure. But he isn't looking forward to going home to his tower apartment tonight.

He gets lost in thought about his time in France, hanging out with his friend Kevin Egan and drinking absinthe. The green fairy had its fangs in him, yes it did. But his stay was cut short by a telegram telling him to come home, because his mother was dying. He probably bears some guilt over that--both for not being there for his mother and for resenting her for cutting his trip short. Either way he turns, guilt. Ah, the Irish.

Along the way, Stephen discovers a dead dog's carcass, and later a live dog comes down the beach and inspects the dead one. As Stephen muses on this, it made me recall lyrics from Dan Bern's song, "Rolling Away":

I wish that I could be a dog for a day
To know what he thinks and what he feels
Does he think about Life?
Does he think about God?
Or just about his next meal, like us?

Stephen seems to aspire to be live a fuller life than he is living, being more literary than he is. For a while, he was reading two pages of seven books every night. It was an ambitious plan to be well-read, but completely impatient.

(Is that any different that what I'm doing with this blog, struggling through this book? I'm not certain that the ability to say "I've read it" is a worthwhile pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow,* but expending effort to read something is flexing muscles I haven't used in a while, so I suppose that is its own kind of reward. But I've never been one for exercise for its own sake.)

As he walks, Stephen takes headmaster Deasy's letter and writes something on the bottom of it and stuffs it back into his pocket. Maybe we'll learn what he's written, or maybe we won't. And maybe we've already been told in such an oblique way that I haven't picked up on it after three readings.

I'm also curious as to whether the corpse of the drowned man is pulled onto a boat at the end of a chapter, or if Stephen is just imagining it happening.

And, at the end, the icing on the cake moment: Stephen picks his nose and leaves a booger on a rock. It's tough to read this passage without a profound sense of gratitude toward Mr. Joyce for letting us witness this moment. (He also takes a leak.)



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Well I thought it was funny

I was actually reading the book Saturday afternoon. No, no, that isn't the funny part. Anyways, I like reading either with music playing the background or with the TV on. If I read in silence my mind tends to wander. Saturday I had the TV on in the background, and I wasn't really paying attention to what was on. Eventually I did notice, and it was...Cops. I don't know why but that made me laugh. Could there have been two more cultural opposites? Now don't get me wrong I will watch Cops if I happen to see it on. I think it is pretty damn funny show. So, yeah, that is what I thought was funny.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't do what I did

I basically hadn't picked up the book for about a month. When I did! I didn't know what the hell I was reading. It could have been written in Spanish and I would have understood just as much as I did. Once I turned it upside down I was better.

I did go back to what I remembered and restarted from there. I was just sitting there blinking at the pages for a while though.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Happy Bloomsday, everybody!

When I first conceived of this project, I planned to finish the book by today. Obviously, that hasn't happened. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't mark the occasion.

My schedule doesn't permit much tonight, but I certainly will be lifting a pint for Leopold, whom I don't really know yet, but will before his day is through.

Here's a link to a bunch of Bloomsday celebrations around the country and the world. And even better, here's frequent commenter (and soon-to-be-contributor) Figserello's account of his Bloomsday in Dublin, ten years ago.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Oh, Blerg.

Picking up the book, I realize I've put off writing about Episode 3 for so long after my re-reading of it that now I'll have to re-re-read it.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mornings at Home

Toward the beginning of Episode 4 (Calypso), James Joyce captures what life is like on the occasions when I wake up before my wife:
On quietly creaky boots he went up the staircase to the hall, paused by the bedroom door. She might like something tasty. Thin bread and butter she likes in the morning. Still perhaps: once in a way.
He said softly in the bare hall:
-- I am going round the corner. Be back in a minute.
And when he had heard his voice say it he added:
-- You don't want anything for breakfast?
A sleepy soft grunt answered:
-- Mn.
No. She did not want anything. He heard then a warm heavy sigh, softer, as she turned over and the loose brass quoits of the bedstead jingled.
This book can be so intimidating with its use of stream-of-consciousness and obscure references, that I think it's valuable to point out some of those moments that so sharply reflect human behavior in a way anyone can recognize. In other words, Man, do I not want to wake Kathy up when she's sleeping. But I'd hate to fix breakfast without her, too.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Three Jokes, One Punchline

I'm still rereading the first chunks of Ulysses; I finished the second chapter around a week ago, and haven't had too much to say about it. But here's a bit of a synopsis, I think.

Stephen Dedalus teaches rich schoolkids to make ends meet. He's kind of bored with the job, and a bit resentful of the kids. He mentions Pyrrhus, leading me to suppose he'll have his own Pyrrhic vicotory coming down the pike. Or the pier, as the kids' joke goes. Another allusion the the drowned man?

Stephen tells a nautical ghost story (of Lycidas, another death at sea) and then poses an unusual riddle that I can't make heads or tails of:

The cock crew
The sky was blue:
The bells in heaven
Were striking eleven.
Tis time for this poor soul
To go to heaven.

He says the punchline/answer to this riddle is, "The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush." A real knee-slapper, that. I've got no clue what that's about. (Neither do the schoolkids, so there's that.)

Stephen sees himself in an awkward, weakling kid who has trouble with math and is about to be trounced on the sports field. Then he meets with Mr. Deasy.

Deasy gives him his pay, riding him about spending his money wisely and paying his own way through life. This leads Stephen to muse on his own debts.

Then Deasy lectures Stephen on Irish history, about which I'm woefully ignorant. Deasy's a pretty untrustworthy source, it seems to me, anyhow -- his antisemetism and conservative worldview surely color how he tells the history. At several points, he makes allusions to women in classical mythology -- Cassandra and Helen -- calling each a "woman who was no better than she should be." A curious statement, curiously repeated.

Like Haines in Chapter 1, Deasy thinks "England is in the hands of the Jews." (33) He closes the chapter with an antisemetic joke about Ireland being the only country that never persecuted the Jews, since Ireland never let them in in the first place. Ha, ha. Go bury your grandmother under a hollybush, y'know? (Maybe that's the point -- everyone's jokes fall flat to other people in this chapter. There's some social disconnection there.)

There are some terms in Deasy's history lesson (31) that I didn't get right away. "Fenians" are irish nationalists, but who exactly is "O'Connell" that he refers to -- the surname is a little too common for me to wiki. Armagh is a city in Northern Ireland; the "lodge of the Diamond in Armagh" is a mystery. And I've got no idea what he means by "Croppies lie down." (UPDATE: Actually, that phrase googles just fine; it's part of a chorus to an anti-republican folksong. Deasy likes his fight songs.)

This segment is known as "Nestor," for an old warrior in the Trojan war -- he's too old to join in battle, but he gives plenty of advice. Hello, Headmaster Deasy.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Questions on Telemachus

I'll organize these by page number -- I'll use the page numbers in parentheses in the margins.

(6) Who is Algy? I notice he's mentioned on p. (37) as well.

(6) Does hyperborean mean "athiest"? Why?

(8) "I'll bring down Seymour and we'll give him a ragging worse than they gave Clive Kempthorpe." Who are Seymour and Clive Kempthorpe? Seymour shows up again on (22).

(8) What the heck is omphalos? (Okay, Wiki says omphalos stones (a religious artifact) were said to allow direct communication with the gods. There was one at Delphi.)

(10) Why does Buck call Haines "the Sassenach"?

(12) Stephen remembers how he carried the boat of incense at Clongowes. Was he an altar boy? Or is that where his mother's funeral was held?

(14) An unusual euphemism for God, I guess: "the collector of prepuces." (A prepuce is a foreskin or clitoral hood; since the foreskin is removed at a briss, God must have a collection. Naturally, this is Buck's joke.

(16) and (17) Okay, "Agenbite of inwit" has me baffled. Is he a character Stephen and Buck are creating to tell Haines about? Wiki says its a poorly translated piece of prose that gives clues to what 14th century Kentish dialect was like.

(18) They call their tower an omphalos. Interesting.

(18) Buck calls Stephen "Japhet in search of a father." Japhet was one of Noah's sons. This is also in the Hamlet discussion. (And come to think of it, this chapter is informally called "Telemachus," and Telemachus was Odysseu's son, who was searching for news of his father.)

(20) I like the wordplay in "Joking Jesus": "What's bread in the bone cannot fail me to fly." Jesus's bones (his body) were, after all, also Bread. (As would Jack of the Beanstalk's, had the giant his way. But that's probably neither here nor there.)

(20) I like that Haines isn't quite sure how to react to Buck's mocking of religion. Mustn't upset the natives. I also like that Stephen says he hears "Joking Jesus" three times a day, after meals... making it sort of an anti-prayer.

(20) I'm a little lost about Stephen's ashplant. Not sure what's going on there. (I think it's mentioned before this page, come to think of it.)

(21) Haines calls German Jews Britain's "national problem." Considering there's a lot of antisemetism coming from a character in the next chapter as well, I'm guessing this will be a recurring motif.

(22) "Says he found a sweet young thing down there. Photo girl he calls her." "Snapshot, eh? Brief exposure." How I love innuendo. I get the impression (from something I read online, can't remember where) that this is Leopold Bloom's daughter. I've only gotten to Chapter 4, so I haven't met her yet, but from what I recall she works in photography somehow.

"Brief exposure." Heh.

(24) The seal is a usurper? WTF?

So those are some questions I had while reading (and rereading) Chapter 1. If you've got answers, toss 'em in the comments (or if they're long, make a post of their own. I'll do some looking into this myself, too, and post what I find.


Monday, May 12, 2008

I Can Read Again!

For a while there, I was really worried.

I mean, I could see the words, and I knew what a good 80 percent of them meant, but somehow, it wasn't coming together. I put four chapters behind me, and had really only a tenuous grasp of what was going on.

And so I didn't blog. I just didn't have much to say. But I didn't read any further, either -- I didn't want to put too much distance between what I was reading and what I was commenting on.

But I had to say something. I started this thing, and it seems like everyone's waiting on me to pipe up. So this morning on my way to work, I flipped through the first chapter to refresh my memory on the few notes I took. And somehow, instead, I started to read the book again.

And suddenly I got it. I understood what was going on at that breakfast a lot better than I had before. I'm sure there's a lot of nuance I'm missing (heck, I haven't even found translation for the Latin yet), but there are things that completely eluded me on my first go-round. The text was too dense (or I was) for me to realize what Haines is doing in Ireland (he's a Brit writer, working on an "among the natives" type piece about the Irish). It seems to me that Stephen is pissed at him, partially because of jealousy (he's a frustrated writer himself -- he's a schoolteacher that Buck keeps calling "the bard") and partially because of a dislike of the egotism of the whole project and archaeological stance. Which is why he feeds him bullshit facts, like when he mentions they pay rent on the tower "to the secretary of state for war," as he says on page 17 (18).* Somehow, the intent and flow of this opening conversation connected with me this time, when it hadn't before.

At least, I hope I'm getting the intent.

So of our three main characters in this segment, we have Buck Mulligan (stately, plump Buck Mulligan) who's a jovial athiest medical student, happily making light of religion whenever he can. We've got his friend Stephen Dedalus, an unreligious man haunted by his denial of his mother's dying wish -- the he pray with her at the end. He's no happy athiest (or hyperborean, as they call it, if I've got that right); he's has no faith, but it bothers him. And then there's Haines, who's looking to make money off of his travels to Ireland. Buck thinks they can make money (or gain some sort of status) off of Haines's work, and wants Stephen to feed him choice insights (such as the cracked mirror of a servant being "a symbol of Irish art"). Stephen knows that whatever the value of these insights are, he won't reap the rewards if he gives them to Haines.

Meanwhile, they have breakfast, and the corpse of a man who drowned nine days ago still hasn't turned up. And Stephen's upset with Buck for being callous about his mother's death, but being callous is simply what Buck does. He doesn't really know any other way. The threads of conversation wind and twist into the background before springing back into view, and it's hard to follow for that reason. But this second reading really clarified things for me.

Not everything, though. Not hardly. I'll list some of the things that puzzled me in my next post.


*Okay, it turns out that might not be bullshit after all. Martello towers were part of Ireland's defenses against Napoleonic armies; it's certainly possible that their rent would go to the war department. That feasibility is certainly why Stephen says it, whether it's true or not.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There and Back Again

Well, I've been to New Orleans and back this past week or so, and have had a number of chances to read Ulysses while on the go. I haven't gotten very far in, but have made it through the Stephen Dedalus portion of the book, and on to the first Bloom chapter. The difficulty varied from segment to segment; out of the bunch, I was clearest on the action of the second Dedalus and first Bloom chapters. The third Dedalus chapter is a doozy.

I've got some questions & things to look up marked in my notes (for instance, should I know who Kevin Egan is yet?), but for tonight, I'm just writing to let people know I'm back, and I've gotten my feet wet. The water's fine...unless you're a corpse lost at sea whom the entire town is waiting to turn up in a fisherman's net, I suppose.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

My security blanket

Well in anticipation of our journey I had to pull out my most trusted companion on such a trip. My beloved "A" number one bookmark:

I pulled this sucker out of the book I was reading, and deposited it in its rightful place: between the covers of Ulysses. I bought this at a book fair in elementary school in 6th grade. It has taken whatever a teenage boy could throw at it and then some. With my trusty bookmark...well not at my side, but along for the trip. I will not fail! Or just less likely to.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Slow music, please"

A spot of Suzanne Vega the other day, song: Calypso, started me thinking about what sort of music might be appropriate whilst travelling through Ulysses. I know this is a personal thing, I certainly don't like songs with lyrics on in the background while I'm reading, some might not want any music. But I did think, I might like to have some relevant tunes on the rest of the time, to set a mood, to percolate in my subconscious. Moreover, I'm curious as to what the rest of you might fancy.

I'm sorry if I'm too obvious in my selections, which are very Oirish (hey there's no Dexy's at least, although "Dance Stance" lists many Irish writers other than Joyce, and no Cranberries, I think the Good Friday Agreement mandated that "Zombie" and "Linger" be taken out of print, besides they sing about Yeats, not Joyce).

A. Instrumentals
1. Chieftains, "Bonaparte's Retreat" -- This is the first of their albums I bought, and perhaps due to that, my favourite. It's particularly apt for the title track which is a suite of Napoleonic era folk songs. The Martello tower that Buck Mulligan lives in, and shaves atop at the start of the book was built as part of the military defences during that time.
2. Afro-Celt Sound System "Release" -- OK, at worst, there are times when this group sound like the techno-switched-on-classics version of Irish folk. But who am I to judge, you get occasional traditionally keening vocals from S. O'Connor, bless her little suede head.
3. Sharon Shannon "Out of the Gap" -- energetic, unabashed use of an accordion.

B. Songs
1. The Pogues, "If I Should Fall With Grace With God" -- somehow I missed out on their first two albums, but started with this one, Joyce is on the cover, with the band parroting his pose. Rollicking good fun. "Fairytale of New York" is the Christmas classic with the lines "you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, merry Christmas your arse, I pray god it's our last." Was 1987's Christmas no. 1 in Ireland, and no. 2 in the UK. I love that, you probably couldn't get it air play in the US. Here, it's on most contemporary Christmas compilation albums.
2. The Dubliners, "The Dubliner's Dublin" -- the wit and wisdom of traditional Irish folk, from the lot that helped revive the form. Includes Finnegan's Wake and Zoological Gardens, which feature in Joyce's last work, and "Seven Drunken Nights" the prototypical Irish folk joke song.
3. Kate Bush, "The Sensual World" -- Title track quotes and paraphrases Molly Bloom's monologue that closes Ulysses. Not her best album, twee and precious at times, but, kettle/black springs to mind. Could be worse, on her latest she sings Pi to 137 decimal places (highly recommended anyway).
4. Sinéad O'Connor "Sean-Nós Nua" -- Sinéad goes trad, and as she used to busk and do the folkie thing, it's a return to her roots. 'S'OK if you like that sort of thing.
5. Eliza Carthy -- just about anything, she's English folk, but knows how to be contemporary and traditional in the right measures at the right times.

C. Miscellaneous
Firesign Theater "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once, When You're Not Anywhere At All" -- The comedy troupe that often dabble in surreal asides and Joycean puns and references, end one of their most phantasmagorical sketches with Molly Bloom's monologue (oh, that thing again, maybe you should avoid these 'til after the book, don't want to give anything away). Yeh, and that's Nick Danger on the flip-side.

Well, that's enough to be getting on with, at any rate. Now what else should I pack onto that MP3 CD?.....

On Your Marks, Get ....


Monday, April 21, 2008

Got yer book?

I finally was able to step out during lunch and buy my copy of Ulysses: The Vintage International paperback of the 1961 text. Given all the vacation prep and othersuch I have to do, I probably won't crack the thing until my flight to New Orleans on Wednesday. But this drowsy early-a.m. traveler will soon be taking that first step.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The "Difficult" Third Book

A lot of people are put off reading so-called difficult literary works. I won't argue the toss, but Ulysses certainly is in this category by reputation, how true this is, we shall see. From my first few attempts on the cliff face of this day in Dublin, the first few episodes are a breeze, and then the language thickens (not quite Noam Chomsky density, but enough to thin my resolve and have me glancing over at some unread Stephen King). I thought I'd tote out a list of techniques that I find help when dealing with this sort of thing.

1. Treat your reading as a physical task. You are going to get comfortable and read for a certain amount of time.

At Uni I took a marvellous course called Madness in Literature taught by the lamentably deceased Paul Korshin (to give you an idea of what he was like, in one lesson he posed as a waiter in a restaurant that Kafka partially owned, and reasonably refused to supply anything that was on the menu). He had us read Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is told in a series of never ending run-on sentences. You could go for pages without hitting a period, if a paragraph ended, you'd hold a small party. If you lost your place, it wouldn't be easy to retrace your steps there (just ponder the semiotics of that process my droogs). Korshin suggested we read as much as we liked in a sitting, but then mark the place you stop, actually mark it. Now, I come from a Hebraic tradition where books are considered semi-sacred, I get ill when someone cracks the spine of a paperback, the idea of defacing a book intentionally is sort of upsetting, but I could concede the point here.

Now, I'm hoping we don't have to resort to this sort of tactic with Ulysses. What I liked about the idea, however, is the sense that when we read, we traverse the text as we read. That there is a physical element, a journey over the small spaces of fonts, leading, tracking and page turning. I'm not suggesting it's an Olympic event, but it is a task, not just an eye-brain process.

2. Don't get bogged down.

There's a few of us here already that did English Majors. A pitfall of this negligible training is that we want to understand all the bits, we want to drown our reading in a flood of exegesis. We want to mine the meaning of the text and subtext. We want to know what the author was having for lunch whilst working out his known biographical foibles as he wrote that sentence.

Much will be unfamiliar here. This is a novel written about another country over a century ago, whose author had an immensely encyclopaedic knowledge. This will abound with colloquialisms and idiomatic, cultural, geographical and historical references, not to mention Joyce's paralleling of the Odyssey etc. etc. There will be Greek and Christian imagery. There will be Latin.

My suggestion is, short of complete incomprehensibility, don't stop reading, let some of the prose wash over you, even if you're not sure what some of the bits mean, or how it hangs together. Don't keep stopping to find out what exact method Guinness used to brew stout in 1904, or if the Sandymount tram really did intersect Grafton street. I was slightly worried when the academic shitstorm over definitive text came up because it's another dead end to travel down.

If there's something that really stands out, wait until you get to a good stopping point, go back and then hash it out, perhaps with the use of web resources and their flimsy provenance. Or make use of the semi-brain trust of this blog.

3. Don't rush.

One of my high school teachers suggested a sort of daredevil approach to reading Ulysses. It takes place in a day, so try reading it in a day. While this made a lot of sense to me, and appealed to my literary pretentiousness (of which more confession another time) in the same way that bungie jumping naked or extreme ironing appeals to danger junkies.

I probably could have managed this twenty five years ago, but there's not enough time in the day, or enough caffeine in the universe for me to consider doing this now. It's not like one of those parties where you get your mates together and sing the whole of Sweeney Todd.

4. Don't listen to me, what the fuck do I know.

This is the best advice I can give anyone. For at least the first third of the book, you'll be wondering why I even bothered writing this. As the book progresses, Joyce pushes his stylistic experimentation further and further, some of these suggestions may come in handy. I'm sure you're all much cleverer than me anyway, I didn't even have a blog until about 3 years ago.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Step 1: Begin Gathering Equipment & Provisions

I got to Borders today and picked up the current Random House/Vintage printing of the 1961 edition. Now I just need to lay in a good supply of Guinness and the inner organs of beasts and fowls.

Well, perhaps just the Guinness.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wrapping Up

Just curious... what books are you wrapping up before beginning Ulysses? I'm chugging through Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume, a goofball epic about immortality, scents, and beets. For some reason I've never read it, even though I once owned a copy (now misplaced) that I bought on Royal Street in New Orleans, the same street a perfume shop featured in the story is situated on.

Is there anything you're bringing to a close at the foot of the mountain?


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Line Number of the Beast

Greg brings up an interesting point in the comments of the last post: It might make references easier if we're all reading the same edition. One paperback edition I've found -- the Gabler edition -- has every 10 lines unobtrusively numbered. (You can see them on Amazon's "Search Inside" feature.) It might make references even easier.

Other editions might have other good points. Any thoughts?


Thursday, April 10, 2008


I am motivated by two things: Curiosity and Drink.

Actually, there are many more things, among them reading. I dig reading, and don't do nearly enough of it. And much of what I do is comic books, gun articles and other ephemera.

But then there's Joyce's Ulysses. I know very little about it, to be honest, except that it's experimental, it's daunting, it's one of the most important works of 20th century literature, and there's a yearly party around the world that aficionados throw pretty much everywhere. It's the Kilmanjaro of literature -- one of the highest peaks in the world, and unlike Everest, it stands alone.

And we're going to climb it, you and I.

In the next few weeks, I'd like to organize an intrepid group of explorers to work together and climb this mountain. It doesn't matter if you've never read it before -- or anything else by Joyce, for that matter. It doesn't matter if you have read it before. An experienced climber or two on this journey would be nothing bet an asset. All that matters is a willingness to read the book, and a willingness to write about it.

You don't have to be smart, and you don't have to be prepared. (I haven't even bought my copy yet.) You certainly don't have to be smarter than the book. I hear this thing is a whopper, and sooner or later, it'll try to clobber all of us. But working together, we can reach the summit. Sure, some of us will freeze to death. Someone always does. (We'll call him "Icy Joe.") But most of us will get there, and we'll be richer for the experience.

I don't have a complicated plan for this. I just want to read the thing, and talk about it with people who are also reading it. It's a book club. And since scheduling is the downfall of any vast get-together of adults (well, scheduling and heroin), I think it's best to do this online. So:

  • Anyone who wants to participate should let me know. I'll set it up so that they can post on Ulysses the Blog. (I'll need your email address... you can send it to grimmbeau at optonline dot net, and I'll send you an invitation to post.)
  • We'll start reading in a couple of weeks. I'm in the middle of a book, and chances are, you are too.
  • Participants should post on the blog whenever they want. Got something to say? Say it. It doesn't matter if it's a big thought or a small one. Trivial can be lively. And comment on each other's posts. Comments will be open to blog members and guests.
  • Read at your own rate. I'd like every post tagged with both the poster's name and the chapter (Wikipedia says they're called episodes) of the book the post concerns. That way, people might be able to avoid spoilers.

Hopefully, some of us will be able to get together and celebrate Bloomsday (the anniversary of the day the action of Ulysses takes place on). It's June 16th, a Monday this year, so it's not ideal, drinking-wise. But with enough advance notice, we might be able to hoist a few. Or whatever it is people do on Bloomsday -- but I'm planning on doing it at least partially in the bag.

Like I said, Curiosity and Drink. And reading, good company, and climbing mountains.

Who's with me?