Newspaper article International New York Times

How Would 'Ulysses' Be Received Today? How Would 'Ulysses' Be Received Today?

Newspaper article International New York Times

How Would 'Ulysses' Be Received Today? How Would 'Ulysses' Be Received Today?

Article excerpt

I did not come across a single contemporary reviewer describing the book as obscene.

I did not come across a single contemporary reviewer describing the book as obscene.

"I have read many books, this is by far the least interesting of them all," one reviewer notes. "Dry, boring and self- satisfied style. He might be a good writer but he should have used 'Ulysses' as a starting point, as a construct in which he could fill a story," notes another. Or simply, "grade: Hard to give a low enough grade to the single most destructive piece of Literature ever written, try (F x Googolplex)."

But of course, we also find: "This is a fascinating book for those who have the patience and time to explore its intricate chapters and themes." And, more traditionally informative, "Our hero is Leo Bloom, a Jew in Ireland married to an Irish sexpot named Mollie." Another notes, "The author kept getting bogged down in details instead of moving the storyline along, because we don't need to know everything about the characters, just enough to keep reading until the climax of the story; if you compare it with something like the Hunt for Red October you'll see what I mean."

These are all contemporary reviews from Amazon. I can report that in my research I did not come across a single contemporary reviewer describing the book as obscene. Perhaps this accounts for why there aren't really that many raves out there. Then again, since the book structurally occupies the fundamentally rave-review position of canonical, maybe few feel moved to state what is already essentially stated.

I confess I kind of like all of the reviews, from one to five stars, from short to long, from solecism-filled to doctoral-thesis- resembling. Together they form a gallery of selfies taken with an as yet undeveloped "Ulysses" filter. Which is strangely moving.

My real soft spot, though, is for the three-star reviews: the gently ambivalent people who feel no need to be extreme, who don't demand attention, but who still conscientiously write up their thoughts and incidental self-portraits: "I live in the boonies of SE Oklahoma where there's not a soul who has heard of Joyce much less care whether anyone has read him or not. …

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