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Posted Tue Nov 8th, 2011 8:28pm Post subject: Planet Word: Literature: Ulysses!

This is my first time here... Hi everyone!

I was moved to seek out some way to communicate with Stephen because of his love of Ulysses, his comments on and delightful evocation of Joyce's wonderful novel. I wanted to share with him how moving I found Molly's soliloquy, coming as it does after the completed day we have spent with Leo and the young Stephen Dedalus, a tenderising process that pummels the meat of the mind with Joyce's mellifluous little hammers of phrase and chat and rumination until our humanity is thoroughly prepared for the full immersion in Molly's mind. I was surprised as I put the novel down at the finish to find that tears were starting in my eyes, and a rare glow of completion and fulfilment was rising gently through my quiet mind... Joyce had not merely written a clever tour de force of modernism, but a true work of artistic and humanistic genius, after all! A Real Novel, rewarding to the heart, not just to the mind!

To be honest, I had not expected that reward... I had been reading for the pleasure of language, but after Molly's crowning section, the true majesty of Joyce's vision was revealed to me as a blossoming of the heart... Bloom! The clue was there all along as to what he was attempting! Joyce had meant for this to happen, and the entire thing was crafted with that blossoming of our humanity in mind... My gratitude was quietly, thoughtfully, gently lifted from my inner self with no effort at all... Mr Joyce, a treasure, I salute the man.

Probably I should end there, but... I do also love the language! Stephen's ride in the buggy with the Irish scholar of Joyce who so beautifully enunciated the words of the sea that appear in section 3... I also want to mention that I first picked up this book when I was a young would-be author, 16 years old and given to "experimental" writing (Kerouac was still in my future, but my instinct meshed well with what I found when I discovered him a couple of years later). I was reading it a page at a time each evening as I went to bed, while studying at a college to do 'O' levels (in 1970, having just returned to Britain after spending 12 years in Canada and Vermont in the USA). Like so many others (so I've heard), life was too busy for me to continue and I simply stopped reading after a few weeks, as I spent more time with a particular girl... anyway, my abiding memory from that time was always of the sound of the language Joyce employed to express the shingly beach upon which Dedalus was walking... this was not the dramatic phoneticisms of the sea's speech, but simply the way the words he used to describe the sound of the footsteps struggling along the strand actually evoked that sound! And it was a sound I recognised from walking on the beach near where I was living in Margate at the time!

I had always remembered that remarkable achievement of poetry in prose, and it was that which brought me back to the novel some 30 years later, when I finally got back around to reading Ulysses. And found the true genius of the novel much greater than the intellectually clever and linguistically pungent feast I had expected.

If I may, I'd humbly like to proffer to Stephen a short list of exquisite books that I suspect he will love as much as I have, given his love of expression and humanist instincts, and our shared pleasure in Joyce's masterpiece:

(I was working as a bookseller in the local Waterstone's here in Swansea for nearly 13 years before I was made redundant two and a half years ago, and the first of these mini reviews is a blurb I wrote to put on the shelf to recommend this first book.)

I wish there were some way of causing everyone in the world to understand the heart of this profoundly important novel. With the growth of fundamentalism in the world today, James Morrow's novel could not be more relevant!
Brilliant, well-informed, humane, and a gripping read: a well-told tale of character and adventure, it is also a defence of the Enlightenment ideals underpinning our modern Western culture. I love this book!

SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts
An astonishing and beautifully written novel based on the author's real life experiences in Bombay in the early 80s. The second chapter contains a 20 page evocation of the sensual experience of arriving in India for the first time and being hit with its overwhelming presence and chaotic aliveness! A gripping adventure in subcultural diversity and intense personal growth, it's a uniquely alive book which you feel you could live in for the rest of your life... too short at 800 pages!

QUICKSILVER by Neal Stephenson
The first novel in a historical trilogy dealing with the origins of the modern world and of the Royal Society around the turn of the 17th Century, with well-evoked characters such as Newton and Boyle playing out their dramas with living dialogue wittily turned out by the erudite author. This work is play, a delight to read and ride along with the author's cheeky and fresh-minded imagination, grounded so well in the deeply evocative fruits of his thoroughly understood research. The forerunner of this trilogy was set partially during the years prior to the Second World War, in which he imagines a friendship between the young Alan Turing and two fictional mathematicians... Stephenson is the only author I can imagine pulling off an entertainingly amusing comic setpiece in the form of a three way conversation among mathematicians discussing maths! Simply a wonderful writer!

And finally, not to out stay my welcome, I really have to recommend a wonderful novel in "free verse" which is a werewolf story set in modern California... no don't run away! It's much more original and rewarding than Twilight clones which have infested bookshops in recent years! Seriously! This is a really successful experiment in form and matter, being a cross-species love story and a character study of several outsider flawed characters of different ilks... and being in free verse, it has the immediacy of a comic book, sensually and economically evoking scenes and situations with perfectly chosen words that swiftly immerse you in the actions and feelings and thoughts of the characters... a rereadable and rewarding and truly unusual, beautiful piece of literature. It's called SHARP TEETH by Toby Barlow.

I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who has read any of these books... and if you read them as a result of my encouragement, I hope you will drop back in here to let us know what you thought! Happy reading!

Love to all

A real man is a kind man.

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