Reading Ulysses: Now I Know How Odysseus Felt

Wait. What page am I on in Ulysses? Only 186 with over 500 to go?

You can never be too old for an Irish door-stopper, I realize, but what about the eyes? Here I have this Oxford paperback of the 1922 version, and my eyes are killing me.

What is the font, anyway? Four? I’ll be blind as Joyce himself by the time this is over!

And really. In the head of first one Bloomin’ protagonist and then another (the inventive young Dedalus)? Stream of consciousness can’t help itself. It’s bound to be penny-ante trivial now and again as it babbles through this thought and that. Almost like Twitter.


But, no. Repeat after me (and my English professors): This is clever stuff.

I know because I am co-reading The New Bloomsday Book, a guide to Bloom’s odyssey, if you will (or even if you won’t). It tells me what I should know before Joyce tells me what I don’t know.

Worst of all for bibliophiles who don’t dedicate 18 hours a day to reading (raises hand)? All the other books mocking me.

I see this 200-pager and that 250-pager, each flashing its wiles, each saying, “Hey there, Big Reader. You could be reading me, and you know it. Why don’t you just put down that there little big book and come over to my place?”

Like the Sirens, they are.

My kingdom for two gobs of bee’s wax! Plugs for the ears! Here, here! (vs. Hear, Hear!). Now, now!

But I can’t let myself get distracted. If I do I”ll never make it to the final page (or, as I call it, “Penelope”).

And I admit it.  I’ve peeked — Joyce signed off on that page, writing “Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914-1921.”

Seven years, he took to write this thing! And probably somewhere in the many inches of pages that remain to be read, I’ll learn that “7” appears 735 times in the Bible, 54 in the Book of Revelation alone (duck!).

I guess this means I soldier on. In honor of Jimmy’s seven years. In honor of God’s seven days. In honor of the seven months it might take out of my reading life!

(As the Jesuits would say: Pray for me.)