James Joyce’s Odyssey

Thoughts  by Frank Delaney, Paladin Grafton Books 1987, 191 pages

Challenge: I traveled to Dublin for Spring Break! I brought this along…
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Analysis/Travel
Type/Source: Tradeback/Sent from a friend

MOTIVATION for READING: Let’s back up to when I first had this book in my hands. It was January 2011 when I signed up for the “Jousting with Joyce” readalong. I never finished Ulysses and I have no record of what page/episode I stopped on.

So anyway, dear friend Jeanne sent me THIS book out of the blue back in 2011 and I have been treasuring it ever since, thinking “Some day, I will conquer Ulysses“. Rather, I was able to make a trip to Dublin happen instead.

Now I am even more eager to read it (Ulysses), to be honest.

Portrait of the Author as an Old Man; from Bailey’s Pub, remodeled.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Delaney chats with obvious affection for Joyce and his tale of Ulysses. He organizes his ‘Odyssey’ by the same structure as Joyce does in Ulysses and walks the reader through the story and what it might mean, then and now. This not a step by step walking tour of Dublin. It’s subtle – and it is also 30 years old so many things have changed from 1904 (year the book is set) and 1922 (year Ulysses was published) and 1987.

FYI, Ulysses follows two characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – not always together, on walkabout through Dublin, basically. Joyce has stated that his book is a blueprint with which to rebuild Dublin if need be. Ready?

A sample of Delany’s words with Joyce’s:
Sandymount Strand, ineluctable as sin, sweeps wide and grey and beige, stippled with gulls and aeroplanes and lighthouses and ships and lone Dedalus-walkers. “Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty book.” Most of the thoughts in Stephen’s mind as he walked along Sandymount Strand were triggered by that ineluctable modality of the visible.

So for the ‘now’ of 2017,  many signs and plaques identify Joyce’s locations and landmarks — these are not mentioned in Delaney’s book. Perhaps a map of these IS published by the James Joyce museum which I did not visit. I really let my wanderings and Joyce connections happen rather than seek them out. It was a vacation with the Husband who though sympathetic and/or amused, he did not share my enthusiasm. “He indulged me occasionally” would be the best way to put it. So, it was happenstance and sudden delights, when I found a Joyce marker.

Book pages with little (useless!) map and photos with backdrop of similar photo from a blog post…

WHAT’s GOOD: Photos from turn of the century (late 1800s – early 1900s and some 1987.) Opportunity to consider how Dublin has changed in 30 years and 100+. But the best of the book is the author’s delight in talking about and sharing anecdotes and explanations of what Joyce was attempting with Ulysses.

Another paragraph of Delaney praise for what Joyce attempted in Ulysses:
“The Oxen of the Sun episode is the most difficult to read in Ulysses. All Joyce’s linguistic interests are on exhibition and he gives a foretaste of what was to come in Finnegans Wake. That it exhausted him is certain: in several communications with friends, he referred to “the Oxen of the bloody, bleeding Sun” and he admitted freely that the control of all the ideas, the mathematical nine-part divisions, the embryonic development and the endless parodies were almost as much as he could master. He managed brilliantly.

What’s NOT so good:  Of course, I wanted better maps… LOL.

I failed this book as I do most travel books. Tedious to look at when I can’t relate, and too late for visits once I can. I admit, one of our favorite pub visits was to Bruxelles because it was around during Joyce times and is in a photo of Delaney’s book. I didn’t get any pics of our Guinness nor Irish Whiskey while there, unfortunately.

As typical, I now flip through Delaney’s guide and only want to go back to Dublin and see it all again, find the past anew.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am more willing to attack Ulysses some day. I do feel that it will require patience and a light touch – not taking it too seriously.

“Joyce said once, not without sadness, to Nora: “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse, they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one serious single line in it.”

I am keeping this book as a guide when I do tackle Ulysses because of the same structure and the explanations, motivations, and landmarks in words.

RATING:  3 slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

Other Resources:  Schmoop / Frank Delaney’s Podcasts

 

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2017. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.
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12 thoughts on “James Joyce’s Odyssey

  1. Your poor, long-suffering husband! haha It sounds like you had a great time! I agree with you about the travel books. I thought I’d read more about Rome after we got back and get a few blog posts out of our trip, but I don’t have a good memory so I forget what my photos are of, etc.! I have never even attempted Ulyssees, much less Finnegan’s Wake, but that’s interesting that James Joyce seemed to think the work should be read lightly!

    1. Oh Joyce was a clever crafty guy, he was. Complicated, more like it.

      I was all ready to print a photo book of everything and then… I forgot? a few days slipped by and the coupon of 70% expired and I have to wait for it to be offered again. I probably should put it back on my to do list.

  2. Oh, this sounds good! If I ever read Ulysses again I will have to check it out. When I made it through the book I had an equally as large companion books called Ulysses Annotated by Don Gifford in which he translates and explains every. single. thing. He also provides nice section summaries at the beginning of each one.

    1. I love the idea of reading annotations but I admit, I haven’t even tried it because the idea of it sounds frustrating and distracting – the opposite of its intended effect.

      1. It is slow going, that’s for sure, but I’d read the chapter summary, read the annotations for a page or two and then read the corresponding pages in Joyce. Took me about 6 months to read it.

  3. Ulysses wasn’t that bad!! I knew it was going to be long and drawn out but I pushed through it and as I said before, the last third of the book was, dare I say it, much easier to read and absorb.

    1. I will admit that I’m not nearly as intimidated by Ulysses as I used to be but I still want to give it 100% when I do. And that is what I fear – that if I’m not engaged the whole way through, life will intervene, a book club book will interrupt it and … blam: I will feel like I have to start again at the beginning. Maybe not?

      1. It is hard to focus on the reading when other stuff is going on. I read it during my lunch breaks and there was a lot of distraction going on.

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