Circe

Monday, April 16, 2018

Circe
by Madeline Miller
★★★★★

Circe is a witch on a remote island when Odysseus meets her on his journey home in Homer's Odyssey. In Miller’s reimagining she’s a complicated woman with heartaches and hopes of her own. She’s no longer a footnote in someone else’s story.

We meet Circe as a child in the halls of her Titan father. She never fits into his world of petty jealousy and swift anger. It's not until she's exiled to an island that she begins to figure out who she is. I loved the descriptions of the world where she lives. Whether she's digging in her garden or riding in her father's chariot above the earth, the descriptions bring each scene to life so vividly.

It’s a story of loneliness and longing. The beautiful language draws you in immediately. If you know any Greek mythology the characters will be familiar, but Miller gives them new depth. Just as she did in The Song of Achilles, she brings that ancient world alive and I couldn’t put it down.

BOTTOM LINE: Circe is such a wonderfully complex character. She is full of flaws and selfishness along side guilt and empathy. In this book there are no clear villains and heroes, just characters full of life and contradictions. I can’t wait to return to her world again one day.

“It is not fair,” I said. “It cannot be.”
“Those are two different things,” my grandmother said.

“In a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

“Within him was an ocean’s worth of grief, which could only be stoppered a moment, never emptied.”

“It is youth’s gift not to feel its debts.”

“Those who fight against prophecy only draw it more tightly around their throats.”

Ulysses: Final Post

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Finally finished! It was a tough ride. There were sections I loved and others I really struggled with. Joyce is undeniably talented, the chapter where he walks the reader through the entire history of the English language proves that. But his style isn’t my favorite and I frequently felt lost in his ramblings. I’m glad I read it and I’m also glad it’s done! Once again, please check out Adam's awesome episode break down here. 

The supplemental material in my book explains some of the background on the censorship of the book and includes a letter from Joyce to his Random House publisher. It also includes the monumental 1933 decision to stop people from banning the book in America. The ruling changed the way censorship was approached in our country.

I absolutely loved some of the comments from Judge M. Woolsey, the man who made the decision. To me, his summary of the book captures so many of my feelings perfectly.
 -----------------------------
“Ulysses is not an easy book to read or to understand. But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become it’s satellites. The study of Ulysses is, therefore, a heavy task. The reputation of Ulysses in the literary world, however, warranted my taking such time as was necessary to enable me to satisfy myself as to the intent with which the book was written.

It is brilliant and dull, intelligible and obscure by turns. In many places it seems to me to be disgusting, but although it contains, as I have mentioned above, many words usually considered dirty, I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirt’s sake.

Joyce has attempted — it seems to me, with astonishing success — to show how the screen of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries, as it were on a plastic palimpsest, not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious. He shows how each of these impressions affects the life and behavior of the character which he is describing.”
-----------------------------


The very final episode of the book is a crazy onslaught of thoughts from Bloom’s wife Molly’s point of view. She flits from thing to the next with no real pattern. She is just thinking, so her thoughts are unfiltered. It’s oddly refreshing even if it’s hard to follow. How many of us have had the same thing happen as we randomly think about our day? I could immediately relate.

Joyce’s honesty his characters really struck me in the final few chapters. He writes about Bloom’s flaws and fetishes in detail, something that just wasn’t done before. Yet by the close of the book you feel a bit hopeful about his marriage. There was something powerful about that. No matter how gross or strange Bloom was, he might have found his equal in his wife Molly.

BOTTOM LINE: Reading Ulysses was an experience. I struggled with it. I was blown away by the lovely language at times and at others I was completely weirded out. I can’t really compare it to anything else and that alone makes it a unique book. I am so glad I read it and I also don’t think I will ever read it again!

“Still you learn something. See ourselves as others see us.”

“Life, love, voyage round your own little world.”

Ulysses Readlong: Part 2

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


So I've officially made it halfway through the book and it hasn't killed me yet! I won't pretend that I've understood everything that has happened in Joyce's epic novel, but I will say Adam aka Roof Beam Reader, has provided notes and thoughts on each section and they are invaluable! Here are the notes on episodes #7-12.

This section of the book has quite a bit more in the way of crass humor and I'm not shocked that it was so frequently banned in the past. It also gives us a deeper view into our characters, both how they see themselves and how others see them. I'm also both impressed and often overwhelmed by how many different styles Joyce uses in his writing. Sometimes his parodying something, sometimes it fits a new narrator's point of view, etc. But it always keeps the reader on their toes. 

For me, I like to read an entire episode, then go back and read a summary and some notes. I like to let the language flow over me first before I bring someone else's opinions into the mix. I'm looking forward to the second half, but I'm also already a bit exhausted by Joyce!
 
Once again, I am positive that if I wasn't combining the audio version (seen above) and print, than I would be losing this fight. Being able to hear the story and following the random bits of French, Latin, and songs has helped so much. If you're thinking of reading it, I would highly recommend trying this! 

"Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves".