Fiction James Joyce Ulysses

ISBN 13: 9780394703800

Ulysses

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9780394703800: Ulysses

An excerpt of the review by Current Opinion, Vol. 73, 1922:

THE QUEEREST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN

JOYCE'S "ULYSSES" SETS A NEW STANDARD IN FICTION

SOMETHING new is troubling the critics of two continents. It is a book over two inches thick, over half a million words long; it is called "Ulysses"; and it was written by an Irishman, James Joyce, now living in Paris. Readers in America who follow the output of good literature are familiar with Joyce's remarkable "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," and may have read his "Dubliners." Even casual readers will recall the fact that, three years ago, an issue of the Little Review, of New York, in which "Ulysses" was running serially, was suppressed by the police. But few, if any, of either informed or casual readers were prepared for the critical hubbub evoked by the publication of the new book.

One of the ablest French periodicals. La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise, opens a leading article on "Ulysses" as follows: "With this book Ireland makes a sensational re-entrance into high European literature." To which J. Middleton Murry, of the London Nation, makes the rejoinder: "Ulysses is many things: it is very big, it is hard to read, difficult to procure, unlike any other book that has been written, extraordinarily interesting to those who have patience (and they need it), the work of an intensely serious man. But European? That, we should have thought, is the last epithet to apply to it." Mr. Murry, however, goes on to declare that in part of the story "a genius of the very highest order, strictly comparable to Goethe's or Dostoevsky's, is evident"; while Arnold Bennett, writing in the London Outlook of another part, says: "I have never read anything to surpass it, and I doubt if I have ever read anything to equal it."

The distinguishing characteristics of the book are its psychologic insight and a kind of stenographic reporting. Mr. Joyce is said to have pushed the intimate detailed analysis of character to a point farther than that of any other writer. There are only three characters in the story, and its action (what little there is) takes place in Dublin within a period of twenty-four hours. The three characters are Stephen Dedalus (hero of "The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"), Leopold Bloom, a Hungarian Jew in the advertizing business, and Bloom's wife, Marion. "One might almost say," Mr. Murry remarks, "that all the thoughts and all the experiences of those beings, real or imaginary, from their waking to their sleeping on a spring day in Dublin in 1904, are somehow given by Mr. Joyce: and not only their conscious thoughts—and they are very differently conscious—but the very fringes of their sentience." More even than that, Mr. Joyce stages, in that part of the book which Mr. Murry specially admires, a kind of Walpurgisnacht of his chief characters. "Bloom and Dedalus are revealed in a kingdom where the practical reactions of life are no more. They become human quintessentialities, realized potencies of the subconscious, metaphysical egos."

There is always danger that short quotations may give a misleading and unfair impression of a work, or even of a chapter of a work; but here is an extract from "Ulysses" which Arnold Bennett has conscientiously chosen as representative:

"Making for the museum gate with long windy strides he lifted his eyes. Handsome building. Sir Thomas Deane designed. Not following me?

"Didn't see me perhaps. Light in his eyes.

"The flutter of his breath came forth in short sighs. Quick. Cold statues; quiet there. Safe in a minute.

"No, he didn't see me. After two. Just at the gate.

"My heart!"

"His eyes beating looked steadfastly at cream curves of stone. Sir Thomas Deane was the Greek architecture.

"Looking for something I." ...

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Review:

Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book--although he found it sufficiently unobscene to allow its importation into the United States--and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacal obsession." None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book. Even the verbal vaudeville of the final chapters can be navigated with relative ease, as long as you're willing to be buffeted, tickled, challenged, and (occasionally) vexed by Joyce's sheer command of the English language.

Among other things, a novel is simply a long story, and the first question about any story is: What happens?. In the case of Ulysses, the answer might be Everything. William Blake, one of literature's sublime myopics, saw the universe in a grain of sand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a day distinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom's case) masturbate. And thanks to the book's stream-of-consciousness technique--which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river--we're privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.

Both characters add their glorious intonations to the music of Joyce's prose. Dedalus's accent--that of a freelance aesthetician, who dabbles here and there in what we might call Early Yeats Lite--will be familiar to readers of Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man. But Bloom's wistful sensualism (and naive curiosity) is something else entirely. Seen through his eyes, a rundown corner of a Dublin graveyard is a figure for hope and hopelessness, mortality and dogged survival: "Mr Bloom walked unheeded along his grove by saddened angels, crosses, broken pillars, family vaults, stone hopes praying with upcast eyes, old Ireland's hearts and hands. More sensible to spend the money on some charity for the living. Pray for the repose of the soul of. Does anybody really?" --James Marcus

From the Back Cover:

The 1934 text, as corrected and reset in 1961. Ulysses is one of the most influential novels of the twentieth century. It was not easy to find a publisher in America willing to take it on, and when Jane Jeap and Margaret Anderson started printing extracts from the book their literary magazine The Little Review in 1918, they were arrested and charged with publishing obscenity. They were fined $100, and even The New York Times expressed satisfaction with their conviction. Ulysses was not published in book form until 1922, when another American woman, Sylvia Beach, published it in Paris for her Shakespeare & Company. Ulysses was not available legally in any English-speaking country until 1934, when Random House successfully defended Joyce against obscenity charges and published it in the Modern Library. This edition follows the complete and unabridged text as corrected and reset in 1961. Judge John Woolsey's decision lifting the ban against Ulysses is reprinted, along with a letter from Joyce to Bennett Cerf, the publisher of Random House, and the original foreword to the book by Morris L. Ernst, who defended Ulysses during the trial.

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