“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.” – Stephen Dedalus
Um everything? Have you seen the book? It’s 700 pages of epic stream of consciousness that is simultaneously impossible to put down and extremely difficult to continue. This book taught me a lot over the 6 months that it took me to read every word of it.
Finish What You Start
Over the past few months, since the Big Lifestyle Change of ’11, I have started and completed things. Clearly, the operative word is ‘completed’. It’s been a while since I felt like I had accomplished something that I had set out to accomplish. Typically I would make plans, set goals and begin something (*cough* a blog), but that’s about all the progress that I would make. I would be left with something I wanted to do but that I never get around to doing.
What I didn’t realize until I had actually achieved a short-term goal I had set was how much anxiety this was causing me. Although I wasn’t making any progress on my half-started projects I was still thinking about them. Thinking about how much I should do something about them and how awful I am for always procrastinating. I was wasting so much mental power on just thinking about how much I wish I would do something that I was more than capable of doing.
It wasn’t easy to act then but it is now. I started reading ‘Ulysses’ and I didn’t stop until I was finished. It wasn’t always easy but it was definitely easier than looking at the half-read book and wishing I could bring myself to reading it. I didn’t even question whether I should read it or not throughout finishing the book. I remembered the goal I set in the beginning and accomplishing it was set to autopilot. Reading the last page of the book was one of the most fantastic feelings. I read the hardest book in the English language!
Creativity Knows No Boundaries
‘Ulysses’ follows no rules. Each of the 18 episodes of the book are written in a different manner and they completely overturn conventions of grammar and prose. Punctuation is largely ignored and surprising, and sometimes baffling, ideas are related to one another through figures of speech. The style is called stream of consciousness and is supposed to mimic the flow of internal thought.
Reading ‘Ulysses’ is a challenge, but it’s a delightful challenge. You are always kept on your toes and you are constantly deciphering what is meant. Even before ‘Ulysses’ was published critics were appalled at the monstrosity that Joyce had created. It was 700 pages of a foreign matter that did not strike the critics as worth the time or effort. They were wrong.
Joyce revolutionized the novel genre and influenced many greats that would come after him. Almost a century later and people are still reading the book, thinking deeply about the book and telling others about it. ‘Ulysses’ is inspiring and a work of art and Joyce’s bravery and creativity is astonishing.
These are just the general ideas that I was struck by when reading ‘Ulysses’! It is said that you are never done reading ‘Ulysses’ and I know that the minute I finished the book I felt I should read it again (and I know I will!). Fiction has such a wonderful way of revealing aspects of human nature that I may have otherwise completely ignored. ‘Ulysses’ has made my list of life-changing books. What books are on your list?