Of course, some of us disagree. One website, Ulyssesseen.com, dares to see the issue differently:
“it kills us that [Ulysses] has gotten the reputation for being inaccessible to everyone besides the English professors who make their careers teaching the book to future English professors who will make their careers doing the same. ‘Tweren’t supposed to be that way. It is a funny, sometimes scatological, book about the triumphs and failures of hum-drum, every day life. It makes heroes out of schlubs and cuts the epic down to size. And its elitist reputation has placed it well on its way to being as relevant to our cultural currency as conjugating Latin.”
Well, I wish it were so. I won’t admit that I “enjoyed” Ulysses; it was a hard read, and continues to be so. To me, the fact that it is in danger of falling out of relevancy is because that in 1904 Ireland, conjugating Latin was part of the cultural commentary. Now it isn’t. Joyce’s project captured the textures and materials of a time, an ethos, and a few ways of thinking. Joyce left it to us to be the archaeologists of this material: we have to find the value in each artifact, and recreate a whole that we will forever be inadequate to objectify or describe.
Sounds lofty, but I will agree with the writers at Ulyssesseen.com that although Joyce was not trying to make his readers relax while reading, he wasn’t trying to confound them either. Joyce speaks in different registers, to the vulgar and the divine. This is what makes Robert Berry’s Ulyssesseen.com project—recreating Joyce’s work in the popular medium of the web comic—both original and perfect. Phrases are brought into focus, and the accompanying cultural/literary/historical commentary adds in the layers lost as we have moved away from that 1904 colonial landscape. Beautiful sentences litter Joyce’s work, but when struggling through dense references these can be hard to appreciate. The images Berry has created bring the lovely language into the foreground, and slow the way we read by placing key phrases in their own frame.
Berry’s project is a Work-In-Progress, but do check it out at ulyssesseen.com.