In college I was in the Honors Program. That meant that all of my required classes were replaced with honors classes where the size was limited to 25 students. It also meant putting up with a lot of elitist bullshit from the director of the program who would have benefited greatly from the surgical removal of a large stick.

More significantly, for me at least, it meant that there was always summer reading. The first two years, I chose pre-prepared lists that introduced me to Kazantzakis and to more Waugh than I knew existed. The third year, I decided I was going to read Joyce.

I went to John Ehrstine, the English faculty member who'd been supervising my summer reading. Ehrstine was an old-style humanist. When I'd go in to talk to him, he'd always ask me what I was reading. And, inevitably, he'd ask me "But what are you reading for your imagination?" Frye's The Educated Imagination was gospel for him. We agreed that I'd read Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses.

It was a good summer of reading. I can still remember lying on the lawn after work, Ulysses open in front of me, Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses and a copy of The Odyssey ready-to-hand. All I really remember about the summer is reading Joyce, especially the delight of such sentences as "Please ptake some ptarmigan."

I'm on my 100-day break from contracting at Microsoft. And my imagination is feeling shriveled, exhausted. So, I've decided to see if I can find some of the delight and pleasure of that summer so many decades past by re-reading Joyce. Might be time to read Frye, again, too.

So far I've read the first three stories in Dubliners. I'm amazed by their naturalistic realism which is still instinct with meaning. In "The Encounter," you can actually draw the route the boys take on a map of Dublin. But, at the same time, the man they encounter in the field, who brings them confused and perhaps unwelcome news from the world of adulthood, has the green eyes of Odysseus. "Araby" has the same naturalism and yet includes hints of the Grail myths. I've been reading mostly genre fiction for the last eight months and had forgotten how much depth could be under the surface of a narrative.

I'm enjoying the reading. And maybe this time I'll get to Finnegan's Wake.


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