May 01, 2006

The Ulysses Project

The Ulysses Project

I'm sitting outside a Starbucks this morning, feeling like a tourist. You'd think I'd feel like an exile --- sitting outside Starbucks typing away on a Powerbook; it's like a little bit of San Franciso landed on Dame Street --- but I really I feel like a tourist.

See, I've decided to return to the States for grad school; getting to spend time with my family and friends was a major factor in the decision, so on the one hand I'm excited to return.

But I'm also sad at leaving this place. I find it hard to say, precisely, why. Perhaps it's simply that I haven't seen enough, learned enough, met enough people, had enough fun, and I may never get a chance agin. Veni, Vedi, but no Vice, dammit, and that is unsatisfying. There's still plenty of parts of this city, this country, that I haven't gotten to yet.

So I was thinking that I ought to do something to make the most of the time I had left, some kind of mark of my affection for the ol' provincial boghole. And I decided that maybe the best thing would be to finally do something I meant to do before I even arrived.

I'm going to read Ulysses. I have made one previous and rather half-assed attempt, and got about sixty pages in before laying it down one evening and never picking it up again. (The evidence is on the sidebar, but please avert your eyes.)

That's why I feel like a tourist this morning; a Yank outside a Startbucks on College Green, beavering away on a laptop, might be a lot of things. But the same Yank with a copy of Ulysses beside her on the table, well, that just screams "over-earnest Poindexter somehow separated from her tour group."

But this sacrifice to my cultivated savoir faire I'll have to make. Today's Day One of the Project, the May Bank Holiday. I plan to finish up on June 16th, Bloomsday. In between, there will be 900 pages, and fair amount of money blown on Dart tickets, and a lot of pictures.

If you're not familiar with the book, Ulysses is an account of the lives of two men, Stephen Deadalus and Leopold Bloom, as they journey through Dublin in the course of single day (June 16, 1904), their paths occasionally intersecting. Their travels parallel those of Odysseus (or, as the Romans would have it, Ulysses) in the ancient Greek poem The Odessey. It is also, according to the back of my Penguin Classics edition, "an imperishable monument to the human condition," which just makes you want to tuck into a tote along with the beach towels and the suntan lotion, don't it?

I've got to admit I'm a little scared. The paragraph above represents about the sum total of my own knowledge of the plot, and I haven't grappled with modernism since I was an undergraduate English major who could use the phrase "grappled with modernism," with a perfectly straight face (and on a good day, possibly follow it up with an extended metaphor involving Greco-Roman wrestling and the Aeneid).

So don't expect me to get all heavy on ya. I'm planning to err on the side of blithe, and my posts will, I think, be a lot more "book report," than explication du texte. No, the thing I think will really be interesting is the travels; as I read, I plan to follow Leo and Steve on their treks, and take photos of the Dublin I encounter now in 2006 as I go, for your delectation.

Because that's the thing about Dublin in 1904 and Dublin in 2006 --- it seems to me that a lot of the former is still here in the latter, far more so than in any American city, even more than a lot of European ones. (Several of the pub mentioned in the tect are still around.) Mainly because it was spared World War II and was too poor for most of the 20th century to build anything new.

But Dublin is changing. Joyce's book is a broad canvas, a panorama of the Dublin of his day. This will be a mere Kodak Instamatic snapshot. But it will be one taken in tribute.

So: Onto the Martello tower.

Posted by Diablevert at May 1, 2006 03:07 PM

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