interview that James Joyce's Ulysses was "harmful" to literature, basically all style over substance. Coelho has his own new book to flog, and saying something controversial – such as dismissing great works of literature – is always a good way to get your name in the papers and on the Internet.
Coelho is also quite full of himself. He's proclaimed himself a literary "wizard" and that his writing is the pinnacle of literature because he makes the "difficult seem easy." No ego on this one at all, is there? Of course, Coelho isn't the first writer to have a go at Joyce. Roddy Doyle, Dale Peck and the overrated Jonathan Franzen have all dismissed Joyce as too literary for the unwashed masses. Coelho goes a step further and proclaims that "there is nothing there" in Ulysses. This from the man who who basically recycled a fable from One Thousand and One Nights and claimed it was his own original fiction. That's The Alchemist, by the way.
I came to Joyce in the late 80s by way of the John Huston's film adaption of The Dead and Kate Bush's song "The Sensual World," which uses Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses as its inspiration. In fairly short order I read Dubliners, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and even wandered through Finnegan's Wake, which is surely the most convoluted novel ever written. And while Ulysses can be a slog, I've read it three times. I love the stream of consciousness, the humor, the flights of fancy Joyce took on writing this day-in-the-life of Leopold Bloom. Is it flawed? Yes. There are still parts of it that are enigmatic and full of personal meaning that flummox readers, but I like that. I don't want my literature to be cut and dry. I don't want easy. I want to be challenged by what I read. I want flawed characters without clear motivations and who are, sometimes, hard to empathize with. In one of the early reviews of my novel, Conquering Venus, the writer harangued about the character of Diane Jacobs and how unlikable she was, even calling her an "irredeemable cunt." It's still one of my favorite reviews, because the writer was so passionate about his hatred for this fictional character. Critics labeled the characters in Ulysses as despicable and there was even an obscenity trial in the US in 1933. But Ulysses is a giant in literature and I love it for all its meandering, dirty ways.
Perhaps, Coelho should stick to writing his fables and read Fifty Shades of Grey instead. I'll take the "difficult" and original any day.