James Joyce’s Ulysses and modern literature

Leopold Bloom seems to think very kindly of women, but none of the females he encounters in the book would have read Ulysses. So the novel’s readers, which I assume are mostly female, are left to identify with Stephen Dedalus or Bloom himself.

The two female characters that stand out for me are Molly Bloom, Leopold’s wife and Gerty McDowell. Neither of these women are very admirable. Gerty is very vain and hypocritical. Molly seems a thick animalian passion-centric person. Bloom loves her, loves her dearly as she is. But his mind and personal pleasures are more expansive than hers. And although he is far from perfect, he seems very kind.

Stephen is a cloud of artistic ambition. We begin the novel with his perspective, but transfer and stay with Bloom for the majority.

What on earth does the author intend, introducing us to these two people? I had to turn a lot of pages to seek out the answer. The story, such as it is, hangs on the desperate desire for connection between people. A connection between a soul mate. Bloom’s wife would be one manifestation of this desire, and he also spends a lot of time mourning his ten-years deceased infant son.

Good lord! Look at these horrible sentences I am writing! Whatever book I am reading can definitely infect the writing i try to do.

Bloom wants to connect with Molly, but is super conflicted because he has guilt over his baby son that died so long ago when he was so little. Molly wants to reconnect with Bloom, but doesn’t know how exactly.
Stephen wants to reconnect with an Irish soul, and with a literary tradition. He’s so young though, he is totally inept. He reminds me of a worm, who doesn’t have eyes, just light-sensitive spots on his head. he’s nosing towards an indefinable feeling of something.

It’s just a story of a day. When Joyce wrote it, it was a day in the recent past–about ten years past. A lot had happened in those ten years. The great war, World War 1, had happened, and that was a game changer.

Maybe a modern equivalent might be like writing about New York city prior to 9/11. So much changed after, that maybe it seemed weird to try to go remember a lived day in that town before the local apocalypse struck.

That’s from the perspective of the contemporary reader though. I have no impression of life before World War one.

I have, however, an impression of literature before it went modern. I like to read old books. I like to read really old books. This one, this one James Joyce wrote, is no old book.

He was doing this modernist literary experiment thing. He wanted to write in a totally new way because the world was totally new and different now. He did write a book in a way that had never been written before. That’s partly why it’s such a monster to read. It’s not fun, it’s not the immersive experience i love so much in reading. It’s disorienting, and i frequently had to remind myself why I was doing it.

Why *was* I doing it? Basically because lots of people said it was really good and that I would be glad I’d read it.

So here is my first impressions on why I am glad I read it:

Joyce was trying to write something new because the world was so very new. He wrote about the town of Dublin, it’s everday modern life.

And it felt really modern. Really really modern. He talks about telegraphs and public transportation, not new to us now. But he write about how the characters are influenced by whatever they encounter as they walk around, and Bloom and Dedalus mentally careen around different ideas of every possible type.

it made me think of smart phones, and websurfing. We do that all the time right now, skipping from searching for a coffee shop, to asking wikipedia if a coffee bean is actually a bean, to legumes, to goober peas to peanut allergies. Then a search on to allergies and autism, and all on a shuttle ride to the car rental from the airport.

We are so many extraordinary places in our ordinary modern life, and the best of them are in our minds.

I think that Joyce captures the modern life, even a hundred years later, and that is extraordinary. I think it is still still still about struggling for connection and aspiration, being lost and all too stuck.

Which is a lot of what it felt like, lost and stuck, reading this book.

all the pretty reasons not to write

I could spend hours playing on different parts of the internet

I could spend hours reading or listening to OTHER people who are doing it so well

Or just distract myself with trashy distractions of stuff that I believe I could do better than.

And I could work myself into a tizzy of hopelessness thinking, oh no one will ever notice what I read, no one will care or even if they do care they will not be impressed

But the thing is…it doesn’t matter what other people think of what I’m doing. It matters a little. But what matters most of all is that i do it because I like it

jet pack, anyone?

Chris decided he needed a new car.

I don’t really believe in new cars. I was not raised with new cars, and his new (okay, eleven years old new) car was not new enough for him.

“What’s wrong with your car? Why do you need a new one?”

“Good point!” he said. “If I am going to get a new car, it should be a significant improvement on my current one.”

whoa. Not at all where I was headed with my question.

But he wants a new car, and we could probably afford it so okay. He test drives and researches and discusses. We want this car to be a keeper, one that will please us for another 10 years like the one we have now.

He finally decides on the first rung of the BMW ladder.  Does he not realize this will cause me to rue my previous words from the “Alaska Road Rules” story?

He does not. This is the car he wants.  He is decided and decisive ( i LOVE that about him), and he sends an email to the dealer.

Say, salesman of the car I want –he says–do you have this car?

Salesman replies no, but he can order it from Germany.

An email is sent to Germany. The factory is going to make a car for us, just like a pizza. We get to watch, through the internet, the car progressing through the factory.

“The car is done! They are loading it onto the ship.”

Oh, yes, oh yes, they are loading Chris’s car ONTO A SHIP and sending it to America.

During this time, Chris locates a documentary on TV that shows us what it looks like to load a car transport ship full of cars. We talk about it and see what kind of ride our little car will be having on it’s first sea voyage.

He gets to watch it in the form of a little green arrow on the map of the Atlantic ocean sail our way. It will have to go through the Panama Canal to get to California.

But wait! WAIT! there is a concern.

Hurricane Sandy is also crossing the Atlantic. It happens to be gaining strength during a moment of radio silence (Gps silence?). Is our ship coming in? Is our little white car okay?

Now we get to watch with more intensity, feeling privileged and safe because it is just a car and not our home or our family under threat of hurricane.

We see that a number of green arrow ships have huddled out in the ocean away from the shore to wait out the storm. Probably our ship in amongst them.

But! There is an automated email that is sent, telling Chris that the ship has arrived at the Panama Canal early. The wise and skillful crew of our car’s transport ship hurried to get ahead of the storm. Chris got to watch our very ship, with our very car, progress through the locks that were created a hundred years ago to let ships get to California. He took snapshots and showed them to me after the fact.

Our ship has passed that landmark. The green arrow is coming this way. It has in fact landed and the car will be in our hands, probably by the time you read this.

The future is now. In case you didn’t recognize it. Jet packs are just retro.

when did the thinking become a topic for books?

I’m talking about self-help books. Or books on a topic.

I love books, and I dont’ read a lot of non-fiction. Lots of people love non-fiction though. It’s huge!

Books for the pleasure o flearning, history books that are not textbooks. Or self help books
“How to win friends and influence people”

Is this an american phenomenon? I don’t know. I suppose I could


the internet is a very american phenomenon.

But. In literature classes about books…Sometimes they are novel, sometimes they are poetry,s ometiems they are plays.

But sometimes they are not.

Wasn’t greek philosophy that way? Plato and aristotle…haven’t read much of them but I know the gist is about thinking.

I think about the now, and what is the book of now that is going to be read a hundred years from now. I’m reading Ulysess..That might get read. But that’s almost a hundred years old!


What’s now? What is everyone reading now that will be rmembered so fondly? Franzen? …maybe…I kinda hope we can do better.

There are beautiful genre books. Mysteries…Romance…fantasy and sci fi…I’m not, but a lot of people love horror. Twilight?

I see a lot of people reading self help books. Aren’t diet books perennially best sellers?

can you imagine? oh my lord. Dr Atkins beign read as literature 100 years from now. No. NO I cannot.

But what is the shining pearl? What have we got?

What are we doing already? We can’t seem to stop writing writing buying books.

feeling good

I’ve had this lingering cold, but my soul is satisfied. Two weeks of satisfied. Three weeks of cold. maybe more than three weeks.

But there is happiness in my life.

Hello, happy, my old friend.


Women complain a lot about how men feel entitled. That the guy gets to have his way, that HIS voice in the meeting is the one to be heard.

I know that men tend to state things rather than reference things. Women I know will say ” I heard a news story about a huge pile of trash in the ocean that no one will clean up.” Men will usually say “There is a big pile of trash in the ocean.”

Women feel like we have to back up what we say, because it’s not enough that we say it. Men will just assert it. It can come across as arrogant.

I sometimes try to do this in my job, because it seems that arrogance pays. I dont’ know if it does or not.

But men often say that women are entitled. Men say it long and loud how women are x, y, z entitled.

It is hard for me to see. It’s hard for anybody to see the back of their head that way. Boy oh boy, men don’t like it when women call them entitled. Women don’t like it either.

I heard this fascinating interview with a person, born female, who underwent a sex change operation. He described the changes, and one of the things she had to trainsition into as a man was different conversational style. He said as a man, that he had to learn to realize that he didn’t get to ramble on in conversations the way a woman might. He missed it. He said “but I’m so fascinating!” in a self-mocking way.

I wonder. Men do complain about women rambling on. And we can, it’s true. Do we feel entitled to tell our stories in the detail we want?

I’m not sure. Maybe.

It is very hard to know what it’s like from the other side. There are a number of greek myths that talk about going from one to the other, man and woman.

I know I wish that the men in my life understood and appreciated how amazing–ingenius and preseverent–I am. It seems taken for granted. Hm.

This piece made me think about it.

And this:


This is where he is supposed to have an epiphany of how amazing I am and what a hard week it has been for me…

Only he doesn’t.

only he doesn’t. It doesnt’ seem to matter which “he” i’m talking about either.

There are times when I hear “good job” or “thank you.”  It does happen. But the context and emphasis is insufficient.

Yes, it has come back to gold stars. Proper appreciation, Proper respect.

I feel very entitled to that. So much so that it can kinda ruin my day if I don’t get them.

It is very seldom that I get them. What on earth makes me think I am entitled? Not experience, that’s for sure