Full disclosure - I've been reading a bit of information outside of Ulysses just to understand what is going on, and I downloaded the free Kindle version so that I could go back and re-read bits that stuck out and quote them correctly.
I mentioned before that the only Joyce I had made it all the way through previously was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and the very first part of Ulysses actually features the same character, and was published four years after Portrait, although I'm not sure how much time has passed to Stephan Dedalus. The first three chapters of Ulysses are referred to as the Telemachiad, and chronicle Dedalus with his friend Buck Mulligan, and then follow Dedalus as he teaches, meets with an advisor, and then one long chapter where he's just ... thinking. Stream of consciousness, in multiple languages. I'm not going to lie and say that was easy to follow!
Part of the problem for me as far as reading comprehension is that Joyce wrote this as a parallel to the original Odyssey. Have I ever read that? I remember doing group projects having to do with the Odyssey in seventh grade, including a really fun radio play version that my group wrote and performed, but that was the last time I read anything close to the Odyssey. That would have been twenty years ago. I'm worried that I'll miss the connections, that I won't "appreciate" it as it was meant to be understood, but I'm just letting that go and trying to enjoy what I can.
There are a few bits of the Telemachiad that stuck out to me, which I will reproduce here:
Some of the language is descriptive, in a way that only young men could make it.
"A great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea." (Mulligan talking about the ocean to Dedalus).
"History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
(To Mr. Deasy)
"To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher."
(Mr. Deasy to Stephen)
"Reading two pages apiece of seven books every night, eh? I was young. You bowed to yourself in the mirror, stepping forward to applause earnestly, striking face. Hurray for the Goddamned idiot! Hray! No-one saw: tell no-one. Books you were going to write with letters for titles. Have you read his F? O yes, but I prefer Q. Yes, but W is wonderful. O yes, W..."
This last one is a good example of the Dedalus stream of consciousness that goes on for a while, but also made me laugh and think of C by Tom McCarthy, and I wonder if he chose it because of this passage (especially considering that most of his novel is a shoutout to other novels).
After the last chapter of the Telemachiad, the novel practically restarts and begins the morning with Leopold Bloom. I have more questions than answers at this point. Is there a connection between Bloom and Dedalus? Why bother with Dedalus at all?
I suppose I may find this out eventually. For now, I will content myself to hear about Bloom's breakfast preparations and toilet ruminations, which is how I last left off.