Saturday 16 June 2012

Hard Joyce, or Why I've never read Ulysses

So today (Saturday) has been designated 'Bloomsday' by the BBC, and we are to be treated to a whole day of Ulysses readings/performances/commentaries. James Joyce's Ulysses belongs to the: 'books I have never read, never intend to read, but pretend I have' list. Also on the list with Joyce are Proust, Dostoevsky (can't even spell him), Trollope, and A.S.Byatt. As far as the two former writers are concerned, I think my appreciation was soured at secondary school by having to translate Joyce into French, and Proust into English (why,why?) No doubt if the current secretary for education gets his way, students will be reading and translating them at primary level. Then sales will really drop off.

The ability to talk fluently about something of which one knows nothing is an integral part of being a writer. Actually, it is what sets writers apart from the rest of humanity (pace politicians). Joyce got it down to a fine art by scribing pages and pages of stream of consciousness stuff that actually nobody understands, but hey, Ulysses is a great big long book so it must be a classic, therefore let's all nod wisely and say how wonderful it is. Emperor's New Clothes comes to mind.

If you disagree, feel free to take me on. I'd love to know why JJ is considered such a great author and why the BBC is spending the whole of Saturday inflicting this book upon us. Where's the plot, where are the twists and turns? Where's the mystery, the pace and the suspense. Okay, there's an awful lot of language, but even so... given the exacting requirements of today's publishers, it would never get past a first reading today. Hell, it hasn't even got a vampire! Clearly, it's one rule for dead people, another for the rest of us.

On the own book front (plot, suspense, mystery AND a werewolf) I am still awaiting a reply from OUP re Jigsaw, but am ploughing ahead with a re-jig of the text for the 'adult' market, which is where I think it properly belongs. This may mean that Designer Dave will have to do two covers rather than one, and I am going to have to be very nice and polite at our next meeting, and not mention alcohol in any shape or form. Nor whinge about the amount of football on TV. Another gripe. I don't understand football, nor do I understand why everything interesting has to be bumped off the various channels to make way for it. Is there an equivalence between watching football and reading Ulysses? Discuss. Not too heatedly.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the time someone submitted the first chapters of several classics to a selection of agents. 1) All submissions were rejected and 2) only 1 agent recognised any of the chapters. They don't make classics like they used to.


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