skipping, moonwalking, and listening (ulysses, part four )

I’ve been continuing to watch videos about James Joyce and Ulysses.

Some have been interesting, some have been misguided, some I haven’t bothered to finish, and some short ones I haven’t even started — a fifteen-minute video on why I should read Ulysses isn’t going to tell me anything.

I did find one video which proposed three interesting techniques for people who started Ulysses but got bogged down along the way.

One was to skip the parts you have trouble with. As I’ve said before, I’ve followed this myself. After all, this is not a plot-based novel — nothing in chapter seven is going to explain who committed the murder in chapter three.

On that topic, one thing in this article from The New Yorker caught my eye:

A friend of mine told me that once, when he was talking to a group of Russian-literature professors, he confided to them that he and his American colleagues often had difficulty with the many highly detailed accounts of battles in “War and Peace.” Oh, the Russians answered, we skip those parts! So boring! You should skip them, too, they said.

I used to do that the novels of Roger Zelazny, too. Pages of semi-poetic random images and stuff. Skip!

To quote Alice in Wonderland:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’

Another technique suggested in the video was to read Ulysses backwards, so you don’t miss out on “Penelope” — Molly Bloom’s amazing, 42-page soliloquy which ends the book. (As readers of Douglas Adams can tell you, the number 42 has a special significance — and now I’m wondering if that’s why Adams chose that number…)

(Update: I’ve now seen a second video which makes the same suggestion.)

The third idea was to read the book out loud, or listen to a recording of it.

I’m doing the skipping thing, and the listening thing, although I haven’t yet done the backwards thing — but I might, or at least I might listen to “Penelope.”

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