Michael Coffey

  • culture June 14, 2012

    Fathers and Sons in 'Ulysses'

    As Bloomsday approaches, a poet turns to James Joyce's Ulysses in search of wisdom—an epiphany—regarding fatherhood. But what he finds in the book isn't a sense of resolution so much as a liberation from it.

    Often, we make sense of our lives by making sense of other people’s lives. We strive to understand our mother or father or sister or spouse; sometimes a child; even a stranger, someone we never actually knew. Sometimes we turn to places—a city, a town, a country—home. Sometimes we turn to things—substances, a hobby, a game. And sometimes we turn to books.

    The first great book I ever read, and the only great book I’ve read as many as five or six times since, is Ulysses. That said, I still don’t understand it completely. Perhaps that’s why I return to it.

    I did so again last June, when, as I