Sunday, July 08, 2012

Joyce writes like... (Sundays with the Classics)

There was a very literary crowd around the pool today, but I suspect that not much reading was getting done.

I haven't actually read much of Ulysses in the past three weeks, because on one of the past 3 Sundays I was on vacation and driving 15 hours to get from Metropolis, Illinois to Orlando, Florida, and that did not leave very much time for reading, as I had to be the driver on the vacation even though I make a better passenger than driver. 

Two of those past 3 Sundays I was not on vacation, as such, but last week I was only just home from 8 days of driving and sun and pools and shopping and more fast food than I could imagine eating in a week but somehow it still was not enough, and so last Sunday I took a break from Ulysses because I don't want reading the classics to feel like work; that was what kept me from reading many of the so-called great books (we'll see if they're as great as they're reputed to be) back when I was in school, the fact that it was an assignment and so became a chore.  It's funny how telling someone to do something takes all the fun out of it, and if you don't think that's true, force someone to sit down and watch a funny video sometime: odds are they'll be annoyed by having to do it and won't like it as much.

And this week? This week I was all set to get back to Ulysses but I slept in this morning and then spent overly long on the beginning of my annual NFL preview, and then took Mr F and Mr Bunches on our usual Sunday routine -- a stop at the office to get my calendar in order for the week, and then they get to pick where we go.

Today, they picked "Small Pool," which is the pool at our health club, and so we went there and I played with them for a while before letting them be on their own, and going to get my Kindle to read Ulysses, only my Kindle was out of power because I'd been using it to play Plants vs. Zombies last night, so I got my phone out instead and got Ulysses on that -- it's wonderful, how the Kindle works, that I can read my books on any device anywhere, so take that, Stephen King: You may want to control the mood and tactile feel of the book (or you say that's what you want but really you want to just be a gatekeeper and keep folks like me from publishing stuff), but in the end, books can't be contained or controlled and once you let them out of their cages, they're free to alight anywhere the reader wants to take them.

I wonder if James Joyce, when he was moving his family from place to place, sometimes poor, sometimes rich, sometimes suing to protect his Ulysses copyright, thought to himself that someday someone was going to take an electronic reader out of his backpack and sit by the poolside, alternately watching his kids swim and trying to make heads or tails of what he -- Joyce, that is -- wrote, so long ago, lying on his bed in a white coat to help reflect the light so that he could see better.

(That's a true story: According to The New Yorker, Joyce had poor eyesight and wore a white coat when he wrote to help make things brighter.)

But I didn't get much reading done; I'm at the part, still early on in the book (7% in, according to my Kindle) where the main character is sitting on the beach, having left his employer's and wandered more.  There's a dog and a couple people on the beach, but the book is mostly just a rambling reverie, a walk through the main character's mind, which is chock full of poetic, jumbled images and memories and thoughts.

I like it.

Joyce writes like I think.

And he writes like I would like to write -- all roundabouts and intricacies, like his story is not so much a straightforward narrative as it is the literary equivalent of a knit blanket.  Or, maybe, like his story is taking the same path a thought takes through one's mind; there are no straight lines in the brain.

I was going to print an excerpt from the part I read today, but I got distracted by this story that said an excerpt from Ulysses, the original manuscript, sold for nearly 900,000 pounds, and then I found this site where celebrities read bits of Ulysses, and I'll have to check that this week when I'm on the road a lot, for business -- three of my five days are essentially just driving to and from hearings, lots of time to travel around and think and wonder.

Joyce writes like I want to live.


Andrew Leon said...

Man, you make my reading list too long, especially when you want me to be writing at the same time. Someone needs to pay me to read!

Stephen Hayes said...

This book has been on my reading list for forty years and I still haven't gotten around to it. But one of these days....

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I see a lot of similarities between your writing and James Joyce.