Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Both needed - plus a following wind

Julia, preparing to celebrate Bloomsday (June 16 1904), is reading Ulysses “bit by bit” and asks whether I prefer the audio or the printed version. Both. The novel is damnably difficult and I need all the help I can get. The CDs cost £85 so this is a plutocratic assertion but because I shall continue to read it/listen to it until overtaken by idiocy or death the investment is amortised over time (well, I hope so).

There are immediate benefits from the CDs. Jim Norton, the Irish actor who does the reading characterises the voices so Mr Deasy sounds pinched and fussy whereas Buck Mulligan bellows through the Martello tower. Haynes, the Englishman, is a dweeb. But the greatest advantages come during the stream-of-consciousness passages, generally reckoned to be the hardest. When Stephen is pondering “the ineluctable modality of the visible”, and much else, Norton breaks the paragraphs into bite-size chunks which are easier to seize on.

But the printed pages are necessary. Sometimes these aural fancies fly past at speed and you need to re-set the context. Nothing easier when reading, more complicated when a laser is standing in for your eyeballs.

Why read this difficult book? For the same reasons you might read the Odyssey. To grasp the sense of a wearying journey where humans are tested and brought into the comfort of a shared arrival. Ulysses is unbearably moving and Leopold Bloom, with all his imperfections and his much greater humanity, stands hands in pockets in front of me, irrepressibly three-dimensional – make that four-dimensional – as I write. For me the most memorable character in fiction.

Novel progress 11/4/10. Ch. 20: 0 words. Chs. 1 - 19: 85,903 words. Comments: Hatch and Clare - a conversation starts, continues, ends (for now).