Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bloomsday Post #3 (from Nicole Spodek)

My little Nicole is flying the coop - she starts Sarah Lawrence in the fall! Wish her luck and read the post that made me so very happy when I found it in my inbox this morning: a response to "unique perspectives on first-time reads of the novel" (Ulysses, duh).

I was fifteen when I first opened Ulysses. I would never have even dared touch the thing if it weren’t for a dedicated, hopeful, determined, and goddamn out-of-her-mind English teacher asking me to do so. She had devised a plan, you see. She suggested that we start a reading group in order to conquer the massive pile of pages before the end of the school year. We’d meet once a week, read aloud at our leisure, and ultimately try to finish the book while gaining some slight understanding of what was going on. We’d have to recruit people, of course, and this took perseverance.

Flyers were posted, as we declared its greatness; they must have scared those puny high schoolers away, as all of our members ended up in the group by word of mouth. Every Wednesday, after my last class, I would enter the musty library, Ulysses in hand (after it had been lugged around for six hours), waiting for the highlight of my week. One friend once asked where I went every Wednesday after school and when I told him that I was headed to my “orgy in the library,” he, naturally, followed me. He ended up staying with us for the rest of the year and became an indispensable member of our Ulysses Reading Group, or URG.

Being a member of URG was probably the only useful experience of my four years at high school. I was actually challenging myself by trying to interpret the mess of words and ideas that is Ulysses. Joyce was my toughest teacher, and reading Ulysses was the most intense assignment I had ever received. Sure, I didn’t understand 85.6 percent of what was going on, but reading in such a large group made everything worthwhile. We made sense of the chapters and understood the significance of their titles; we traced the steps of Bloom and Stephen; we interpreted the various meanings of things as silly as colors. But most of all, we had fun. I don’t think Joyce had intended us to laugh as much as we did, but we found humor littered throughout. Irish slang gave us the most acute cases of The Giggles. The phrase “sturzgeburt on the haha” was like nothing I’d ever laughed at before. We had our intense conversations too. Religion talks were rampant – we’d sometimes stay at the school until 6 p.m. just trying to get our points across. It was crazy, nonsensical, outlandish, and over-the-top. But, in the end, we accomplished what we had set out to do. We finished Ulysses before the year ended, giving us time to celebrate once Bloomsday rolled around. And so, two years after my completion of Ulysses, I feel nostalgic. I will forever cherish the memories from my URG days. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Ulysses. Because that’s all it was: an introduction. I don’t think you’re expected to understand it until your eleventh reading.

*that "dedicated, hopeful, determined, and goddamn out-of-her-mind English teacher" was me!

No comments:

Post a Comment