Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, 16 June 1904 (the day of Joyce's first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle). Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's poem Odyssey, and the novel establishes a series of parallels between its characters and events and those of the poem (e.g., the correspondence of Leopold Bloom to Odysseus, Molly Bloom to Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus to Telemachus).
Ulysses is approximately 265,000 words in length, uses a lexicon of 30,030 words (including proper names, plurals and various verb tenses), and is divided into eighteen episodes. Since publication, the book has attracted controversy and scrutiny, ranging from early obscenity trials to protracted textual "Joyce Wars." Ulysses' stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose-full of puns, parodies, and allusions, as well as its rich characterisations and broad humour, made the book a highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Joyce fans worldwide now celebrate 16 June as Bloomsday.
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About the Author
Jeri Johnson is Fellow and Tutor in English at Exeter College, Oxford University.
Date of Birth:February 2, 1882
Date of Death:January 13, 1941
Place of Birth:Dublin, Ireland
Place of Death:Zurich, Switzerland
Education:B.A., University College, Dublin, 1902
Read an Excerpt
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
— Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:
— Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful Jesuit.
Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.
Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered the bowl smartly.
— Back to barracks, he said sternly.
He added in a preacher's tone:
— For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul and blood and ouns. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, gents. One moment. A little trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all.
He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of call then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points. Chrysostomos. Two strong shrill whistles answered through the calm.
— Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch off the current, will you?
He skipped off the gunrest and looked gravely at his watcher, gathering about his legs the loose folds of his gown. The plump shadowed face and sullen oval jowl recalled a prelate, patron of arts in the middle ages. A pleasant smile broke quietly over his lips.
— The mockery of it, he said gaily. Your absurd name, an ancient Greek.
He pointed his finger in friendly jest and went over to the parapet, laughing to himself. Stephen Dedalus stepped up, followed him wearily halfway and sat down on the edge of the gunrest, watching him still as he propped his mirror on the parapet, dipped the brush in the bowl and lathered cheeks and neck.
Buck Mulligan's gay voice went on.
— My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls. But it has a Hellenic ring, hasn't it? Tripping and sunny like the buck himself. We must go to Athens. Will you come if I can get the aunt to fork out twenty quid?
He laid the brush aside and, laughing with delight, cried:
— Will he come? The jejune jesuit.
Ceasing, he began to shave with care.
— Tell me, Mulligan, Stephen said quietly.
— Yes, my love?
— How long is Haines going to stay in this tower?
Buck Mulligan showed a shaven cheek over his right shoulder.
— God, isn't he dreadful? he said frankly. A ponderous Saxon. He thinks you're not a gentleman. God, these bloody English. Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus, you have the real Oxford manner. He can't make you out. O, my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knifeblade.
He shaved warily over his chin.
— He was raving all night about a black panther, Stephen said. Where is his guncase?
— A woful lunatic, Mulligan said. Were you in a funk?
— I was, Stephen said with energy and growing fear. Out here in the dark with a man I don't know raving and moaning to himself about shooting a black panther. You saved men from drowning. I'm not a hero, however. If he stays on here I am off.
Buck Mulligan frowned at the lather on his razor blade. He hopped down from his perch and began to search his trouser pockets hastily.
— Scutter, he cried thickly.
He came over to the gunrest and, thrusting a hand into Stephen's upper pocket, said:
— Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor.
Stephen suffered him to pull out and hold up on show by its corner a dirty crumpled handkerchief. Buck Mulligan wiped the razorblade neatly. Then, gazing over the handkerchief, he said:
— The bard's noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snot-green. You can almost taste it, can't you?
He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly.
— God, he said quietly. Isn't the sea what Algy calls it: a great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look.
Stephen stood up and went over to the parapet. Leaning on it he looked down on the water and on the mailboat clearing the harbour mouth of Kingstown.
— Our mighty mother, Buck Mulligan said.
He turned abruptly his great searching eyes from the sea to Stephen's face.
— The aunt thinks you killed your mother, he said. That's why she won't let me have anything to do with you.
— Someone killed her, Stephen said gloomily.
— You could have knelt down, damn it, Kinch, when your dying mother asked you, Buck Mulligan said. I'm hyperborean as much as you. But to think of your mother begging you with her last breath to kneel down and pray for her. And you refused. There is something sinister in you ...
He broke off and lathered again lightly his farther cheek. A tolerant smile curled his lips.
— But a lovely mummer, he murmured to himself. Kinch, the loveliest mummer of them all.
He shaved evenly and with care, in silence, seriously.
Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coatsleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.
Buck Mulligan wiped again his razorblade.
— Ah, poor dogsbody, he said in a kind voice. I must give you a shirt and a few noserags. How are the secondhand breeks?
— They fit well enough, Stephen answered.
Buck Mulligan attacked the hollow beneath his underlip.
— The mockery of it, he said contentedly, secondleg they should be. God knows what poxy bowsy left them off. I have a lovely pair with a hair stripe, grey. You'll look spiffing in them. I'm not joking, Kinch. You look damn well when you're dressed.
— Thanks, Stephen said. I can't wear them if they are grey.
— He can't wear them, Buck Mulligan told his face in the mirror. Etiquette is etiquette. He kills his mother but he can't wear grey trousers.
He folded his razor neatly and with stroking palps of fingers felt the smooth skin.
Stephen turned his gaze from the sea and to the plump face with its smokeblue mobile eyes.
— That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligan says you have g. p. i. He's up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman. Genera paralysis of the insane.
He swept the mirror a half circle in the air to flash the tidings abroad in sunlight now radiant on the sea. His curling shaven lips laughed and the edges of his white glittering teeth. Laughter seized all his strong wellknit trunk.
— Look at yourself, he said, you dreadful bard.
Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft by a crooked crack, hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too.
— I pinched it out of the skivvy's room, Buck Mulligan said. It does her all right. The aunt always keeps plainlooking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula.
Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen's peering eyes.
— The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you.
Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness:
— It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.
Buck Mulligan suddenly linked his arm in Stephen's and walked with him round the tower, his razor and mirror clacking in the pocket where he had thrust them.
— It's not fair to tease you like that, Kinch, is it? he said kindly. God knows you have more spirit than any of them.
Parried again. He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his. The cold steel pen.
— Cracked lookingglass of a servant. Tell that to the oxy chap downstairs and touch him for a guinea. He's stinking with money and thinks you're not a gentleman. His old fellow made his tin by selling jalap to Zulus or some bloody swindle or other. God, Kinch, if you and I could only work together we might do something for the island. Hellenise it.
Cranly's arm. His arm.
— And to think of your having to beg from these swine. I'm the only one that knows what you are. Why don't you trust me more? What have you up your nose against me? Is it Haines? If he makes any noise here I'll bring down Seymour and we'll give him a ragging worse than they gave Clive Kempthorpe.
Young shouts of moneyed voices in Clive Kempthorpe's rooms. Palefaces: they hold their ribs with laughter, one clasping another, O, I shall expire! Break the news to her gently, Aubrey! I shall die! With slit ribbons of his shirt whipping the air he hops and hobbles round the table, with trousers down at heels, chased by Ades of Magdalen with the tailor's shears. A scared calf 's face gilded with marmalade. I don't want to be debagged! Don't you play the giddy ox with me!
Shouts from the open window startling evening in the quadrangle. A deaf gardener, aproned, masked with Matthew Arnold's face, pushes his mower on the sombre lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms.
To ourselves ... new paganism ... omphalos.
— Let him stay, Stephen said. There's nothing wrong with him except at night.
— Then what is it? Buck Mulligan asked impatiently. Cough it up. I'm quite frank with you. What have you against me now?
They halted, looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale. Stephen freed his arm quietly.
— Do you wish me to tell you? he asked.
— Yes, what is it? Buck Mulligan answered. I don't remember anything.
He looked in Stephen's face as he spoke. A light wind passed his brow, fanning softly his fair uncombed hair and stirring silver points of anxiety in his eyes.
Stephen, depressed by his own voice, said:
— Do you remember the first day I went to your house after my mother's death?
Buck Mulligan frowned quickly and said:
— What? Where? I can't remember anything. I remember only ideas and sensations. Why? What happened in the name of God?
— You were making tea, Stephen said, and I went across the landing to get more hot water. Your mother and some visitor came out of the drawing room. She asked you who was in your room.
— Yes? Buck Mulligan said. What did I say? I forget.
— You said, Stephen answered, O, it's only Dedalus whose mother is beastly dead.
A flush which made him seem younger and more engaging rose to Buck Mulligan's cheek.
— Did I say that? he asked. Well? What harm is that?
He shook his constraint from him nervously.
— And what is death, he asked, your mother's or yours or my own? You saw only your mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Mater and Richmond and cut up into tripes in the dissecting room. It's a beastly thing and nothing else. It simply doesn't matter. You wouldn't kneel down to pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Because you have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only it's injected the wrong way. To me it's all a mockery and beastly. Her cerebral lobes are not functioning. She calls the doctor Sir Peter Teazle and picks buttercups off the quilt. Humour her till it's over. You crossed her last wish in death and yet you sulk with me because I don't whinge like some hired mute from Lalouette's. Absurd! I suppose I did say it. I didn't mean to offend the memory of your mother.
He had spoken himself into boldness. Stephen, shielding the gaping wounds which the words had left in his heart, said very coldly:
— I am not thinking of the offence to my mother.
— Of what, then? Buck Mulligan asked.
— Of the offence to me, Stephen answered.
Buck Mulligan swung round on his heel.
— O, an impossible person! he exclaimed.
He walked off quickly round the parapet. Stephen stood at his post, gazing over the calm sea towards the headland. Sea and headland now grew dim. Pulses were beating in his eyes, veiling their sight, and he felt the fever of his cheeks.
A voice within the tower called loudly:
— Are you up there, Mulligan?
— I'm coming. Buck Mulligan answered.
He turned towards Stephen and said:
— Look at the sea. What does it care about offences? Chuck Loyola, Kinch, and come on down. The Sassenach wants his morning rashers.
His head halted again for a moment at the top of the staircase, level with the roof:
— Don't mope over it all day, he said. I'm inconsequent. Give up the moody brooding.
His head vanished but the drone of his descending voice boomed out of the stairhead:
And no more turn aside and brood Upon love's bitter mystery For Fergus rules the brazen cars.
Woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from the stairhead seaward where he gazed. Inshore and farther out the mirror of water whitened, spurned by lightshod hurrying feet. White breast of the dim sea. The twining stresses, two by two. A hand plucking the harpstrings merging their twining chords. Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide.
A cloud began to cover the sun slowly, shadowing the bay in deeper green. It lay behind him, a bowl of bitter waters. Fergus' song: I sang it above in the house, holding down the long dark chords. Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe and pity I went to her bedside. She was crying in her wretched bed. For those words, Stephen: love's bitter mystery.
Her secrets: old feather fans, tassled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunny window of her house when she was a girl. She heard old Royce sing in the pantomine of Turko the terrible and laughed with others when he sang:
I am the boy That can enjoy Invisibility.
Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.
And no more turn aside and brood.
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys. Memories beset his brooding brain. Her glass of water from the kitchen tap when she had approached the sacrament. A cored apple, filled with brown sugar, roasting for her at the hob on a dark autumn evening. Her shapely fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the children's shirts.
In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within its loose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odour of wetted ashes.
Her glazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul. On me alone. The ghostcandle to light her agony. Ghostly light on the tortured face. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while all prayed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata rutilantium te confessorum turma circumdet: iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat.
Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!
No, mother. Let me be and let me live.
— Kinch ahoy!
Buck Mulligan's voice sang from within the tower. It came nearer up the staircase, calling again. Stephen, still trembling at his soul's cry, heard warm running sunlight and in the air behind him friendly words.
— Dedalus, come down, like a good mosey. Breakfast is ready. Haines is apologising for waking us last night. It's all right.
— I'm coming, Stephen said, turning.
— Do, for Jesus' sake, Buck Mulligan said. For my sake and for all our sakes.
His head disappeared and reappeared.
— I told him your symbol of Irish art. He says it's very clever. Touch him for a quid, will you? A guinea, I mean.
— I get paid this morning, Stephen said.
Excerpted from "Ulysses"
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What People are Saying About This
One of the most remarkable features of Ulysses is its interest as an investigation into the nature of human consciousness and behavior...Joyce has studied what we are accustomed to consider the dirty, the trivial and the base elements in our lives with the restlessness of a modern psychologist; and he has also...done justice to all those elements in our lives which we have been in the habit of describing by such names as love, nobility, truth and beauty.
"Ulysses will immortalize its author with the same certainty that Gargantua immortalized Rabelais, and The Brothers Karamazov immortalized Dostoyevsky.... It comes nearer to being the perfect revelation of a personality than any book in existence."
-The New York Times
"To my mind one of the most significant and beautiful books of our time."
-Gilbert Seldes, in The Nation
"Talk about understanding "feminine psychology" I have never read anything to surpass it, and I doubt if I have ever read anything to equal it."
"In the last pages of the book, Joyce soars to such rhapsodies of beauty as have probably never been equaled in English prose fiction."
-Edmund Wilson, in The New Republic
"We tried to pick books that were of great merit and proven over time." -- Christopher Cerf, chairman of the Modern Library Editorial Board
On Monday, July 20th, the editorial board of the Modern Library released a list of the 100 best English-language novels of the century. Topping the list was Ulysses, the unique, original novel that recounts a day in the lives of a group of Dubliners. The same book that was banned in the United States from 1920 to 1933 for obscenity now tops the list of novels written in English in this century, followed in descending order by The Great Gatsby, A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, Lolita, and Brave New World.
The editorial board that created this list comprised Christopher Cerf, Gore Vidal, Daniel J. Boorstin, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, A. S. Byatt, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and William Styron. The top five novels originally tied for first place, all selected by nine out of ten editorial board members. Then, in another vote, the board members listed the books in order, resulting in the conclusive top five.
All the judges agreed that Ulysses was deserving of the rank of top book of the century. James Joyce was a brilliant author who, many think, ignited modern literature much as Picasso ignited 20th-century art. Joyce spent seven years working on this novel, as evidenced in his masterful prose. But is it the best English-language novel of the 20th century? Why are there only eight women on the list of 100? Is Catcher In the Rye really the 64th best novel of our century?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What people don't understand when reading Joyce's Ulysses- is that it is not so much the plot of the book that is important but way the book is written; people claim that it's boring. It is complicated but that is what makes the book the third most researched piece of literature...right behind Shakespeare's work and the bible. That alone says a lot about the work. The complicatedness was intentional. Joyce is a genius and this proves it. How many authors can claim they've parodied the greatest figures in literature--Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, and the bible? Does anyone realize that each chapter is written from a different character's point of view, each chapter is written in a different style, each chapter's is written to follow Homer's Oddyssey?
Ulysses is not made for people who want to sit back and just read and not think. It is not made to entertain people. It is written for people who APPRECIATE LITERATURE.
A first reading of Ulysses can be daunting, if not downright frustrating. Take it in bite-sized chunks and keep an excellent description (such as The New Bloomsday Book by Blamires) by your side and you'll be on your way. A previous reading of The Odyssey, though useful, is by no means required, as Joyce draws on myriad sources in addition to Homer. Subsequent readings will come much more easily and reveal a mastery of the language that cannot be compared to any other book or author. Once you get the hang of it, you'll realize it isn't nearly as opaque (or pretentious) as it's made out to be. It's actually laugh out loud funny in many places. Even better, find an audio version of the book or read it aloud (especially the Penelope chapter -- the last in the book). It's a book to be heard as well as read. Also, there are DVDs of a walking tour of Joyce's Dublin that I found enormously useful in adding context to the book -- the city is itself a character.
This IS the greatest and best book ever written, but casual readers beware, it is also the most difficult to read book ever written.
This IS a great novel--probably the high-water mark of the art form. Brilliant by any measure, it caries so many layers of meaning that one feels like Krishna's mother, when she saw all the universe in her son's open mouth.... Tenzing--I strongly suggest you consult one of the excellent works that break down some of the stickier themes in Ulysses. My favorites are Joseph Campbell's Mythic Worlds Modern Words (which has an amazing section on that very weird word, CONTRASMAGNIFICANJEWELBANGTANTIABILITY, along with much else); and Blamire's wonderful Bloomsday Book, which I think came out in a revised edition a few years back.
It is not formatted at all, just blocks of text and dialogue with no spacing between. It's already a tough read without trying to figure what is being narrated and what the characters are saying. Do not buy the New Century Books edition. This was my first e-book purchase and I am totally disappointed. I am obviously going to have to spend more time previewing copies if just anyone can publish an e-book.
Most readers probably won't be able to approach this famous novel without some outside aid, but don't let that deter you. I've read parts of it many times and still haven't any idea what the central theme is supposed to be, yet it remains a fascinating work. The book is less about plot and character as it is about the creative use of language - stream-of-consciousness, changing narrators, parodies and other rhetorical devices are some of the techniques Joyce uses to the fullest. This is one of those rare books that can be read over and over and something new understood each time. For that alone, I recommend this to curious readers.
While skimming this book a few minutes after buying it, I found two errors in the text: a misspelled word on one page and a paragraph accidentally repeated on another. A line-by-line comparison would probably find many more. This kind of sloppiness might be acceptable in some cheap digital reprints, but not in a book like Ulysses, whose precise wording is an important part of its meaning. Unfortunately, Barnes & Noble offers multiple versions of Ulysses for the Nook but tells you nothing about how they were prepared, so the other versions might be just as bad. But definitely don't buy this one.
It is the best novel but also the most demanding one. In order to properly read it it took me four months and a course in Columbia University but every single minute I´ve spend with it couldnt be more intense and fruitfull. It takes a lot of work but the reward is inmense. Now I'm reading finnegans wake and each page is so full with connections, references, etc.. that it will take me at least 4 or 5 months, I can wait!
Ulysees can be a bit inaccessible at times but well worth the initial confusion. Perhaps the finest work of modernist literature I have read, Joyce's stream of consciousness technique is often imitated but has never been equaled. I WOULD however, suggest reading Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man BEFORE tackling this difficult work.
I have to confess to being torn concerning this book labeled by many as the best of the 20th Century. I can appreciate the achievement: paralleling Homer with each chapter while employing just about every literary device available is to be commended. Bloom is truly a creation fit for modern literature. On the other hand, I get the feeling Joyce is toying with me as I read, flaunting his genius. Perhaps he has licence to do so. When a book is able to generate such potent responses, it is great. Several readings are needed to appreciate this book. My professor in Joyce seminar poured over this book for years and found new insights each time. The Cliff's Notes to Ulysses are not very good. For a better reading aid, opt for the Bloomsday Book instead (yes, you will need an aid of some sort).
My son and I are reading Joyces' Ulysses. Superb experience! Oct 15, 2008 review is spot-on.
I read this book twice, and it still stands out in my mind as the most creative use of English in the history of the language. Taking the plot of a classic work is not unique, the way it was executed in this book was. Ulysses doesn't explore any of the great secrets of life. It doesn't seek to take on some great social issue. It is just a great work of art. It is difficult to understand, but with such an ambitious work this is no surprise. Any fan of English literature needs to read this.
I've tried, but I have not been able to finish this. It's not easy reading, so it may just be that it requires longer spans of reading time than I am willing to give.
Carl Jung 'diagnosed' this book as 'schizoid,' and it's a fact that Joyce's daughter Lucia had the disease schizophrenia. I studied this disordered work fifteen years ago as a senior in college, and two years later I had my initial episode of the dreaded mental illness schizophrenia. I believe that my illness would have happened anyway - but, just in case, I would strongly caution those who are already diagnosed away from not only _Ulysses_ but also _Finnegan_ and anything by Ezra Pound (especially _The Cantos_). I love the fact that Joyce rips anti-Semitism to shreds in _Ulysses_, but the schizoid language in places is just too much for me and I suppose others like me to handle. If you do get an overdose of Joyce, a pretty down-to-earth antidote is Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_.
This e-edition claims to have helpful annotations. There were none that I could see. Caveat emptor.
Often considered one of the ‘greatest novel of the 20th century’, James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, is both a feat and feast of sheer literary brilliance. Reimagining Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey as the travels and trials of an everyday man through the crowded streets and pubs of Dublin, Joyce weaves strikingly versatile prose styles and varying perspectives to encompass the whole of life within the hours of a single standard day, June 16th, 1904. Ulysses is an epic in its own right, setting the bar for literature up to the stratosphere as we immerse ourselves in Joyce’s dear dirty Dublin. While one must have their wits about them to navigate this laborious labyrinth of literature, the task is highly rewarding. It is very understandable that so many people do not finish this novel, or just plain dislike it; this book can be downright frustrating. Combining the heavy use of cryptic and dated allusions, obfuscating narration, an enviable vocabulary and pages of dense prose to decipher, Joyce intentionally set out to create a literary odyssey of words to conquer saying ‘I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.’ Readers should be warned this is a tough novel. Often times this novel inspired such frustration that it was tempting to slam the cover for good, and it wasn’t until the second half that I was finally able to recognize that this novel had written its way into my heart. Upon reflecting back after completion, only then did I realize that this truly is one of the greatest books ever written and I have come to love it.
Did I like Ulysses? I tagged it "brilliant" and "amazing", so yes I liked it. At times it felt like slow torture until I slowly found myself becoming immersed in Joyce's mind, and I began to love it. I'm not sure where to begin about what it was about this novel that made it so wonderful. Was it the many layers of Stephen as Telemachus and Leopold as Odysseus while Stephen is also Hamlet and Leopold is almost a Hungarian-Irish-Jewish Christ. Was it the witty puns such as, "Where man hath a will, Anne hath-a-way," when Stephen explains his theory on Shakespeare? Was it the brilliance of the writing when the narrator gives birth to the English language at the same time as Mrs. Purefoy gives birth to her child? In the end, what I will take away from this novel is how Joyce made me love Leopold, laugh at Stephen, and even pity Molly a bit. The underlying novel and characterization beneath all of the brilliant writing is what will stick with me long after finishing the novel. I just finished it five minutes ago and can already say that I love this novel.
Okay, I cheated a little and listened to the audio book while following along with my copy. Not once did I want to eject the CDs and send it back. Even though I was utterly confused a great deal of the time, I was mesmerized by the language, by the cadence, the word play, the sheer poetry of it. Especially read by Donal Donnelly, who should get whatever the equivalent of an Academy Award is for his performance. I found that if I didn't try to completely understand it, and just let the words flow over me, I really enjoyed it. I was surprised. And very proud of myself.
This was such a tough read, I had only the flimsiest sense of what the author was trying to say. His use of language may be groundbreaking and highly original, but if the story gets lost can it really be said to be better than a book that tells a good story in an entertaining way tht everyone can understand?
I read a lot of British classics in my teens and twenties, but am ashamed to say that, somehow, I missed James Joyce¿s books. So I requested this audio adaptation with the intention of redressing the balance, and also hoping that I would find the ¿dramatised reading¿ more accessible / easier to digest than reading the novel in book format.This BBC Radio 4 production is described as a ¿dramatised reading¿; neither the Amazon product description, nor the CD box say whether it is abridged or not, but going by the fact that there are only 8 CDs and the book is over 700 pages long, I have to assume it is.Seamus Heaney¿s enthusiastic introduction whetted my appetite, and I eagerly started listening. However, I struggled with the lack of any apparent plot and the convoluted randomness of the prose. It wasn¿t so much the ¿stream of consciousness¿ style that got to me, but that I would find myself thinking ¿why am I listening to this?¿ & ¿how does it relate to the last bit?¿. I didn¿t expect it to come easy (everyone knows Ulysses is a challenge), and audio isn¿t always the easiest medium, so I listened to every section several times. That did give me a sense of being there ¿ Joyce can certainly paint wonderful word pictures ¿ but I have to admit, that sadly, I gave up half way through when I realised that I was avoiding picking up my ipod!I don¿t think I would criticise the BBC Radio 4 production ¿ which was superbly professional (as you would expect from the BBC) ¿ or the reading. And this is why I have given it 2*s rather than one. What I will say, however, is that I don¿t think this is the easiest way for someone who hasn¿t read Joyce at all (and who isn¿t particularly familiar with Homer¿s Odyssey either) to approach this book. But, as one of the other reviewers has said, I think this audio presentation will make a brilliant companion to the book.
Some people use audio books more than the printed version. I find, in general, that I prefer to read a book myself. There are few incidents of books that are improved by another person's voice in my brain: this, however, is one such.I first read Ulysses many moons ago at the age of eighteen. It was one of those books which I desperately wanted to like but, I didn't get it. I knew that there was greatness here, I could sense it but, it was illusive. The more I looked, the less that I could see it. Over the years, I have, occasionally, picked up the book and tried again, always without success; then, I heard this wonderful reading and everything dropped into place. The book may be laid out like a novel, but it is really a long poem. Every word is necessary for the rhythm of the piece and the gentle Irish burr makes the work sing. I get it! I can now truly appreciate the genius of Joyce and, the ultimate compliment to any book, is that this has encouraged me to look out copies of Joyce's other works and that, now the scales have dropped from my eyes, I can drink in his writing with the joy that I so wanted to feel when I first came across them. Where was this audio book when I needed it for my street cred?
Were I trapped on a desert island with only two books, I'd want one to be the Bible and one to be Ulysses. And if I got to have three books, I'd want one of those books that helps you interpret Ulysses.
Be warned: the hero of this book is the reader! Strictly for the adventurous. But what adventures: especially into language itself, in all its musical glory!Thanks Phollando for your comparative analysis. You're right of course but can we expect another James Joyce any more than another Shakespeare? Joyce is possibly unsurpassable in the novel.
This book was FABULOUS. A book with an undertone of conflict and suffering (conflict against the state, against religion, against the fellow man) (and suffering in guilt, ennui, and isolation). The collective subconscious and stream-of-consciousness writing is brilliant.
A jumble of words that make no sense at all. Did not communicate with me.