Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Soliloquy to End James Joyce's Ulysses

(Disclaimer: A friend challenged me to review Ulysses in the style of Ulysses, and what better way than to mimic Molly's soliloquy, the last section of the novel? Forgive me, this may not actually work).

Yes because I really have been finished with the book for some time despite that I have not yet said anything about it probably because it is so overwhelming to try to summarize or sound half-way smartpantsed about without wanting to hold everyone back and say wait I think I need to read it over again at least the good bits but I'm not sure I can even remember what they are since they are embedded among so many other parts that really wouldn't make the good bits good if they weren't also there but how can I isolate them when they stuck out for silly reasons like the word fogfagcloud just making me start and say James Joyce! you are such a rebel and then thinking he probably wouldn't appreciate that the parts I appreciate aren't his grand sweeping attempts at intellectual comparison or historical sensibility but rather the characterizations of people who simply don't see enough to ever understand each other and persist in patterns well that's just life anyway and don't we all have our own at least the rest of us don't have authors following us around to report on our bodily functions and internal dialogue at least I would hope not but if that happened I think I'd prefer a life like Molly Bloom where the only time you see me I'm in a bed being waited on and possibly contemplating sordid activities that really I'm overdue for considering the circumstances and really who could blame me anyway since everybody has been proven to be so imperfect oh my water is almost gone and I will feel only slightly guilty sitting here at this restaurant in my writing group because I did pay for a salad that was vinegarcheesewater and it isn't as if there is a multitude waiting for my table anyway after all there are three of us all at our laptops looking very intently at our writing and although I had originally planned to outline a novel for once before going into national novel writing month for the sixth year I've never in my life planned ahead for something I'm writing so why should I start now after all I'm really a much better reader than writer even if I keep hearing interviews with authors where they claim that the reason they went into writing was because of their love for reading but I love books and that doesn't make me any good at it and I don't have any idea what should happen between an idea and its actual production and anyhow I'm not sure I'd ever want to really share anything I've written considering that I have no control over my characters and end up writing stalkerthrillers when I intended to write a love story or magicalfoodierealism when I wanted to write something postapocalyptic but that's okay since I can't go dark enough and without war and death postapocalyptic landscapes are just boring deserts anyway but I suppose that's better than a boring dessert isn't it funny how one letter can completely change a word now I wanted to talk about Ulysses which I now will only pronounce YOU-liss-ease since that is how the reader on the audio book says it and it is kind of like how half the faculty where I work say reSEARCH while I intentionally keep saying REsearch since I hate the idea that anyone would ever think I was pretentious but oh hey what other people think of me is none of my business right I love that sentiment but I have to keep saying it until I believe it but maybe I can at least say what I liked about YOUlissease because some of it has really stuck with me in the last week I loved the ending what a surprise since so much of the novel seemed to marginalize and whorify women no big surprise for a novel from that period but then hearing or reading or hearing the reading of what Molly had in her mind was good in the kind of way where you laugh in surprise at something that is great but unexpected and to hear her wander between talking about the size of male members and wanting to know why men want women to see them naked and what woman hasn't mused over the same silly part of life and isn't it an inside joke of sorts that all women share but to know it was written by a man who had seemed rather clueless up until then was a pleasant surprise and while I think he misunderstood how bodily cycles work because if it worked the way he was thinking she would have spent an entire week on the suddenchamberpot and it kept pulling me out of the narrative but that's okay because I think he really did such a surprising take and I wonder why I don't hear about it more except that I don't think many people actually make it to the end and maybe half the people who act as if they've read Ulysses really haven't kind of like that scholarly article I read that summarized a story and was so completely wrong to anyone who had read it and I wrote the editor of the journal what must have been their four hundredth e-mail about the matter and yet he sent me an appropriately shamefaced and apologetic reply but you never do expect scholars to do such blatant violations of academia and I hope that person was shamed out of the profession how could they ever teach their students anything if they are unwilling to do something as simple as read what they are writing about I'm not sure but I do know that James Joyce would never scrimp on scholarship since he felt the need to try to incorporate every bit of anything he has ever learned into the mighty tome of Ulysses and I'm certainly glad I read it although I do wonder how many times I'd have to go back through before I could ever feel like I remembered everything that was important and I'm so very glad I did it in audio form since listening to the streams of consciousness and soliloquy and random living fantasy worlds somehow settled into a more makingsensical form while I listened and that man that just walked by reeked of pot I hope he isn't driving that truck very far tonight you know I keep reading books that shame my lack of mythological knowledge but I just can't bring myself to sit down and read books on mythology despite being recommended volumes that look as if they are quite good because I've never been one to absorb information in encyclopedia form and so many authors have somehow internalized these characters and gods in such a way that they breathe with them create with them morph them into new and exciting beings while I'm still trying to figure out what is going on and Joyce is the only one who seems more enamored with the humans within the myth than the gods although really he is taking The Odyssey an epic poem and not really a myth I guess and I just had to turn my headphones down although I do love pop music from Scandinavia like Lykke Li I just keep listening to that one song over and over I guess the difference between some of my obsessive tendencies in music listening especially ooh and list making and Joyce's is that Joyce chooses to air his out by forming them into a narrative somehow and while I recognize the genius required in it is strikes me rather like some of the post-tonal music of the late 20th century where you can appreciate it on the page and admire the intricacies without wanting to hear it and is that just a delay in appreciation or is it really not worth listening to I feel you can argue either side and nobody really knows and nobody can win and whoops I just rocked out to the song forgetting people could see me and I suppose that is the danger of a soliloquy and Molly'd better be careful the end except of what comes next well now I have a billion books to read but I'm still drawn in by Dubliners and I wonder what my next mighty tome will be who knows if you've made it this far maybe you can offer a suggestion.


  1. Bravo! I've done similar writing exercises in which I write a pastiche of whoever's writing I have read or am reading, and it's always a lot of fun.

    Have you looked at Finnegan's Wake at all? It's all stream of consciousness, and the consciousness is half-awake, half-dreaming for much of it, I think, and it's nearly impenetrable, but that hasn't stopped Joyce scholars from trying of course. It's the only book that genuinely scares me. I don't think I could get through it in a hundred years, even with a bunch of literary analysis and criticism books to lead me through it.

    Will you be reading Dubliners soon? It's my favorite of Joyce's work by far. I found it to be a joy to read and very rewarding.

  2. Ed - I so wish I'd read Dubliners first! I have it on my Kindle, so I hope to get to it by the end of the year. I haven't tried Finnegan's Wake, but I might as well try to read everything.


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