And how aptly named both sections have been, Scylla and Charybdis and Wandering Rocks, tell me about it. Having traversed that ice field and dragged myself up onto the Camp Four ledge I'm just hoping there are one or two of you still hanging on in there too...or was it just me who found these two sections quite tough reading?
I have had to permanently strap on my oxygen cylinder cleverly disguised as this.
Bless Marilyn for making it look so easy.
It's also been about motivating myself to pick up the book in amongst some stellar reading going on alongside. Each time that seems to involve putting down Stefan Zweig to pick up James Joyce.
Might this have been the point, if reading alone, that I would have thrown in the towel?
But interestingly, when I take a deep breath, sit down and think about my impressions of the book so far, it's all so pleasurable and interesting, there is so much that is firmly etched in my mind in a completely visual way.
The scenes feel vibrantly alive so how has that happened?
I'm picturing so much of it so readily, the Martello Tower, Poldy cooking his breakfast, the funeral, the newspaper offices and this time around Stephen's rather grand Shakesperean debate, that moment when Bloom brushes past him as they leave the library and then the individual little scenarios that followed.
How odd that they seem to have entered my consciousness too, yet as I read I felt sure I was taking nothing in at all. I sometimes get to the end of a page and wonder what on earth was all that about.
It was therefore interesting to fall back on Declan Kiberd's interpretation and read that he also saw these episodes as filmic, like early movie shorts. Much else of comfort from Declan too, suggesting that at this point readers may feel as if they are lost in a labyrinth and apparently that is exactly how James Joyce wanted us to feel, to sense that randomness of life which cannot be pinned down in a 'neat narrative.'
The episode when Bloom is so busy studying the stars that he misses someone having a good time with his good lady Molly is seen by Declan Kibberd as a means of expressing the dangers of systematising and how often and how easy it is to miss those homely things happening right under your nose. He then suggests it could also be seen as a warning to those who try to over-systematize Ulysses which of course was an idea I cheered at, because there's little chance of that happening here in Devon.
So I'm still here and I feel encouraged that I still am because slowly the book seems to be getting a hold on me, establishing itself in my memory. I quite thought I'd be reading to the end and then not have a clue or any recollection of what I'd read, but far from it, somehow Joyce's writing is embedding the detail quite securely in my mind. When I think back I can picture a scene surprisingly clearly which perhaps confirms my ongoing policy of not trying to understand too much but just letting the words work.
The one thing I am now doing is reading the scene-setting footnotes before I launch off because that is really helping me to get my bearings.
I'd also love to pick up and run with The Odyssey analogies eventually because those are starting to interest me more and of course are exposing great gaps in my knowledge of the Classics, but not yet. There was however going to be one sidetrack I wouldn't be able to resist and that was to read something of James Joyce's life.
To the rescue, a bite-sized introduction from the Very Interesting People series from Oxford University Press. Each book is based on the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the link is on my toolbar and, thanks to my library ticket number log-in, I'm in there all the time. It is all offering some real insights into episodes from the life of James Joyce that also feature in Ulysses and something I haven't really been ready to take in until now.
So how's it going Team Ulysses, are you still there and I do hope Joan's still around with the thermos of comfort because I feel as if I need a great big swig from it this time around.