Tag Archives: James Joyce

Eugene Onegin Books 3 & 4 and a bit of Ulysses

So, still light and airy verse-wise, but not a lot going on.   Tatyana is introduced and Onegin likes her.   She falls for him WHOMP! and writes a letter having met him once.  He’s oddly sensible and tells her he’s a bad idea and would only make her unhappy.   This, of course, does nothing to dissuade her.  And there we are.  I have very little impression of either Tatyana or Olga, though a bit more of Tatyana, who seems to have spent her short life mooning about.  It seemed like not enough happened for two books, but there it is.   The nurse reminded me of Romeo and Juliet.

And Ulysses No-Longer-a-Read-a-long:  Having given myself permission to stop at the end of the Cyclops chapter, I did not.   I ordered several books of interpretation so I could maybe figure out what I’m missing.   Presume I’m missing a lot.   I bought Stuart Glbert, Anthony Burgess’ Re Joyce and Joseph Campbell’s Mythic Worlds, Modern Worlds in a fit of Joyce Will Not Defeat Me obstreperousness.   Now I’ve got ’em, I don’t know if I’ll read them.   If only I read faster or had more hours in the day.  All of these are going to take a lot of time.


At any rate, while waiting for these I started the Nausicaa chapter and was enjoying it, so perhaps it’s just that the Cyclops chapter wasn’t all that interesting.   I found the parodies dull for the most part, the anti-Semitism disturbing and sudden appearance of the anonymous narrator puzzling.   Maybe one of these will shed some light.

I really wonder a lot about the recommendation to read the simplest chapters first, moving on to the harder ones.  I think the book is tough enough without the added confusion of removing what little framework there is: that is, a single day in Dublin.   You certainly couldn’t read the Odyssey in some random order.  But then I don’t think Ulysses has as much in common with the Odyssey as it likes to pretend.  Then again, I’m probably missing it all.  I can see the guy at the end of the book throwing I forget what at Bloom resembling Polyphemus throwing rocks as Odysseus taunts him and I can see the pub as a sort of cave.   But really the parallels are pretty thin, I think.

The suggested order:

{ 10: Wandering Rocks, 13: Nausikaa, 2: Nestor, 8: Lestrygonians }
{ 4: Calypso, 5: Lotus-eaters, 6: Hades, 11: Sirens, 16: Eumeus }
{ 1: Telemachus, 7: Eolus, 12: Cyclops, 9: Scylla and Charybdis }
{ 15: Circe, 18: Penelope, 17: Ithaca }
{ 14: Oxen of the Sun, 3: Proteus }

If there were world enough and time, I might try reading it this way just for the hell of it.   It seems to me what little coherence the book has would be lost.   The opening two chapters are not all that difficult, but (again acknowledging that I’m probably completely missing a whole lot) you wouldn’t read the first chapter where they have breakfast and you get some idea who Buck is and who Stephen Dedalus is until you’d already read 9 other chapters.   Instead you would start with Father Conmee crossing town, Stephen Dedalus’ poor family, Blazes Boylan buying fruit…   Nah.  Starting with this would be madness.

Bout of Books Wrap-Up & Eugene Onegin Books 1 & 2

Sunday was not a real strong finish reading-wise.   I did finish two books during the Bout and that’s what I had hoped to do, though I hope this doesn’t indicate a year of copping out of longer, harder books and reading quick reads just to meet the goals.   That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?

This was also supposed to be the day I finished Ulysses!  Ha!  I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I had hoped to get further.   It all started so well, but really I’m rather bored by this Cyclops section.  They’re in a pub nattering and there are bits of mild amusement in the sections that are written like old Irish epic parodies, but not as much as I think Joyce thought there was.   At least not to me.    The whole thing seems to have stagnated.    

I actually started Bleak House on the 12th and unlike the first time (I must really not have been in the mood) got a good few chapters in and was entertained by Lady Dedlock, Esther and the Jellybys and even the Court of Chancery.  Also greatly relieved to find my copy is 788 pages and not as one in Amazon was listed 990!   I realize the books are the same length really, all the words the same and the one probably has larger type and smaller pages and maybe forewords and afterwords, but still that’s 200 pages.   Which just shows what a silly unit of measure a page really is.   But I’m liking it and hope to continue liking it.


Eugene Onegin is also going along tickety-boo.   It’s the rhythm combined with the lightness and humor of Pushkin’s writing which I really had not expected.   I’ve read some Russian lit and it’s great, but it’s not light and amusing.   At least, not the ones I’ve read.   Onegin is already world weary by the end of book one.   Books bore him, women bore him, everything is weary, stale flat and unprofitable.   In book two, we meet Lensky who:

At first their differences of heart

Made meetings dull at one another’s

But then their friendship grew, and soon

They’d meet on horse each afternoon,

And in the end were close as brothers.

Thus people — so it seems to me —

Become good friends from sheer ennui.

I have the Falen translation and, as you can see, he kept the unusual rhyme scheme which I believe I read somewhere Nabokov said couldn’t be done!   Thank goodness he was wrong about that, because I think rhyming gives a whole different feeling than non-rhyming although perhaps as long as you keep the humor it doesn’t matter that much.  I suppose to be sure I would need to read a non-rhyming translation, but let me get through the whole book first.   I have too recently started off well in a book only to bog down in the middle, so I hope it keeps up like this.

Happy New Year!

I was going to do one of those grand summing up type posts yesterday, but then I was longer at work than I expected and I didn’t finish a book, let alone all of them.   I’m blaming James Joyce for this.   Now it’s a bright shiny new year full of challenges, with a couple hanging on from last year.    Ulysses being the main one.   I’m about a third of the way.   So far almost keeping up with Roof Beam Reader though I seem to be slowing down.

One thing that surprised me in Ulysses is how much Shakespeare there is, particularly Hamlet.   In fact, one of the dullest passages to me was Stephen Dedalus and co. discussing Hamlet and Will.   This is very strange – that it was dull, I mean – because I’m quite into ol’ Will and particularly Hamlet and yet all I wanted was for him to get back to Bloom.    Bloom who does nothing but extremely pedestrian things like eat liver and buy soap.   Why is he so compelling?   Is it his relationship with his wife?   Is it his quest to put this ad in the paper?   Is it that you get inside his head?    I’m up to the sirens section and quite enjoying the bits in the bar despite not enough Leopold.  It’s strange to have this ebb and flow of understanding.   Some sections are quite clear.   Easy to follow though I know I’m missing tons of stuff.    And I’m reading the annotated version half the time so it will say things like Bloom doesn’t want to be seen by Blazes Boylan and I’m damned if I can figure out how they know it’s Boylan he doesn’t want to be seen by.

But then he manages to draw an amazing picture with very little in the way of description.   I’ve got a whole picture of the bar in the Ormond Hotel and Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy and Pat the waiter, waiting, in my head and probably it’s nothing like the picture anyone else has of it, but there it is all filled in without paragraphs of description.   And where did I leave off?  I read a lot of it twice that way.   Can’t hurt.   But it’s good to know a bit of Hamlet along with knowing a bit of the Odyssey and the fact I saw Parnell on Masterpiece Theater yonks ago is also beneficial.    The singing.   I read this.  Blazes should have walked to Molly’s, it’s taking forever to drive.   Why does Bloom know about this?   The letter – past that.  No, not really past it.   Right there where I left off.

Anyhoo, time to read many books.   52 at least.   Supposedly.   We shall see. Not off to a good start.   14 hours in and I haven’t read word one. 

Ulysses Day 1 – Already a day late and a Stately plump Buck Mulligan short

So, the Ulysses readalong started yesterday.   I’d already be a day behind if I hadn’t started early.  I’m roughly where I should have been 24 hours ago, but I ain’t giving up yet.  I started off reading the annotated version here provided by a commenter on Roof Beam Reader’s site:


But just found all the notes too distracting.   Like trying to read when someone’s interrupting every sentence.   So I decided just to read the thing, wade into that river of words and let it flow around me like the Liffey and see what comes of it.

—He can’t wear them, Buck Mulligan told his face in the mirror. Etiquette is etiquette.  He kills his mother but he can’t wear grey trousers.

Which I started to do, then got distracted by My Name is Red, then by Howard’s End is On the Landing, then by Utz, but now.   Now.   I am pulling my attention away from each of these temptations and going to wallow in Joyce if I can.   Though as you can see I’m easily distracted, but we will give it the old college try.   Me and the cat.   And here’s a little song to be going on with…

Lal the ral the ra
The rocky road to Dublin