This past summer, when the Modern Library drew up a list of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century, nobody was surprised that James Joyce’s Ulysses came out the big winner. Quality, versatility, and innovation explain why this novel has pushed ahead of Brave New World, Mrs. Dalloway, and the rest of the competition to join the company of all-time ‘number ones’ like Coke, Nike, and Celine Dion. All of these icons deserve the attention of the savvy student of global business (make no mistake about it—literature is a business), but Ulysses, in particular, not only serves as an example of what it takes to be the best, but also can and should be read.
It’s no conventional novel; it also works as a primer for breakthrough success in the global economy as the new millennium revs its engine. Sure, Ulysses is tough reading, but if you’re ready to climb into the no-holds barred ring of number ones, you can’t be afraid of a challenge.
Leave it to the literary historians to figure out why Joyce’s publishers didn’t hire a ghostwriter to help iron out such wrinkly phrases as ‘ineluctable modality’ and ‘phenomenon of ebullition’. What you need is a simple-to-follow guide to the business wisdom of Ulysses.
Look no further! Think of the novel as an acronym spelling out the 7 essential strategies for success in the new millennium:
U is for Use your head!
‘One man in armour will beat ten men in their shirts.’ (p. 520 [all page references are to the 1969 Penguin paperback-the most austere-looking edition available])
You may be fearless, innovative, brilliant, and tough as the leather seats of a Lexus, but never forget-you’re human. Even the greatest titans are vulnerable. Think ofBill Gates. That’s why you’ve got to arm yourself. Build yourself the most indestructible fortress of lawyers you can afford. Electronically encrypt all your sensitive files. Never give in to the demands of employees and never listen to the demands of labor unions. Remember, Ulysses takes its name from the bravest and most resourceful of the classical warriors. Is Ulysses tough? It’s impenetrable.
L is for Let yourself innovate!
‘Poor Oignam! His last lie on the earth in this box. When you think of them all it does seem a waste of wood. All gnawed through. They could invent a handsome bier with a kind of panel sliding let it down that way.’ (p. 111)
In this scene, Mr. Bloom attends a funeral, but our hero never succumbs to the depressing side of the ritual. Every occasion for contemplation is an occasion to what?—to innovate. Sentiment and obsolete tradition are cast aside in favor of a simple and cost-effective solution. Notice how he briefly considers the environmental cost of coffins before zeroing in on the technological advancement necessary for remaining competitive.
Y is for ‘Y’ pay more?
‘Why pay more?’ (p. 504)
Ulysses is full of these nuggets of hard-earned wisdom that will be as relevant in the new millennium as they were back in 1922.
S is for Stay on target!
‘Good idea that. Wonder if he pays rent to the corporation. How can you own water really? It’s always flowing in a stream, never the same, which in the stream of life we trace. Because life is a stream. All kinds of places are good for ads.’ (p. 153′)
Mr. Bloom has his dreamy side. A finely carved statue might turn his head. At the sight of a pretty young girl, he might forget his business obligations for a few minutes. And flowing water prompts him to philosophise a bit.But before too long, he comes back down to the bottom line, hammering out the kind of timeless business wisdom that is going to make the difference between winners and losers in the new millennium. Ads can go anywhere! Even between the covers of a world-famous novel! Ulysses is no stranger to the synergy of product placement. Do you think that Kino’s Trousers, Or. Hy Franks, Plumtree’s Potted Meats, Maginni’s Dance Studio, and Plasto’s Hygrade Hats all made it into the book out of the goodness of the author’s heart? Not a chance. They had exclusive contracts.
S is for Smile!
‘Father Cornnee doffed his silk hat, as he took leave, at the jet beads of her mantilla ink shining in the sun. And smiled yet again in going. He had cleaned his teeth, he knew with arecanut paste.” (p. 219)
It’s amazing how many people forget the power of a simple smile. Smiles open doors. Smiles tell the world you’re confident, relaxed, versatile, and innovative, and they serve as an essential reminder to yourself that, in. today’s competitive global economy, the most important thing may be to look like you know what you’re doing. But the price of a big smile is eternal vigilance. Father Conmee maintained his with arecanut paste; we recommend the latest professional bonding and laser-whitening procedures.
E is for Enthusiasm counts!
‘yes I said yes I will Yes.’ (p. 704)
While Mr. Bloom is out all day selling ads, his wife Molly is anything but idle. She’s a female archetype for the newmillennium, taking care of the household and working f away in the home ofice.
S is for Save time!
‘Reading two pages apiece of seven books every night, eh?’ (p. 46)
We heartily endorse this method of hitting the books. In just over two weeks, we’re ready to claim to have read all 100 of the novels on Modem Library’s list. That leaves the other 50 weeks of the year to read really important books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
It’s that simple,U-L-Y-S-S-E-S: 7 essentialstrategies for success in the new millennium. (If you’ve got them memorised, you might even consider skipping the book.)
Ironically, the author of the century’s number-one novel never amounted to much himself. James Joyce failed as a singer, a movie mogul, a bank clerk, and a wool salesman, and his other novels contain surprisingly little in the way of business wisdom. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man offers nothing but a jumble of tips for authors hoping to make the bestseller list, and Finnegans Wake disastrously overestimates the patience and intellectual grasp of its core demographic.
Furthermore, the creator of Ulysses never saw much of a profit. The history of the book itself, however, is a classic tale of business stick-to-itiveness—rising up from obscurity and briefly flirting with infamy before elbowing its way into the canon and clawing its way up to number one. Early on, the book faced incredible hardships. Three chapters were confiscated and burned by the U.S. Post Office. It was accused of obscenity by the secretary of the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice, and a messy trial ensued. But, as O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky learned this past decade, messy trials mean publicity, and publicity means brand recognition. Pretty soon, all the trendy and cutting-edge ‘alternative’ types were snatching up Ulysses, and this crucial demographic helped build the novel’s cachet without wearing away its special something.
Ulysses won the court case. James Joyce immediately seized on the significance of this victory, writing to a friend: ‘Thus one half of the English-speaking world surrenders. The other half will follow.’ Amen to that! Ulysses conquered the fickle American market, and from there it took the global scene by storm, increasing its market share and the value of its brand name with each passing year.