Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Bloomsday centenary

Today, June 16, is the centenary of Bloomsday, the beloved 24 hours of Leopold Bloom's wanderings chronicled in James Joyce's Ulysses. The Economist asks the question, Is the fuss over James Joyce's Ulysses greater than the book?

I can only imagine the nostalgic joy of the book's fans around the world for I have not yet had the pleasure of reading it. Ulysses is, simply put, the towering book of fiction in the twentiteth-century Western canon. I have been meaning to read it for a very long time now, but it seems whenever I am about to open the first page I lose the courage. And so Ulysses has remained in my reading backlog for many years now and I don't quite know when I would end up reading it. Perhaps this centenary is a good time to read it. I would once again give it a try next month and will report my opinion of the book as soon as I finish reading.

I read Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for my undergraduate Humanities class. (My crappy paper for that class was on Joyce's theory of aesthetics, which was basically a reformulation of Aquinas's.)I didn't expect I would like the book, thinking it was too dense for my taste, but some of the passages just blew me over. In Joyce's prose, there is no extraneous word that can be excised, every word seems able to justify its presence.

How can one possibly describe Joyce? Joyce at his best reads like Dante writing English prose. He is that good, at least as I read him in the Portrait and Dubliners.

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