Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 7 - A Book That's Hard to Read

Yes, I have read it, all the way through.

For those who know it only by the name, it's 265,000 words about one day in the life of Leopold Bloom, the day he meets his future wife, Nora, and the people he comes in contact with. At the time, Bloom is married to Molly. It's considered a ground-breaking book of modernist literature. Modernist literature revolves around themes of individualism, the randomness of life, mistrust of any institution and a disbelief in absolute truths.

The book is divided into eighteen "episodes". In these sections, you'll find a lot of introspection, often referred to as "stream-of-consciousness", exacting details of what's going on by the second, and a narrative filled with puns, parodies and allusions, some of which are lost on a contemporary reader.

Because the book details what several people are doing during the course of a day, this is a description of sex and defecation. There are descriptions of Bloom trying to oogle women and how that arouses him. Molly has a tryst with her lover and her thoughts and feelings are spilled across the pages. It was these passages that earned the book a banning in the US for obscenity.

I slogged through it. It is one of those books that I, as an English major, felt I had to read. War and Peace is another but I haven't picked that up. One of my classmates in college was at Marquette University getting her masters in preparation for law school and was taking a class where the only book was this. She said it was one of the most incredible classes she had ever taken. I thought about that as I read each episode, forcing myself to go on because, well, this is a classic, right?

What do I remember about it? Not much. It was a big book. The copy I had contained, in the appendices, the full text of the judgement in 1934, that allowed the book to come into the US. It's hard, from our highly sexualize position now, to see what the fuss was about. Far worse than this has been put into print. I remember it being somewhat hard to follow whose mind we were in at the time. But, I read it.

I can't give it a recommendation, like I can other books. I also can't, however, say I hated it. I'm really "meh" on this. It was hard to get through but I did. I get a gold star.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


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