Spurred on by an upcoming MeetUp group meeting in January, I have decided to finally read James Joyce's difficult masterpiece Ulysses. That task begins tomorrow.
Tonight I focused on the 1933 Court decision that allowed Ulysses into the US, after being banned for alleged obscenity. The decision, by the Honorable John M. Woolsey, is a marvel of writing in its own right. The ruling is included in most copies of Ulysses.
Woolsey's ultimate reason for allowing the sale of Ulysses is that it was not obscene; he did not utilize pure "free speech" grounds of the kind that are familiar today. Along the way there is blatant classism and a pretty sophisticated understanding of how to interpret a work of literature.
Some choice quotes--I am using quotation marks around the title to honor the judge's style:
"[O]n account of the length of 'Ulysses' and the difficulty of reading it, a jury trial would have been an extremely unsatisfactory, if not an almost impossible, method of dealing with it."
"'Ulysses' is not an easy book to read or understand...The study of 'Ulysses' is, therefore, a heavy task."
This passage is truly beautiful: "Joyce has attempted--it seems to me, with astonishing success--to show how the screen of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries, as it were on a plastic palimpsest, not only what is in the focus of each man's observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious."
And now, a defense of artistic integrity: "If Joyce did not attempt to be honest in developing the technique which he has adopted in 'Ulysses' the result would be psychologically misleading and thus unfaithful to his chosen technique. Such an attitude would be artistically inexcusable."
Introducing the word "funked": "It is because Joyce has been loyal to his technique and has not funked its necessary implications..."
Just plain hilarious, albeit with ethnic stereotyping: "In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring." You've gotta love those Irish Junes!
Classism: "If one does not wish to associate with such folk as Joyce describes, that is one's own choice. In order to avoid indirect contact with them one may not wish to read 'Ulysses''; that is quite understandable." Quite.
And, the clincher: "[M]y considered opinion, after long reflection, is that whilst in many places the effect of 'Ulysses' on the reader is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.
"'Ulysses' may, therefore, be admitted into the United States."