As many of you will know, who know me, my eyes are giving way a little. So, more often than not I now have to listen to books. Recently, I decided I wanted to revisit Raymond Chandler, and what better than 'The Big Sleep'. It reminded me of Humphrey Bogart and black and white movies I watched on a rainy Sunday afternoon with my Ma.
I am honestly not sure the book was written with someone of my age group in mind (!). The first person style of lead protagonist Philip Marlowe is often talking about 'dames' as objects. So, I suppose it has dated. But what hasn't? And Chandler's use of language and how he curls action and thought so sparsely is sheer talent and I completely forgive all of it, to be swept away into a make believe world that feels so real.
What I loved about it was the whodunnit angle. Good twists and turns are my kind of book. And, this has it in spades. I recommend it if you are looking for some nostalgia, good writing, and a whodunnit. Tick, tick. tick.
Recently, I finished Ulysses by James Joyce. I had started it many years ago but put it down for some reason. It isn’t a quick read! Perhaps because it required a lot of my brain cells. Many feel very passionately about this book. It is groundbreaking and unusual in many ways. This time, I decided to listen to it. My eyes are not what they were.
One of the obvious reasons to enjoy this book is that chapters are written in different literary styles, so it is continually mixing things up. You never get a chance to feel 'comfortable'. Sometimes it feels like you are just there with one person in an intimate stream of consciousness, sometimes it reads more like a play and so on. But, the number of allegories, metaphors, symbolism and literary references are rich and evocative of both what Dublin must have been like at the turn of the last century, and what it must have been like for a number of those who inhabited it at that time. It feels of the time, and yet is still so relevant today. The characters are struggling through similar challenges. Whether Stephen Dedalus, depressed about his mother's death or Leopold Bloom wandering about Dublin encountering the everyday characters. The whole of Homer's Odyssey parallel is strong.
There is too much to say in a short review, but suffice it to say it is worth an attempt if you haven’t tried the book, to see a master writer at work! It isn’t an easy read - or even listen, as in my case - as it is so packed full of meaning, but also because the form styles change so frequently I think, as well as the type of language used – from slang to old English sometimes in the same paragraph. It is well known to be a book that some don't get to the end. I feel like I climbed a mountain, and I'm sure I'd have to reread it to understand it – which says more about me than the book. And, it will be a book that will remain part of our literary culture for many years to come. Joyce’s fans - who celebrate Bloomsday - will help keep the book alive.