I bought the Ulysses (Gabler Edition) edition of this book recently as we were reading Ulysses as part of an online book club. The advantage of that edition is that it is popular edition and also has line numberings so that as part of a group you can immediately locate a piece of text.
Joyce edited and added bits and pieces to the text over the years much to the chagrin and frustration of his publishers, so you can expect minor variations between editions, yet they may be 95-99% similar.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible."
There are certain passages that no dictionary will help you with, and that is why you may need a companion book, such as Ulysses annotated, which explains the many allusions, whether to Latin, parallels with the Bible, with the Odyssey which this story loosely parallels, to Latin, British Rule, historical context, local maps, Hamlet, mythical search for the missing father, Shakespeare and the Bible.
The further you get into this book the better it gets.
At once this book is inpiring yet challenging, sometimes perplexing yet ultimately rewarding. Full of inventive wordplay that sometimes defies instant comprehension. I have read entire pages that turn out to be word salad at first. Every chapter has a different narrative style, such as inner monologue, narcissistic, catechism, stream of consciousness. Sometimes this book is brutal to read, sometimes a joy. I can understand why this book is so influential, and the words nibble at the edge of your consciousness forcing your mind to expand itself. This book has changed the way I think about writing, as I have never seen som many different narrative devices used in a single book before. The final chapter with Molly Bloom in bed, with its runon sentences is simply hilarious.
And if you search you can find free online chapter summaries of chapters to speed your comprehension.
I hope you found this review helpful.
on September 5, 2012
'Ulysses' is surrounded as much by controversy as brilliance. In his masterwork, Joyce moulds his theories on narrative, humanity, and philosophy into a complex view of Dublin at the turn of the Twentieth Century. It is a great book mired by difficulty. Many readers avoid 'Ulysses' because of its difficulty, which is unfortunate because these intricacies are highlights. Joyce ambitiously portrays the psychological worlds of his characters as they go about their day. That's what 'Ulysses' is: one long day that parallels Homer's 'Odyssey'.
My favourite part of this book was its impact on narratology. Joyce's core style has a third person omniscient narrator, but also slips into the subjectivity of characters through interior monologues. This was a huge moment for literature, because it shows a shift from the description of thought to thought itself. It gives the reader direct access to the characters. Joyce's movement between his heroes' thoughts and their exterior world illustrates how they relate to it. By choosing this kind of narrative, Joyce can demonstrate the ironies and multiple perspectives that surround Leopold Bloom's actions in the book. The primary feature of this book is parallax.
However, Joyce's revolutionary approach to writing also cripples it. Stephen Dedalus's dense monologues aside, Joyce simply does TOO MUCH. 'Ulysses' suffers in its final half from constant changes to the narrative. After the tenth episode, Joyce uses a new style each episode. So extreme is his ambition that he metaphorically "gives birth" to the English language in episode fourteen, "Oxen of the Sun." (My review's title uses the last sentence of that chapter.) I understand that Joyce uses different writing styles to present the effect they have on the text, but to what result? Some critics believe that Joyce's product justifies his method. While I respect this view, I also believe that literature requires clarity, which Joyce sacrifices for his boundless artistry.
As a book that celebrates the common man, 'Ulysses' operates on the irony that the status quo cannot understand all its treasures. I suspect this is part of Joyce's quirky sense of humour, and actually makes sense if you consider that irony. Despite the book's reputation, I recommend people to "try it on," and see what they take away. It is a heart-warming story, and very funny too, especially when Bloom and Stephen enter the brothel near the climax. Read 'Ulysses' for a laugh at what you know, and what you don't. If you enjoy it that much, then by all means study it to your heart's content.
on December 4, 2005
Ulysses is a novel that is beautifully written, probably the best I have ever read. After carefully reading Finnigan's Wake, there was much that I didn't quite understand. There were many words in this book that I couldn't understand, and therefore couldn't understand the story. However, in Ulysses, I found the writing to be absolutely amazing in terms of prose. Although there were times of misunderstanding the words, because of Irish slang and language, I was still able to understand the plot and idea of the book. Although originally a very lengthy book, only reading a little bit of this book has painted a beautiful picture of what the rest of the book is like indeed. As well, reading this book definitely creates word painting, which is definitely a sign of a good writing.
There is much use of alliteration in his writing that makes it more effective, more poetic. I haven't come across authors such as Joyce in a long while. Not until my university English class that discusses authors that I am happy to study.
The way Joyce describes in the book is absolutely amazing. "Hypnotised, listening. Eyes like that. She bent." His way of describing struck me as poetry, especially this passage in The Sirens. Reading poetry in prose I find is the most effective way of writing, which I'm starting to use in my own writing. I find that you don't see that enough in description. To actually see the poetic beauty behind description is really great.
Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
on September 2, 2003
Not nearly as difficult as it is proclaimed to be, this book seems to have taken Nietzsche's advice to heart: A great writerwrites at such an elevated level that most people cannot understand him. This is absolutely true of Ulysses, as the convoluted meditations of the characters and abrupt jumps from reveries and memories to actual events do a marvellous job to perplex the reader.
Content: Countless riddles, allusions, metaphors, even intended misspells complicate the reader's life but hardly make this philosphical novel unreadable. Yes, philosphical novel, something you can meditate on after reading. Also, it seems that James Joyce has decided to intertwine modernism, Homer, Irish history, human ethics, and his view on religion and life alltogether, in parts creating a pulp of dense bombast. The modernist techniques are somewhat amusing at first, but after advancing deeply into the book they seem nothing more than ostentatious display by Joyce of his masterful writing ability. There are some faint references to sex and bodily functions, but so subtle as to leave me in mystery of the reason for its ban. Disseminated over a variety of subject, Ulysses does not fail to include relgion and allocate to it a share of the onus. However absurd the concept of religion is, it does serve a purpose in a few of the chapters. Also, Ulysses is famous for its blatant Homeric parallel: each chapter of Ulysses modeled on a Homeric adventure or character. It is truly amazing how the two are combined. To understand the content of this literary behemoth with more insight, one might consult either Pinkmonkey.com (free) or Cliffnotes, both equally helpful.
Characters: The characters could have used a lot more dimensionality. Frugal on polishing their facets, James Joyce seems to be using them as puppets to mouth his philosophy and not much more. Usually a protagonist attracts empathy of the reader, but Joyce did a poor job with his characters as they seem very distant in their meditative drivel. In other words, there wasn't a single way I could relate to them. Even Joyce's flaccid attempt at adding flaws to their character by assigning obscenities, made them no more human or real. Perhaps simplifying the embellished bombast would have helped in understanding them.
Overall: Despite its many flaws (e.g. length, verbosity, etc...) there is no other book that deserves your attention as much as this particular one. If you will just find perseverance to bear through Joyce's daunting baffling narration, you will be delected to have found it (perseverance) to finished such a marvellous literary accomplishment. Having said that, I favor "The Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man" by Joyce over Ulysses.
on August 31, 2001
A marvellous form of art with the help of english Words, perhaps. Several times i get lost between the pages, still continued to get something and i got a genius in the end. Wonderful ways of expressions of thoughts. You may feel that you are reading Bloom's mind. Every nervous processes happening in Bloom's mind will be yours. Joyce's innocence, honesty and his complete denial to change himself for the sake of all of us, made an impression deep inside me.
Either you accept him as he is or leave him. That's upto you.
He is not forcing anyone to accept him either.
All through the pages I was delighted in his astounding mastery of words. Somewhere on the way, it made me smile too. Especially at the end of the book where he abandoned all the conventions of English Literature. Wonderful. Even now i don't have the words to define this book titled "Ulysses".
But be prepared to have a tough time ahead when you start the book. Honestly, speaking i could not understand many of the pages.
on June 9, 2001
I had this book described to me by a friend as both the best and worst book she had ever read. I can truly understand and appreciate her sentiments. Parts of the book are sheer poetry, and the descriptions and language draw the reader into the mystical brilliance of James Joyce's non-narrative. Other parts are maddeningly obscure and leave the reader wondering just what the hell is going on. The surprising part of this is that these obscure moments actually add to the book, rather than detracting from it. If "Ulysses" were not so obscure in so many parts, then the sheer mundaneness of much of the day would make it as boring as its detractors claim it to be, but the obscurity forces the reader to read attentively throughout. This is not a challenge enjoyed by all. This is not a light read, and if you're looking for a summer book by the cottage then stick to John Grisham and no fault to it (the light reads serve their purpose and should not be denigrated). However, if you're looking for a book that will test your imagination "Ulysses" is the perfect book. You probably won't fully understand it (I estimate I fully understood about 2/3 of it) but you will have learned much about yourself and the world of early-20th century Dublin and also of the world we live in today. Also, another reviewer here as written that this is a book to be read aloud. I agree whole-heartedly with that appraisal. It will add to both your understanding and enjoyment.
on October 3, 2000
James Joyce's Ulysses has been hailed as a masterpiece since its publication in 1922. This tale of the adventures of advertising salesman Leopold Bloom on June 16, 1904, in Dublin is a remarkable conflation of mythology, symbolism, philosophy, social realism, and humanity. Bloom's relationships with wife Molly and surrogate son Stephan Dedalus reflect the simple decency of the common man. There is no doubt that reading Ulysses places great demands on the intellect of the reader. Joyce's intentions in writing Ulysses, to present a totally realistic view of one day in the life of ordinary Dublin citizens, yet at the same time to weave into this a grand parallel with Homer's Odyssey and on a smaller scale to deal with issues as complicated as those of Irish politics and religion, mean that before they come upon the novel, it is necessary for the reader to have a wide base of knowledge. The act of interpretation becomes not a burden but an essential part of the act of reading Ulysses for without it the reader might not gain the sense that they are one of the people that the novel is addressed to, rather than just an observer of a finite experience...
on August 24, 2000
A stylistically sprawling, richly symbolic, discursive fresco, "Ulyssess" remains the one book that has pushed the form of the novel to explorative extremes. Not to be perused at leisure, but to be studied with diligent effort, it will be regarded as a death sentence by the average reader, but for the genuine lover of literature it's a treat. "Ulyssess" is an elephantine, pedantic, sometimes self-indulgent novel. At first reading, one might feel intimidated by it, which is why student guides and annotated editions are so essential. In reality, it's a very touching and candid book and not as bullying as it seems at all, but an encounter with the most familiar and daily incidents, embedded in the intimacies of lived experience. For all his dense allusiveness and linguistic acrobatics, Joyce's message is so simple that it almost seems a commonplace: the human need to love and be loved. At the same time, though it has been proclaimed as possibly the most individual and innovative novel of the century, one will discover that it's neither individual (with its polyphonic multiple registers) nor innovative (with its reliance on mining pop culture, Celtic traditions, literary precedents -- which were already extant). The really innovative novel of this type was "Tristram Shandy".
on March 27, 2000
Those who hold Ulysses up as some kind of uber-novel do it as much disservice as those who toss it aside as "trash" without giving it a second thought. Is it the greatest novel of the twentieth century? Who cares? What it is, certainly, is a work rooted in the depths of writing, a work labored over by a very intelligent man for years on end, and a work which deserves more thought than some are willing to give it credit for. The simple fact that a novel must be digested and thought about does not make it "obscure," nor is it, "worthless." It can be enjoyed by all who are willing to think about it. Writers like Carver who can demonstrate beauty in the simplicity of their writing have their place in the corpus of the English language, but so do writers like Joyce, whose complexities weave around themselves and ask us to consider the possibilities of our language in a different sense. To cast this book aside as meaningless does a disservice to the writer and the reader.
on December 6, 1999
This was a good book, one that took quire some time to read. Not one I couldn't put down, but one I knew I had to finished.
If you want to another read a book that goes straight to your heart, read Stolen Moments by Barbara Jeanne Fisher. . .It is a beautiful story of unrequited love. . .for certain the love story of the nineties. I intended to give the book a quick read, but I got so caught up in the story that I couldn't put the book down. From the very beginning, I was fully caught up in the heart-wrenching account of Julie Hunter's battle with lupus and her growing love for Don Lipton. This love, in the face of Julie's impending death, makes for a story that covers the range of human emotions. The touches of humor are great, too, they add some nice contrast and lighten things a bit when emotions are running high. I've never read a book more deserving of being published. It has rare depth. Julie's story will remind your readers that life and love are precious and not to be taken for granted. It has had an impact on me, and for that I'm grateful. Stolen Moments is written with so much sensitivity that it made me want to cry. It is a spellbinder. What terrific writing. Barbara does have an exceptional gift! This book was edited by Lupus specialist Dr. Matt Morrow too, and has the latest information on that disease. ..A perfect gift for someone who started college late in life, fell in love too late in life, is living with any illness, or trying to understand a loved one who is. . .A gift to be cherished forever.