Banned Book Week, Day 2: The oh-so-very obscene “Ulysses” by James Jones

It’s rare that a book is banned before it’s even published, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller comes to mind, but that is what happened to Ulysses by James Jones. Banned in both England and the US to protect the “delicate sensibilities of women”, publishers took their case to court and won! Seriously, the delicate sensibilities of women!? Aren’t we, as women, all tired of people deciding for us what might offend our sensibilities!?

So what exactly is Ulysses? An amazingly long book, Ulysses tells the story in great detail of one day in the life of Dubliners in the early 20th century. It is a stream of consciousness centering on the life of Leopold Bloom and his friends. Critics have complained for over a century that Joyce’s lack of punctuation, run on sentences, interior monologues, etc., made this one of the worst, not best, pieces of literature. Thankfully, people all over the world disagree.

I first read Ulysses in HIGH SCHOOL – apparently one of my literature teachers was well ahead of her time since I also read Vonnegut, Camus, Sartre and more in her class which is unheard of in today’s high school programs. At the time, Ulysses was enigma to me. I wasn’t mature enough or well read enough to fully comprehend it but I still am appreciative of that early introduction. I re-read it at University and again as a homeschool mother teaching my own kids. Yes, there is profound cursing. Yes, there is masturbation. Oh, hello? Because “delicate sensibilities” don’t curse or hear it daily? Teenagers don’t masturbate – as do adults? Please. If you’re going to do it then you should read it as well! Ulysses was and is a marvelous piece of literature and, hopefully, you have read it. If not, why not? It will take you FOREVER to read but it is worth it!!

So that you know, Ulysses also has been burned in the United States, England, Canada and Ireland. Whew, so glad we are nothing like those Nazis, aren’t you?

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