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I’m pretty sure I was a jerk in college. I leaned a lot on the modernists, though I only read them for class. This year I decided to try their books again to see if my critical apparatus has shifted. Not that I’m not a jerk now. I just try to be more subtle about it and not say things like critical apparatus.

I started with Ulysses, which had been my “favorite book” for almost a decade. It might actually be best served by a classroom’s steady rhythm. The individuality of each chapter inhibits flow and memory either way. But without the contextual academic drive, I had the space to learn that Ulysses is really funny.

I first tried to read Ulysses when I was 18, in Turkey, and trying to get over a crush. I remember working through the first two chapters with pride. I read it on the beach while my shirtless friend jet-skied with a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend, and then on a long bus ride from Bodrum to Istanbul, in the course of which I ate a strange, soporific yogurt that knocked me out halfway through “Proteus.” When I woke up I surrendered and read like 15 John Grishams instead, shedding them across two continents as I went.

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