This Bloomsday I am finally able to say: I have read James Joyce’s Ulysses. All of it.
I loved both Dubliners and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (you can read more about just how much here) so I have had Ulysses in my “To Read Pile” for a very long time. Like many people before me, I had started the epic novel countless times and given up after a few chapters, so as soon as I had the opportunity to take a Joyce module at university, I decided to take it.
I’m not going to say it was an easy read, and I’m not quite sure that I love it either, well, not yet. Although taking the module made sure that I finally finished it, the weekly pressure to have read another three episodes (alongside exams, essays, and my part time internship) meant that for four weeks Ulysses became a burden to me, literally and figuratively. I would definitely like to think that one day I’ll read it again, in my own time…
But until then, I thought I would spread some Irish literary love by sharing this beautiful poem by northern Irish poet, Derek Mahon: ‘Everything is going to be all right’ (something that any first-time reader of Ulysses may need to hear)…
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.