There it is: Ulysses. By James Joyce. You’ve thought about reading it; you’d love to have read it. But it’s so difficult, or so you’ve heard. Still: it’s the best novel in English, at least according to the (contested, to be sure) judgment of the worthy editors of the Modern Library.
Ulysses, Ulysses. Banned for obscenity, praised as a kind of literary Louis C.K. You think about it every June 16, when you read somewhere or other that it’s Bloomsday, and people in Dublin and beyond are doing readings and recreations and costumed pub crawls. They seem to love the book. But you never take it off the shelf. There are so many incredible books to read. (Plus the Internet exists.) And it seems so daunting and lonely to try to tackle on your own.
So here’s the plan: We’re going to read Ulysses together. Two chapters a month, for nine months. Starting in April, ending in December. We’re going to jam through, at a nice deliberate pace, with moral and practical support from each other. To make the book manageably comprehensible, we’re going to use Harry Blamires’s “New Bloomsday Book,” a lightweight chapter-by-chapter guide, to understand the narrative and basic themes. (But we’re not going to go nuts with a line-by-line annotation that gums many poor undergrads down to a snail’s pace.)
And if you live in NYC, let me know! Each month, we’ll meet up over dinner to talk about the chapters we just read. Leave me a private note here on Medium. Or email or DM or tweet or whatever you like. Even Snapchat.
Ulysses 2016: If Marilyn could do it, we can do it.
Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home. — Ulysses, Episode 13 (“Nausicaa”)