Reading in 2021

I’m now up to page 108 in Ulysses and I’ve decided to read it like a literary novel; somewhat slower and more aware than if I were reading the mass paperbacks they sell at airports, but a lot faster than when I started on page 1. Basically, I’ve stopped looking up everything beyond my understanding: all the foreign language phrases, bits of history, bits of everyday slang that isn’t slang anymore, references to life in Dublin in the 1900s that just goes over my head because I’m not in Dublin in the 1900s, etc. It was just taking too long to just move along. Instead I’m just underlining some things and writing down some others (not all!) on Post-Its. Even then, my normal reading speed (usually a 600-page book per day speed, if it’s Jack Kerouac and I’m really into it) has dropped to a paltry 50 pages every few days. (I do have to remind myself that I’m reading Dune at the same time, and am really into logic puzzles and crosswords at the moment). Anyway, looking things up in 2021 makes me wish that I had the internet when I was in Honors and AP English a very long time ago (too long ago– my birthday is coming around again, in 2 days!). Although we all slogged through English classes (lots of Shakespeare) with rarely the help of a Cliffs Notes (remember those? are those still around?), we did understand somewhat of what we were reading. Finding guides to books were really difficult if you didn’t have access to a bookstore, or a bookstore that didn’t have any literary guides. But now, I can’t imagine the difference the internet would have made so that Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, or Midsummer Night’s Dream are easier to process! So while looking on YouTube for the subject matter of “Ulysses Joyce”, I found a movie? documentary? movie-mentary? about the book. I don’t have words for what this film is. Mishmash is the closest I could come to it.

The film/movie/work is titled James Joyce’s “Ulysses” (1987) and at first I thought it was just the book made into a film. But about 5-10 minutes through what feels like movie scenes from the book, one gets scenes of actual professorial types, sitting on flowery couches in some office, explaining some of the background and themes. Not only those, there are scenes of James Joyce writing the book and bouncing ideas off others. The film itself is both about the book and the book itself. Kind of like Ulysses being every day life and describing every day life. Is it self-referential? And while the film would be completely boring to me for any other aspect of my life, and to lots of people that I know at any time, I thought it helped me quite a bit in visualizing the book and bringing attention to other ideas that would not have occurred to me (e.g., the musicality).

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