When Great… Just Ain’t

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I’ve never been the kind of person who feels obligated to respect a book (or other work of literature) I don’t like, no matter how vaunted its reputation.  I have more than a few quarrels with Shakespeare, starting with the fact that Romeo and Juliet are both complete imbeciles whose suicides inspire me with contempt rather than sympathy.  Lord of the Flies is my husband’s favorite book, but back in middle school, I threw it across the room more than once.  I don’t find A Confederacy of Dunces even slightly funny – just pathetic.  I could go on.

However, I can usually figure out why other people think a certain book is great, even when I disagree.  Romeo and Juliet is filled with gloriously memorable speeches.  Lord of the Flies does, in fact, make me want to kill someone (namely William Golding), so I guess I can sympathize, at least a little, with the characters.  I understand how Ignatius J. Reilly could make certain people laugh, even if I’m not one of them.

But I have met my match in Ulysses.

It’s been called the greatest novel ever written in the English language.  But…

How much would that tot to off the porter in the month?  Say ten barrels of stuff.  Say he got ten percent off.  O more.  Ten.  Fifteen.  He passed St. Joseph’s National school.  Brats’ clamour.  Windows open.  Fresh air helps memory.  Or a lilt.  Ahbeesee defeegee kelomen opeecue rustyouvee double you.  Boys are they?  Yes.  Inishturk.  Inishark.  Inishboffin.  At their joggerfry.  Mine.  Slieve.  Bloom.

I figured out that the bit that looks like gobbledygook is a phonetic recitation of the alphabet.  But can someone please explain to me how this qualifies as English – much less “the greatest English ever written”?  I haven’t even gotten to the supposedly scandalous parts, but I don’t imagine I’d be scandalized by strings of lascivious nonsense, anyway.

Check Ulysses off the list.  Life is too short for this.  I’m done.

Karen Ullo is the author of Jennifer the Damned, now available from Wiseblood Books.  To find out more, go to www.karenullo.com.

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