Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I know when I'm beat. I can admit that. I'm an adult, Iafter all. And it's not an easy thing to admit. I pride myself on being well read, possesed by a bodacious capacity to understand and interpolate the intricacies of complex literature. But, I've been bested on this one. You might as well know it now and better to hear it from me then someone else:

Ulysses has kicked my ass.

I've attempted to read this book no less then six times in the last eight years and for the life of me, I simply cannot get past chapter three. I've come to the unfortunate conclusion that the damn thing is simply unreadable. And it's not that I just don't get James Joyce. I enjoyed Dubliners. Thought the author had real potential.

And the thing is I really want to like this book and not just because it's the silver sword that seperates the true literati from the mere amatures. I don't care about it's reputation as the literary equivalent of the Holy Grail. No. Mostly I want to appreciate it because Robert Anton Wilson does. I've been reading Wilson for ten years and though I have yet to meet the man in person I feel that he has been a great teacher to me. And he loves Ulysses. His favorite book. But I can't help but suspect that the Ulysses he reads and enjoys is not the Ulysses I have wrestled with for so long (I mean, yes I know it isn't the same; that we all make a text different by what we bring to it, etc. but damn it, I'm beginning to think he aquired a copy of Ulysses from the Universe Next Door, where it was written by a James Joyce who wasn't a pretentious twat given to lengthy bouts of mental masturbation).

Frankly, the book is just nonsense. And not the fun sort of Richard Brautigan nonsense. I've read In Watermelon Sugar a half a dozen times and I enjoy it every single time, all the way through. I don't for a minute pretend to understand half of it. But I'm blown away by the Silent Black Sun on Fridays, the Green Ruins, the tigers teaching the nameless narator arithmatic while they eat his parents. This is cohernet nonsense. Not like Ulysses at all. That's just gibberish peppered with Latin obscurities and Gaelic inside jokes.

If I were on a desert island with a copy of In Watermelon Sugar, Alice in Wonderland or even Gormenghast, I could enjoy it because I wouldn't need anything else to enable me to enjoy it. Ulysses is not a Desert Island book; it requires a library full of dictionaries and anotated texts to make it even lucid, let alone enjoyable. I imagine that would take large quantaties of dubious drugs. And then it simply isn't worth it.


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