Monday, August 15, 2016

Completed: The Most Dangerous Book


There's something about this book that really was peak-nerd for me: reading a book about another book. Lol.

As you know, I read Ulysses in college and was super into it. It just hit every single one of my book-loving bells. I took a class on James Joyce, another just on Ulysses, and also wrote my senior thesis about it. You asked about reading it again, and it's actually been on my mind a lot.  I think it would take the whole year, and ideally, we'd find someone else reading it online or podcasts, etc. It's such a communal effort and I think it might be something worth checking out---with structure and support, we could definitely come up with a Ulysses in 2017 plan. There might be a woman in my book club who's interested, and it might also be fun to have a few more people...Let's talk about it.

There are so many books published about Ulysses, but this one got a lot of attention for being approachable and aimed at a general audience. The subject of the book isn't so much Ulysses itself, but rather the charges of obscenity against the book and ways in which it was censored. As it turns out, the post office plays a really big role in censorship. Because most things were mailed, the post office had the power to censor works they thought were obscene. The whole tangled story of how the post office would find--and burn!--obscene materials was fascinating. I definitely felt like I fell into one of the historical rabbit holes where you learn a bunch of really weird shit about the ins and outs of American government.

The other big part of the book detailed the struggles of many people to bring the book to publication. Obviously, there are descriptions of Joyce's struggles with his health, eyesight, and alcoholism (although I don't know if that word was every used, it certainly seems accurate). The stress and strain on Joyce is well-documented, and I actually skipped a two page description of an eye-surgery. Ee. But we also meet Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Co, Ezra Pound, a New York financier, John Quinn, and many others who tried to publish Ulysses. Joyce must have been a real son of a bitch to work with, that's for sure.

The book ends with the trial that finally makes the work legal by declaring it a classic and therefore not subject to obscenity laws.

I'm not really doing this review justice. It was a great book! I dog-eared lots of interesting passages about obscenity, modernism, the role of the modern courts, and the meaning of art. But for whatever reason, perhaps the panic of knowing I only have one more week off, and would love to knock another book off my list, I'm just going to wrap it up and try moving along to the next thing.


1 comment:

  1. "The most dangerous book" -- that is a BIG title to live up to! But this review makes me want to read Ulysses. This year has not been so great for our TBR project, but let's start talking *now* about a 2017 plan.