Liam Neeson has read 31 books in lockdown including Ulysses, Crime and Punishment

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Liam Neeson was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel from his home in New York City. He told Jimmy he’d been in upstate New York prior to that. How do I say this? Liam, 68, looks his age. He has a patchy beard and those are always aging. He just looked tired and like any random old white guy. The last time we really talked about Liam was early 2019 when he was saying absolutely awful things about trying to hunt down random Black men for over a week in his youth because he wanted someone to pay for raping his friend when he found out, months after it happened. All Black men are the same to him. The fact that 1. he did that and 2. thought it was suitable story to tell and to defend, tells me everything I need to know about him. A couple of months after he told that story he did apologize, but it was way too late.

Liam told Jimmy that he has read over 30 books in lockdown including Ulysses and Crime and Punishment. He said he’s been reading physical books but he’s also reading on Kindle, which he likes because it’s backlit. After that he talked about taking computer science in college in the 70s and Jimmy and Liam bro’d out over fishing. Liam is promoting Honest Thief, which is out next week in the scant few theaters still open. Kate Walsh is in it as the love interest, and at least she’s age appropriate. She killed it in Umbrella Academy. Here’s more of what Liam told Jimmy. Both of these men are who we think they are.

He’s been reading a lot
I’ve actually read [about] 31 books… including James Joyce’s Ulysses and Crime and Punishment, which I had attempted to read like four or five times. It doesn’t help because every Russian character in the novel has three different names so that was a lot to get through.

I’m in my mid 60s, not to have read James Joyce as an Irishman, [it] changed the face of European literature, not to have read that I felt very guilty. Anybody who hasn’t read it before you should read it very fast because the whole book’s like a stream of consciousness.

His “cup of tea test” for scripts
I have my cup of tea test. If I open the script and start reading. If after page five or six I want to get up and make a cup of tea that’s not a good sign.

On how he almost auditioned for Andre The Giant’s part in Princess Bride
I didn’t audition but I was living in London and I was asked to go and meet Rob Reiner the director. I entered the office in London and Rob Reiner looked at me and said ‘he’s not a giant. What height are you?’ I said six foot four.

‘That’s tall, he’s not a giant.’ There was no hello, thank you. I thought ‘next time I see Rob Reiner I’m going to tell him he was very rude.’ He’s made Spinal Tap, he’s forgiven.

[From Jimmy Kimmel Live on YouTube]

Can you imagine if Liam casually mentioned that he’d read something that might help him, both image-wise and personal-growth wise, like The Autobiography of Malcom X, How to Be an Antiracist, White Fragility, etc? Instead he spent a lot of time reading an almost unfathomable (sorry Joyce fans and Irish people!) text because that’s what he cares about. He said he felt “guilty” not having read it before. You know if he read any social science books he would have mentioned it. It’s hard to see Liam Neeson interviews and not see him as a raging racist. No shade on reading though, it’s a good time to be reading. My mom told me she’s been reading a lot more in lockdown and she loves it. I’m still falling asleep watching YouTube. I need to get out of that habit.

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48 Responses to “Liam Neeson has read 31 books in lockdown including Ulysses, Crime and Punishment”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    I wasn’t able to read in lockdown…
    but I read Crime and punishment when I was 18.
    I have friends who read the Ulysses and after they are not the same person: they say that book changes you. They all seem on crack, I swear. I wish I had the gut to try!

    • Monette says:

      I tried, I really really tried, for 100 pages. But it was pure torture. Maybe because I am not Irish, or because I read it in my language and not english.
      Every page has 3 to 8 references that mean nothing to me. It was like a history lesson. Sometimes a painfully dull one.
      I have other easier to read book. Sorry Joyce!
      I’m loving and devouring Short history of mankind by Harari.

      • Esmom says:

        I couldn’t make it through Harari’s book, I found it profoundly depressing. It was probably partially because it was fairly early in the lockdown when things were extra surreal.

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        We had to read both in school. (As world classics.)

        I loved Crime and Punishment (and Russian realism in general), but Ulysses was pure torture. Proust, too.

        But Neeson’s Irish so Joyce might speak to him more.

      • Eleonor says:

        @Nanny: I tried to read Proust.
        In French.
        No way. Speaking of French I loved Flaubert more than anything.

      • clomo says:

        I read Trainspotting, I know it’s not the caliber of Ulysses or Dostoevsky but it was the first book I had read at that point that needed it’s own dictionary in the back. I can’t read the old bibles as it’s like trying to break a code. Those super long novels are hard to read, especially if you don’t have a lot of spare time as it’s confusing trying to keep track of characters. I sometimes make family trees or notes in 500+ pages. Anton Chehov short stories are a nice way to beak into Russian literature easily, before you dare tackle War and Peace. I know Thurber gets a bad rap but he was from a different era so I forgive it, but I was just reading Catbird Seat and was giggling throughout the short story. He could be so many guys, short stories are fun too.

      • Ashley says:

        Eleanor – I tried to read Proust, but not in French. That was the dream but it was never realized. Proust is hard. I really only was interested in Swann and Odette because I ended up writing a paper on Swan’s obsessive love for a psych class (I chose the topic 🤦🏻‍♀️). It’s so so hard that book. I think you need to be in that mindset to get through it.

    • Celebitchy says:

      I tried to read Ulysses, I should have mentioned that, but I’m a writer as you know and I got ragey at trying to understand it.

      • Wiglet Watcher says:

        C&P and Ulysses are very difficult reads for anyone. Add in paradise lost and it’s the trifecta of books I can’t understand

      • another Nina says:

        @Wiglet Watcher In my opinion, C&P is the easiest of all the books, written by Fyodor Michaylovich. It was part of a regular school program in 9th grade and I remember that I enjoyed reading it at 15…

    • TeamMeg says:

      Ulysses is on my ‘next up’ list. (Just finished a biography of Gertrude Stein, which got me in the mood lol.) Modernism is not for everyone, that’s for sure. Sometimes it seems like a bunch of word salady nonsense, Gertrude in particular. But I do love Virginia Woolf—read To the Lighthouse twice. Not sure about Joyce. Certainly worth a try…

      • Eleonor says:

        I know those are tough; I have a litterature degree and I will be forever in love with THE Russians (all of them) and some of the French: I have read Flaubert, in french, looking for every. Single. Word I didn’t know, it took me forever but it was worth it, that was a testament of my love for him!
        Before Joyce I was going to read Virginia Woolf it seems a fine approach, I don’t know why. I have in my list “A room of One’s own”. And after, if everything is ok To the Lighthouse.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I took a Russian lit class in high school, so that’s when I read Crime & Punishment, too. That’s one that I didn’t care for; otherwise I love the Russian writers. As for Ulysses–try the audiobook. I got through more (though still not all) that way.

  2. Esmom says:

    Ugh, my brain had blanked out his racist sh^t, thanks for the reminder. Not that I would be seeking out any of his films anyway.

    I have had trouble reading, my favorite pastime, ever since Trump was elected. I go through phases where it gets better and I can read more. Right now I am in a decent reading groove. Just read Emily St. John Mandel’s new one, The Glass Hotel, in two days. It’s so nice to get lost in another world. But it can be so hard right now.

  3. Amy Bee says:

    I was going to say, let’s hope he read some books about being anti-racist. I think if he had he would have mentioned one or two. Pity.

  4. SJ Knows says:

    Why are these old white actors still turning out lousy revenge/action movies, in which their female costars are 15-25 years younger?
    Liam, Gibson, Harrison Ford = Ugh.

    Go away. Retire, start a charity, get a non public hobby. The endless garbage they spout because they are doing PR for some straight to streaming movie, no thanks.
    Btw, Liam telling that story was a huge Show.Your.Ass. move on his part, that is who he is folks.

    James Joyce was a torture to read during school, War & Peace too.

  5. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    I doubt books like How to be an antiracist and White fragility are read by those who should read them. They’re read by those who already agree with the message.

    • Straighthair says:

      +1 But I’d bet to this day he’s still angry about it and still thinks he’s not a racist.

  6. Jo73c says:

    I didn’t even make it through the first page of Ulysses, and I’m probably never going to bother with Dostoyevsky either. I don’t feel any guilt about it whatsoever. I love reading, and I’ll read books I love to read rather than ones that are a drag, but will make me seem ‘intellectual’ on a talk show.
    Also, who counts how many books they’ve read?

    • Kezia says:

      I do!
      It’s been my Yew Year resolution for the last few years to get back into reading as the internet and constant scrolling has seemingly broken my brain. So I made a list last year of how many I read and try to beat it the following year (unsurprisingly I have it beat& i can thank the pandemic for that). I find it helpful too, as I forget books after I’ve read them.

  7. FHMom says:

    I haven’t read any books at all during lockdown. Instead, I’ve done 3 online newspaper subscriptions and read them all day long. Maybe that’s why I’m so tense these days. I would be better off reading something I can escape into.

    • Darla says:

      Yes, I struggled for two years to get back into reading which has always been a passion of mine. But I finally did, and it’s so restorative. See if you can start again, doesn’t matter what it is, anything you might enjoy. It’s so good for stress I feel.

  8. helonearth says:

    Can we also address the truly hideous dye job?

    Again and again I see this in older male Hollywood stars. With their money, why can’t they get a professional to sort out their hair if they want to colour it.

  9. Darla says:

    I read The Idiot in the aughts and I really enjoyed it. I would not attempt ulysses, and anyone I’ve ever known who said they read it was a very pretentious person. I just can’t with that. Mostly I like detective novels and history. Right now I’m reading Reaganland by the same author of Nixonland which I just loved. But I am mostly into detective and murder mysteries. It’s an escape and I treasure that.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I like detective & murder mysteries, too, but the last few years I could only handle the lighter variety. Right now I’m reading ‘Bad Day at the Vulture Club’, by Vaseem Khan. The investigator is a retired Mumbai cop & his trusty assistant is…a baby elephant named Ganesha. I love these books!

  10. Veronica S. says:

    I’ve done more writing than reading, but I have gotten through at least ten. First 2-3 months of lockdown, I couldn’t get my brain to focus, though. Never read Ulysses, but I admit Crime and Punishment is one of my favorite classic novels, though I laughed at his comment about the names because YES OH MY GOD IT’S SO TRUE. It’s a huge cultural divide there that makes it so hard to track at first. I had to have a character sheet.

    Did reread some of Crichton’s early 90s novels, and hoo boy, did he have it called on capitalism. He knew what was coming. Which makes the fact that he did not believe in global warming so much funnier and bizarre lol.

  11. aang says:

    I used to love Liam Neeson. As far as Irish authors go Roddy Doyle is my absolute favorite. The language he uses is lol funny and his portraits of working class families hit home with me. Philip Roth has been my go to author during the trump years. I feel that he explains the US in a way that I recognize. It is harder to read fiction for me right now but I’m always so glad when I make myself do it.

  12. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    I have pretty much sworn off tv and been reading since lockdown and retiring. My TBR pile is out of control if I am honest. I have a pretty eclectic reading list for the most part. Once I get an interest in a subject I am all in and currently it’s the UFO phenomenon (#notsorry) Currently reading “Into The Fringe: A True Story of Alien Abduction” by Dr. Karla Turner Ph.D and while I consider myself an open minded skeptic, this book is seriously creeping me out. Highly recommend if you like that sort of stuff. I should have started with “Taken” but I saw this one first.
    I read the Iliad and the Odyssey, I have read everything Tolkien has written and I STILL cannot get through Ulysses no matter what…I start out with determination then about 25 pages in, I am waking up with the book on the floor, so yeahhhhh.
    Also, reading has helped keep my mind off the shitshow that is truly 2020, so why not aliens and UFO’s?????

    • BeanieBean says:

      Hey, MerlinsMom–you might want to check out the annual UFOFestival in McMinnville, Oregon–when it’s safe to congregate again. You would love it!

  13. Emily says:

    I had to read Crime and Punishment in high school. I did not get to the end of the book (got about through 3/4 of it so I read most of it), one of the few books imposed on me by school that I didn’t finish. I even managed to finish Wuthering Heights and THAT was a huge a slog too!!! I’m a voracious reader too and I hate leaving books unfinished but C&P was just so tedious. The main character spends the entire book agonizing over a crime he committed that no one forced him to do. It’s so boring!

    • BeanieBean says:

      I had difficulty with Dickens in high school–started but didn’t finish A Tale of Two Cities. That first sentence was intimidating–it went on for the entire page! I took up reading Dickens again in my 20s when I decided to read A Christmas Story in advance of another film of the story. And I loved it! I then embarked on a read-everything-Dickens-ever-wrote journey and loved every book–particularly A Tale of Two Cities. I started crying about six pages from the end with that one.

  14. BnLurkN4eva says:

    Liam is an actor that had me fooled, truly. If there was one actor I felt, (based on nothing as it turns out) was a truly good soul, it was him. He really shocked me more than all the others who have turned out to be garbage humans. I used to see all his movies because he was in them. Sat through more stupid movies I wasn’t interested in because I liked Liam so much. Darn it, I must not do that anymore with any other unknown entity out there. So disappointed in this man and his behavior, especially since I am convinced he still doesn’t know what he did wrong.

    • Deering24 says:

      Seriously, I thought because he had multiracial love interests in his work (Viola Davis in WIDOWS, for one) and worked with all kinds of actors with no problem, he was cool. His outburst came as quite a surprise—did not see that coming. ☹️

  15. Mina_Esq says:

    I finally get to discuss classic Russian literature on Celebitchy! lol Based on the inscription, my father gave me a copy of Crime and Punishment on August 25, 2002. I was in uni and agonizing over all of the injustices in the world. I love the book and generally all of Dostoevsky works (I love The Idiot, no matter what anyone says). I don’t think it’s a hard book to read. Now War and Peace…there is a snoozefest i’ve never been able to read in its entirety :)

    • Veronica S. says:

      Yeah, there’s a lot of classic lit I am meh about, but I’ve always enjoyed Dostoyevsky. There’s a kind of…cynical appreciation for the absurdity and flaws of the human condition in Russian cultural writing that I think either compels you directly or feels completely alienating.

      “East of Eden” is another one that was an unexpected pleasure. I did not go in thinking I would love that book as much as I would, but I definitely came out of seeing why Steinbeck considered it his magnum opus.

  16. Jane Doe says:

    Ugh this guy. He literally spoke of his desire to harm or kill a random Black man – with no repercussions in the aftermath. Went on with his unexamined life with no consequences. I know he isn’t atypical but whew!

  17. Ines says:

    I’ve read a few books during lockdown, one of them being Dune, which was on my list for a long time. But I focused on other things: I learnt to French braid my hair, and also to ride a bicycle (at the grand old age of 47!). I have also switched to a plant based diet.

  18. Ashley says:

    I couldn’t read during lockdown. My mind wasn’t in it. It’s weird because I’m a book lover but during lockdown I couldn’t sit still. Same with Netflix. My mind has just been too fractured lately. Usually I can bang out a 400 page book in one day but I couldn’t sit long enough through one page.

    That said I read excerpts of Ulysses from college and then I read the Most Dangeorus book about the publication of Ulysses but I’ve never wanted to read it. Joyce was an ass, who sounds like an awful person. And every time i think of him I think of his love of scat. I value the energy he put into getting Ulysses published, anyone who values Freedom of Speech and deplores censorship should give it a go but that’s all I have to say about that.

    Russian realism, in fact any realism (Ibsen), is a good read in my book. And I commend anyone for reading the classics. Thankfully I was able to do most of that in college and there’s a reason they’re “classics”. They teach you, they help you grow.

    Someone mentioned Madame Bovary. Bovary and Karenina are probably my literary identifiers. I felt very close to those two characters. Twin flames I guess

  19. The Recluse says:

    I need to read The Odyssey before I can even contemplate Joyce and frankly, I doubt I will ever get to Joyce. What I’ve heard about his books reminds me of my attempt to read Proust back in my 20s. That was an ordeal: paragraphs five pages long agonizing because his mother forgot to kiss him good night as child once. And trying to read Henry James is like trying to pass through a brick wall. There is something about his words and how he used them that they form a dense barrier for my perceptions as a reader.
    In the meantime though, in honor of October and Halloween, I am reading Hearn’s Kwaiden and I will read something else spooky after I have finished that.

  20. Zaya says:

    I usually inhale books, but I haven’t been able to read during lockdown. I barely finished ten books since March.

  21. Straighthair says:

    Liam looks fit when he moves in his trademark B-grade action films though. Cf Harrison Ford who looks really stiff. James Joyce was prob a genius but hardly tried to reach the masses. The whole lit-critics structure that has sprung up around such writers is as much about professionalism / building silos and power as it is about merit and being intelligent about art. Of course writers will find Joyce interesting and someone to look up to, but for me the writers to admire are those who write clearly, to be understood by the average person without deep literary knowledge. It’s very different to cinema, where you can be more intuitive about referencing your profession. For example Quentin Tarantino can be meta in his films and it’s not necessarily just an insider’s thing as films are so much more accessible. I have not read Ulysses (tried during uni days) and prob will never try again, just like I steer clear of writers like David Foster Wallace.

  22. Mrs. Smith says:

    Try Anna Karenina—so good! Except for that 200 page discussion about farming.

  23. J ferber says:

    Good for him. I read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. All seven volumes. Imagine bragging about this in my snooty town to find myself topped by someone who read it in the original French. And that was my first bragging moment!

  24. jferber says:

    This will be an unpopular opinion, but I thought Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners both uneven and not as brilliant as their reputations. I have yet to read Ulysses, and will, but I think the English put Ulysses at the top of their great books list as compensation for their past egregious treatment of the Irish.