Review: Ulysses


Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics eBook)Ulysses by James Joyce
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ulysses may, in fact, be the greatest trick ever pulled on the literary world. It is dense and virtually incomprehensible, and yet, somehow, it manages to maintain its reign as prom queen of the classics shelf. I’m telling you right now that this is a farce. We’ve all been bamboozled. Underneath all of the praise, hiding behind the sparkles and the makeup, is a snarky Chess Club captain. And she’s snickering at all of us for being such dumbasses.

Now, just hold on a moment. Before you jump all over me, trolls and well-meaning bibliophiles, I recognize that the book has its appeal. There’s plenty to be unearthed here. I mean, Warhol made art out of a soup can. There’s no reason you can’t do the same. I simply argue that it’s perception. This book is a source of raw material. It isn’t good literature- it’s simply a bunch of words placed awkwardly next to one another. But you do what you need to. I, for example, happen think very highly of movies where monsters come out of toilets. We all have our little quirks. These things make life more interesting.

But I will not be drinking the Kool-Aid this afternoon. This book was a massive and frustrating heap of garbage. It was sun-warmed gum on the sidewalk, the kind you step on and can’t get rid of no matter how many sticks you employ. There are a lot of people I respect who like this book. I still respect them, as I can accept character flaws. Some people commit adultery, others steal. A sin is a sin; I’m not here to judge. To me, liking this book is NO WORSE than speaking badly of your neighbor or using the Lord’s name in vain.

I give this “classic” two stars. One for being truly and unredeemingly awful, and a second for tricking people into thinking it’s good. I loves me some deceit.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Ulysses

  1. I’m assuming you finished it? I think some people read it just to say they read it, even if they had no idea what was going on. I quite like the half of it that I have read, and I think it’s because the book is a bit of a literary joke. One day I’ll finish it, and I’ll read his next novel (which I believe is way more incomprehensible than this). I think I’ve grown to like the books that people love to hate. Or are at least questionable in terms of their literary merits. In terms of being a “classic”, Ulysses is nothing like other classics. In terms of being an interesting story, it’s not. It’s 900 pages of word-dump that you have to really dig through to form some sort of coherent narrative. And I guess that’s all that’s going for it. Take it or leave it.

    I read Tao Lin’s novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, which I’d describe as some sort of third person plotless stream of consciousness. It’s messy and nonsensical but it’s got a certain poetic charm to it. Sort of like The Road, except less depressing and more abstract.

    But then you get a book like House of Leaves, which sounds exactly like the sort of book I should like, but I tried reading it a couple of times and gave up early on. I understand why people like it, but I can’t stand footnotes, and the footnotes within footnotes in House of Leaves just drove me insane. Maybe I’ll try reading it again some time soon.

    I’m glad you gave Ulysses a negative review without degrading yourself to common insults and petty complaints. So many times I read reviews where people miss the point completely and it drives me nuts.

  2. I sure did. Every painful word.

    And I admit, I’m totally not into stream-of-consciousness. I like it as a concept, but as leisure reading material? No thanks. Before I started, I thought I might actually like this book. I’ve had a lot of luck in the past with the dense and difficult, but I got nothing out of this one except frustration and a limb-amputating-in-the-field degree of pain.

    I’m glad I finished it, if for no other reason than I now have the background material for a plethora of literary references. Ulysses is, I think, a good book to finish, though not a good one to read.

    1. If I remember correctly, you’ve never started a book that you didn’t finish *irregardless* of how painstakingly painful it pains you. True?

      1. It’s true. I always finish. Oh how I wish that wasn’t true. People *misunderestimate* the compulsion that drives me. Fuck James Joyce. Fuck him right in the ass with a shovel.

        And, when you’re done doing that, read my book, The Egg Said Nothing, available now on

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