An epic fail: Ulysses and me

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?

The featured image is Dublin by candyschwartz, and is shared by permission of Creative Commons license 2.0. No changes were made.


2 thoughts on “An epic fail: Ulysses and me

  1. I’ve read Ulysses. Using my epic stubbornness and several months many many years ago. Had to read out loud, which I do if anything’s hard to get to grips with. I still have a few pictures in my head from it. I read the unabridged version of Les Miserables, which made me get why it was abridged! (we got all his research abut nuns!!) I started Proust, the first book, and lost it … I’ve never lost a book before. Had a lovely silver Rennie Macintosh book mark in too. I vowed to finish it the moment it turned up. I’ve moved three times and it never did resurface. Was this a subconscious losing of a book, possibly involving a recycling bin? Still a mystery. Maybe one day I’ll buy it again …


  2. I actually really enjoyed reading it, but I took it in bits and sometimes didn’t even attempt to understand it, but appreciate the individual words, or patternings. When I looked at the prose/text that way it helped enormously. But, nevertheless, some books aren’t a fit for us, and like you say there are plenty more to read. No guilt. I also managed half-way through Finnegan’s Wake. All good wishes, Nicky

    Liked by 1 person

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