Sunday, May 31, 2009

At last: a true champion for Ulysses
This inspired celebration of Joyce's great novel succeeds in reclaiming the widely unread classic for the general reader, writes Sean O'Hagan
The Observer, Sunday 31 May 2009

In August 1924, the long-suffering Stanislaus Joyce sent a letter of complaint to his brother, James, in which he mentioned his difficulties with Ulysses. "The greater part of it I like," he wrote, before adding with characteristic bluntness: "I have no humour with episodes which are deliberately farcical... and as episodes grow longer and longer and you try to tell every damn thing you know about anybody that appears or anything that crops up, my patience oozes out."
Ulysses and Us : The Art of Everyday Living
by Declan Kiberd

In his exasperation, Stanislaus anticipated the fate that awaited Ulysses, a novel that, almost 90 years after its publication, seems to have utterly exhausted the patience of the ordinary reader to the point where it is now perhaps the most unread literary masterpiece of all time.
Declan Kiberd begins Ulysses and Us, his inspired reclamation of Joyce's great epic of the everyday, by acknowledging the great irony that "a book which set out to celebrate the common man and woman" has "endured the sad fate of never being read by many of them".
Kiberd's previous books include the brilliant Inventing Ireland: the Literature of the Modern Nation and Ulysses: Annotated Students' Edition.
The preoccupations of both books come together in Ulysses and Us. The first - and more interesting - part of the book is a polemic, which tackles what Kiberd sees as the enduring misrepresentation of Joyce's dauntingly ambitious novel: "How can a book like Ulysses have been so misread and misunderstood?" he asks early on. "How was it taken as a product of a specialist bohemia against which it was in fact in open revolt? Why has it been called unreadable by the ordinary people for which it was intended?" In the second part of Ulysses and Us, Kiberd goes on to give a chapter by chapter breakdown of the novel, best read alongside the original text, to help, it would seem, those "ordinary people" reclaim the book.
Read the rest of this piece online.

1 comment:

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