One of my students, a bright, articulate young man, has asked me to advise him on his IB Extended Essay (EE), a 4,000 word paper on the topic of the candidate's choice. After reading Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin he has decided to compare it to James Joyce's Ulysses. Ambitious, to say the least. He wants to focus on narrative structure and style, which, based on some quick Googling, seems like it may work. Given that I've never read Ulysses, I can't give a definitive assurance, but I think it's an admirable endeavor even if he falls short (and if he doesn't? This will be awesome). The kid doesn't even intend on being an English major. Baffling.
I've always felt this nagging guilt about now tackling Ulysses, which is said to be one of the most important modern texts. I obviously haven't felt guilty enough, though, since up until a few days ago I didn't even own a copy. So not only am I reading this for myself, I'm reading it for my student, in case he has questions (because I'll be able to answer them? Ha!). It's a lot of literary responsibility.
Apprehensions aside, I'm excited to take on this challenge. I haven't really taken on any sort of heavy-lifting in this area for awhile, the last one being my quest to finish Don Delillos Underworld (which still confuses me). I met with the student the other day and here's the game plan (at least on my end):
Read the Book
I ordered the Gabler Edition, which is apparently the way to go. It's somewhere around seven hundred pages, which is pretty daunting. It's divided into eighteen sections, each after part of The Odyssey. I'm reading it on the same schedule as the student, as of right now we're trying to complete it by the end of the school year.
Review The Odyssey
I've read this within the last few years, so just a little brush up will be needed (I read it for a Coursera class). I'll reread applicable summaries before each section so I can draw the appropriate parallels. The student isn't focusing on this, but the pairing is obviously unavoidable.
Use the Annotated Version
I am not Irish, nor have I (sadly) never been to Ireland. I bought Don Gifford's annotated version to helps navigate some of language and to provide some context.
Reread Let the Great World Spin
This I'm basically excited about (I have mixed feelings about rereading, since I have so many books I haven't read). I haven't read this book for a few years and since it's the main point of comparison, I'll have to give it another go.
Do Some Research
I'm not planning on researching for the student, but I do want to make srue I'm handling his queries appropriately.
A lot of people set out to read this book and fail. As long as my student perseveres, I will too.