I have a confession. A reading-related one.
Ulysses and me is just not happening. I am not storming through all its galaxies (you may need to be a certain age to get that reference). In fact, I am on page 45 and have been for some time. According to my calculations, that’s 6% of the way through. I’ve got further before in my attempts to scale this book-mountain, even making it into the low 70s (that’s pages, not percentage). Now, though, I’m at the point where I look at the book sitting on my bedside table and quail.
I pride myself on being someone who doesn’t give up on books. I managed The Pickwick Papers on the second try. I’ve read The Dynasts. I’ve read Sybil twice. And yes, I have read War and Peace. I have an MA in Victorian Literature, which means I’ve got through some tomes in my time.
Ulysses, however, is something else. I really enjoyed Portrait of the Artist and Dubliners, but with Ulysses I feel as if I’ve been dumped on another planet and I’m desperately seeking something I can relate to. I’m so busy puzzling over what’s going on that reading the book feels more like trying to crack a code. It’s exhausting, and for me, largely unrewarding.
Just after I’d made the decision to give up on Ulysses (yet again), this article appeared in the Guardian; I note with some annoyance that its author got a page further than I did. I’m glad it’s not just me, but I’m disappointed with myself for many of the same reasons she cites. Ulysses is the sort of book I feel I ought to be able to read and enjoy, and I just can’t get to grips with it. I don’t care about it. I’ve tried the ‘maybe I’ll get it when I’m older’ argument, but I’m wondering just how old I’ll have to be before I acquire the patience to stick with it.
On the bright side, though, I felt better as soon as I made the decision to put Ulysses back on the shelf and make room for something else from my reading pile. Let’s face it, there are thousands, millions of other books I can read, and I’ll think about those rather than the one that got away. I might even remember to review them on Goodreads (come and say hi if you’re on there too).
What’s your book nemesis? Or have you escaped…so far?