"Ulysses" annoyed me because the references seemed deliberately obscure, and I felt that I didn't have a hope in hell of understanding even the simplest layer, let alone any of the layers that would make the struggle worthwhile.
But why didn't I like "Moby Dick?" I'm loving it now -- like, I'm REALLY in love with it -- and I can only assume that, back then, I expected faster pace and less florid language. At that time I was reading Ballard, Barth, and Barthleme, so Melville with all of his wordy digressions sounded like a bloviating old coot.
Maybe I've grown to appreciate bloviating old coots, or maybe my long-ago first attempt has softened the way a bit. The book is constantly surprising me. It's inventive and detailed, and Melville manages to describe the stark world of whalers in a paradoxically rich way. The cannibal Queequeg is a special delight, both in his satirically primitive oddness and in the gentle way that Melville treats him. Of all the "Christian" men, Queequeg is the most worthy...and also the funniest.
He put his hand upon the sleeper's rear, as though feeling if it was soft enough; and then, without more ado, sat quietly down there.
"Gracious! Queequeg, don't sit there," said I.
"Oh! perry dood seat," said Queequeg, "my country way; won't hurt him face."