Vagabond Librarian

Reports from the intersection of military life, motherhood, & librarianship.



Book Review: Ulysses

I wonder if it is possible to write a rational book review of this notoriously difficult and consistently praised novel. The unique style of Ulysses does not lend itself to a standard issue review. I loved the brilliance and humor that shown throughout this work, but I loathed the overwrought cleverness that weighed it down. I appreciate how mind-blowingly revolutionary it must’ve been at the time it was written and that its structure and prose are still freshly innovative today.

I didn’t struggle with Ulysses the way I did on my first two abandoned attempts, which probably can be attributed to following a reading schedule and digesting each section one at a time. I decided not to explore any of the reading guides or summaries of the work prior to reading. I respect that a reader’s guide may have eased my journey through the work, but I was worried it would influence my reactions and detract from the experience of connecting to Ulysses as a unique reader. I found a stripped-of-all-notes, no distractions, unabridged copy of the book, and simply dug in.

I appreciate Joyce’s technique and experiments with style. I found his echoes of, and connections to, other literary works rather fun. I, in turns, enjoyed Joyce’s cleverness and found that cleverness eye-rollingly overdone. My greatest joy in reading Ulysses was finding the literary gifts sprinkled throughout, and encountering the passages in the work where a character’s stream of consciousness rang true in gloriously jumbled cadence. I found Molly’s segment absolutely brilliant in this regard, and was happy to close Ulysses with the feeling of exhilaration Molly’s thoughts brought with them.

My biggest disappointment in this novel is that I want to feel caught up in the undertow of a novel, especially one that deals in intimate point of view and stream of consciousness, but I just didn’t feel caught up in this as a whole work. I understand the fascination of literary scholars who spend decades plumbing the depths of Ulysses for treasure or working to solve the puzzles strewn throughout by Joyce. I am certain I will revisit individual sections of this work to deepen my understanding of them, but I don’t feel compelled to return to Ulysses as a complete novel.

Ulysses is a remarkable exploration of style and experiment in stream of consciousness, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to recommend it. For any friends with a desire to read Ulysses, I would say “Go for it!” and offer all the support they’d like as they work their way through it. To friends expressing a desire to wade into modernist literature, I would instead recommend picking up Faulkner, Eliot, Woolf, or Pound. My first choice is anything by Faulkner, whose writing I love, though I’m understanding of anyone who doesn’t connect with his world and style. The Sound and The Fury is my personal favorite by Faulkner, but Light in August is better on which to cut one’s teeth. Other enjoyable examples of modernist writing are The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and anything by Ezra Pound, who I think is a true craftsman. Alternatively, I’d recommend picking up the latest by George Saunders, who explores style, plot, and character in the strange and magical Lincoln in the Bardo, a novel which is uniquely structured and particularly fun to read–and doesn’t require additional guides, notes, or interpretations to understand.

Links to Further Explore Ulysses

Brilliant “Ulysses to go (James Joyce in 18 minutes, English version)” as told with Playmobil by Sommer’s World Literature to go

Salman Rushdie Recaps ‘Ulysses’ in 20 Seconds

Bloom (2003) Produced By Odyssey Pictures

I watched this film after completing my reading. I enjoyed how closely the film followed the dialogue of the book, though it is somewhat simplified in certain segments, which was no doubt necessary to fit this entire day into 113 minutes. I was glad I watched it after I finished the book, but I think it could be helpful to struggling readers to watch when they get bogged down a few chapters in. From IMDb: Adapted from James Joyce’s Ulysses, Bloom is the enthralling story of June 16th, 1904 and a gateway into the consiousness of its three main characters: Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom and the extraordinary Leopold Bloom. 

James Joyce’s Dublin: The Ulysses Tour (2007)

This documentary was more enthusiastically delivered summaries for each chapter than tourism video, though the narrator, Robert Nicholson, does present each segment on location in Dublin. Nicholson’s love of Joyce’s work, and of Dublin itself, make this a fun alternative to written summaries of UlyssesFrom product packaging: Although James Joyce spent much of his adult life in self-imposed exile from his native Dublin, the beloved Irish city retained a firm grip on his imagination, serving as the center of his literary universe. This documentary reveals that universe through a detailed tour of the city and the author’s favorite haunts. James Joyce Museum curator Robert Nicholson serves as the guide, sharing his extensive knowledge of the man and his works.

My Reader Response: Ulysses

3D Printers, Creativity, and Innovation

Do-it-yourself!Creativity and innovation are at the heart of my library school experience at Syracuse University. 3D Printing is an innovative technology being adopted by some public and school libraries as a tool to foster innovation and creativity. In my Motivating 21st Century Learners course, we were asked to think of ways 3D printers could encourage creativity and innovation in the library classroom–this post is based on our classroom discussions and my investigation of that question.

I first heard about 3D printers in libraries during my introductory library course in summer 2011. Since then, I have wrestled with “That is the coolest thing ever!” and “Do we really need more little plastic things in the world?” I love the makerspace concept, and support the use of all libraries as collaborative creation spaces. I’m still not sold on libraries as individual manufacturing centers through 3D printing, though. For this reason, I framed my 3D printer investigation to look for ideas that foster creativity as well as information about the materials used in 3D printing. After a few weeks of investigation, I’m starting to see how 3D printing, in the big scheme of things, personalizes production so that we are ending up with (eventually) fewer plastic things in the world made en masse, and more original items of our own invention. I like the potential for 3D printers to use recycled materials, garbage, and other renewable resources in the production process. I want a 3D printer of my own. Do I think they are great tools for all libraries? No. Do I think they are great tools for some libraries. Yes.

Here’s why the “No.” Most of the ideas we came up with and read about for using 3D printers in the elementary and secondary library classroom environment could be accomplished through more accessible and less expensive means. Now that I have that ugly reality out of the way, I want to share a few of the ideas that I’d love to try in my library classroom one day when I get my possibly-unnecessary-but-totally-awesome 3D printer!

At the heart of our challenge for this assignment was innovation, which requires learners to employ a number of inquiry skills and to engage on multiple cognitive levels. Also important to this assignment was encouraging students to engage in the creation process–to use prior knowledge as a context for new learning, engage in problem solving and critical thinking, and contribute to an exchange of ideas to collaborate with others.

One method of employing 3D printing tools to encourage innovation is to ask students to look for a problem in their school or home life that they would like to solve. Students could browse Thingiverse to see examples and start brainstorming, and then be given time to get out into the world to discover a problem they could solve. They could improve the design of something they already use every day, or come up with something completely new.

Another method of fostering creativity is to incorporate 3D printing tools into interpreting and sharing stories. As a creative project, students could be asked to invent something that represents what they are reading, or to solve a problem for the characters in the story. Then students could present their creation along with an explanation of the process through which they interpreted and developed it. Students could then debrief the design and manufacturing process. This would have students pull from a number of different subject areas to interpret a story and learn more about a variety of elements from the story and symbolism—as well as learn to interact with and navigate online 3D printing communities and support to generate ideas and learn the manufacturing process.

One of my favorite ideas for fostering creativity and innovation using 3D printers in the classroom was suggested by my classmate Jenny, and did not require the students to ever even touch a 3D printer. Her suggestion was to involve students in determining through research which printer would best meet their school’s needs, and then make recommendations of whether the investment would be a good one for the school.

I’m excited to learn more about 3D printers. I’d love to hear your 3D printing experiences and ideas.
Maker Librarian, a site dedicated to providing resources about participatory librarianship, maker spaces, and hacker spaces, provides a number of useful links to informative articles and videos about the 3D printing process, 3D printers, and the intellectual property questions that accompany 3D printing.

I found a cool review of some popular 3D printers here, titled 3D Printer Round-up: Cube 3D, UP!, and Solidoodle, from Hot Hardware: The hottest tech, tested and burned in.

And, here is the article, 3D Printing Tech: The Big Green Implications, from TG Daily that inspired me to think about the eventual green possibilities of 3D printing.


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