In many ways, I share Joe’s antipathy toward James Joyce’s Ulysses. But I must confess to having something of a love-hate relationship with Joyce’s novel, which relates in tedious detail a day in the life of the city of Dublin and its environs.
On the one hand, like Joe, I find this incoherent book (which Joyce topped in utter unreadability with Finnegan’s Wake), as well as the literary snobs who acclaim it, to be insufferably self-indulgent. And its incoherence also makes the novel completely inaccessible to the vast majority of even moderate-to-well-educated readers. A decade ago, when Ulysses was listed as the best English language novel of the 20th century, I remember getting into an argument with a couple of well-read friends in which I noted (tongue in cheek) that it couldn’t possibly be the greatest English language novel of the 20th century when probably only 100 people could genuinely claim to have read it all the way through.
And yet, for some reason—probably related to my love for the city of Dublin, I do have some affection for Ulysses and even list it among my favorite books. I can’t really explain it and won’t try. Suffice it to say that the book did make more sense and began to hold some sentimental value to me after I visited Dublin a couple of times with my cousin who spent a year studying Anglo-Irish Literature at Trinity College and who dragged me along to retrace the steps of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom.
So, my love/hate relationship with Ulysses can probably best be summed up as follows: While the novel does have some sentimental value as a memento of my adventures in Dublin, that doesn’t make it any less of a tedious bore.