“If the accused could speak he could a tale unfold one of the strangest that have ever been narrated between the covers of a book.” James Joyce’s Ulysses has been accused of being unreadable and obscene; and its history is far from sedate. For a while it had been banned in the UK and the United States because of its unabashed and sometimes explicit descriptions (and choice of language).

Make no mistake, reading Ulysses is a huge undertaking but it’s something I think every serious fan of literature should undertake at some point (side note, since it’s based on Homer’s Odyssey, it’s doubly interesting if you’ve ever read the original… though it probably won’t really help to understand some of Joyce’s truly enigmatic phrases and slang).

I finished Ulysses on Bloomsday! Unintentionally, I assure you, I got so caught up reading it I read through the whole night of June 15th to the morning of June 16th. When I realized what day I finished reading Ulysses, I geeked out. There are almost no words I can use to explain how incredibly epic this novel is; you just need to read it to understand what I mean. Don’t be intimidated, pick it up, read it. Here are some quotes I either found amusing/insightful/funny/or a complete epitome of Ulysses …

Pain, that was not yet the pain of love fretted his heart.

Where was the chap I saw in that picture somewhere? Ah, in the dead sea, floating on his back, reading a book with a parasol open. Couldn’t sink if you tried: so thick with salt. Because the weight of the water, no, the weight of the body in the water is equal to the weight of the. Or is it the volume is equal of the weight? It’s a law something like that. Vance in High school cracking his fingerjoints, teaching. The college curriculum. Cracking curriculum. What is weight really when you say the weight? Thirtytwo feet per second, per second. Law of falling bodies: per second, per second. They all fall to the ground. The earth. It’s the force of gravity of the earth is the weight.

The first fellow that picked an herb to cure himself had a bit of pluck.

She swore to him as they mingled the salt streams of their tears that she would cherish his memory, that she would never forget her hero boy who went to his death with a song on his lips as if he were but going to a hurling match in Clonturk park.

On the other hand what incensed him more inwardly was the blatant jokes of the cabmen and so on, who passed it all off as a jest, laughing immoderately, pretending to understand everything, the why and the wherefore, and in reality not knowing their own minds… (Fun trivia: Brendan Fehr’s character in Roswell quotes a version of this fantastic line in the episode 285 South)

theres nothing else its all very fine for them but as for being a woman as soon as youre old they might as well throw you out in the bottom of the ash pit.


Reading Journal for Book Lovers

In my rambles through the sweet little book shops of Solvang a couple months ago; I picked up one of the most useful items I’ve ever beheld: A Reading Journal For Book Lovers. Yes, yes… I’m aware that I’m a total geek, but really, how practical for an avid reader! First off, I adore the cover design, but then you open it up and it’s equally impressive inside too.

The inside of the journal contains pages to analyze any books you’ve finished, little prompts about your personal reading preferences and numerous reading lists (i.e. BBC Top 100 Reads*, Pulitzer Prize Winners, Time Magazine: Top 100 Novels etc). Most of the pages consist of your own personal book rating system with areas to write the title, author, date published, genre, date you started/finished, your rating out of 5 stars, what the book inspired you to learn about and a whole page for notes.

Seriously, for like $13.00 you can grab this super cute reading journal, I think I’ll probably buy several more of these, just to keep myself well stocked for future reading endeavors.

*Side note… Has anyone noticed that the BBC’s top 100 list includes a strange Harry Potter book? (I myself, never having read a Harry Potter book find it ludicrous that they would be included amongst true classics such as Pride & Prejudice, David Copperfield, Middlemarch and Wuthering Heights but that’s not my point…) My point is, if you’ll check the list, number 22 is written as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. As I said, I don’t know Harry Potter stuff, but I do know Van Morrison, and I know for a fact that good old Van released an album about 13 years ago called “Philosopher’s Stone”… I’m pretty sure Harry Potter has more to do with sorcerers than philosophers. Am I way wrong here? I did a search on bn.com and found H.P. and the Philosopher’s Stone… But it’s in Greek, that doesn’t count and I doubt it would have been included in the BBC’s Top 100 list. I dunno, it just seems strange.


The Dream of the Rood

Where can I begin with this poem? It’s stunning. It won’t take any time to read, but oh my goodness, it’ll probably get you started on some serious thinking. I read this poem a few weeks ago with every intention of writing about it then, but it’s taken me this long to find any words about it.

The Dream of the Rood is a fine example of Middle English poetry, though the exact date of the poem’s authorship is still unknown. Perhaps that adds to the wonderful mystery of it all.

At any rate, you may wonder, what is a ‘Rood’? Ah, glad you asked. Rood is a Middle English word for ‘rod’, which was also a word used for a crucifix. Maybe the title makes you wonder: is this the cross dreaming, or is someone dreaming of the cross and then writing the poem (think about the title, it’s still unclear… the only answer is to read on and find out).

The poem is indeed a dream about the cross of Jesus and its experiences and viewpoint during Jesus’ crucifixion. Whoa, what an incredible idea, the use of the inanimate object to tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s interesting, all of the Easter church services I’ve been to in my life; I’ve never heard anything so abstract that made so much sense. The idea of a cross or tree speaking puts me in mind of one of my favorite Bible verses… check out 1 Chronicles 16:33.

I realize this isn’t my usual type of post, that’s simply because there’s almost nothing I can say. Read it, and you’ll see what I mean.


Howards End

It may be apparent to any readers that my all time favorite author is the great Charles Dickens. I love the way he details scenery, his character’s appearance and his descriptions can go on for pages… E.M. Forster is quite the reverse, yet I love his writing style as well. Forster seems to focus less on outward appearances and much more on the psychological side of things, internal thoughts and repressed feelings. The brilliance of Forster’s novel lies in its understated nature blended with well balanced intrigues, hopes and tragedies.

Any Jane Austen fans may note slight similarities between Sense and Sensibility’s Dashwood sisters and the Schlegel sisters of Howards End… Check it out and see what you think, it’s certainly a splendid novel.


The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer was certainly modern, considering he was an author who wrote it in the late 14th century. Maybe Canterbury Tales goes to show that despite how different it may look, society hasn’t changed that much. The chivalry (although seemingly nonexistent nowadays) still makes sense and isn’t unbelievable or too archaic, the humor seems like it was plucked out of a sitcom (though, I suppose considering time lines, it would be the other way round) and the quickness of the poetry is refreshing and not at all stilted. My favorite section was of course, The Knight’s Tale. Was this the best thing I’ve ever read in my whole life? Not quite. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely.

If you’ve not read The Canterbury Tales and you enjoy classics, check it out, it’ll take just a little while to read, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised!