My first year of college English, they required us to read James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. I slogged through 200 pages of torture and gave up. I succombed to the deadly freshman habit of buying the Cliff Notes version and answering the questions from there. The professor never caught on – which in later years made me suspect she had not read it all either.
It is almost unreadable. Joyce used every experimental literary technique to describe Leopold Bloom’s meanderings around Dublin. Occasionally, Joyce jettisoned punctuation entirely, squishing words together like commuters on a morning train – no spaces, no commas, no periods. In short, no pauses at all. As I said, it was torture. This technique, called “stream of consciousness writing”, was later perfected by Faulkner and Updike, but first flourished in the fetid garden of Joyce’s writing.
Yet, as readers, we long for those pauses. They afford us moments of reflection and a chance to catch up to the hurried pace of the writer. Read the rest of this entry ?