8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creative Genius Unbound.
We're approaching the 100th anniversary of the action in Ulysses and I've taken my copy out and began to reread it. No other book I know of has more power to inspire or instill creative thought. His symbolism and skill is simply astounding. Anthony Burgess once said that many times he'd think of Ulysses and then think about his own work, "Why bother?" I know...
Published on June 9 2004 by Bernard Chapin
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars CD only
Do not buy this CD to listen to in the car! The selections and interpretation of this abridged audio edition are unimpeachchable. However the reader, gifted with a clear and expressive voice, presents most of the narration sotto voce, which is inaudible on the road even at top volume.
Published on June 9 2004 by Ben Franklin Intermediate School
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great addiction,
Ulysses will get you, if you give it enough of a chance. The first time you read it, it will be difficult - maybe even impossible. The second time you read it, you will begin to suspect that Joyce is actually writing about the contours of your own mind. The third time you read it, your earlier suspicion will prove true as you successively laugh, gasp, swear, snort, breathe, moan, think, and yearn in anticipation of the occurrences of these events on the page. By the fourth time you read it, you will realize you never stopped reading it - that even the interlude of years between your first and second reading was only a momentary pause to catch the breath of your life outside the Book; and that you made a habit of the yearly 16-June read merely for the sake of ordering that interval of months between the readings - and during those intervals you will find yourself repeating passages in your head that you would never have imagined to be memorizable. Each time you emerge from this book you will find yourself unmistakably changed - your eyes opened to a further deepness of what it is to be human, what it is to be yourself. Joyce will demand everything of you, but he will give you a greater everything in return.
If you have tried to read this book before, and didn't make it - well, i understand. The first time, it is admittedly extraordinarily difficult. But turn, if you will, to page 903 of the hardback Knopf Everyman edition, and read the bit of catechism "What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier returning to the range, admire?" that extends through 905. Then go to the beginning, or wherever you left off if you prefer, and start again. If not now, then someday - maybe years from now - but do it. And then do it again.
5.0 out of 5 stars It's just a book. But what a book...,
It seems, in this new century of total instant access to everything, that the accepted way of persuading people to read "Ulysses" is to say that it's a damn fine book but you need to be an experienced reader with a lot of time on your hands and plenty of patience...etc. Let's get a few things clear. This is not the "Critique of Pure Reason". There is not some algorithm you have to work out in advance in order to enjoy this book. It's a novel. It's a good read. The other stuff, the background stuff, the structural cunning and the wide-ranging allusiveness, is there in case you want to read it again. Basically, this is an unusually intelligent novel, in a basically comic mode, that plays a few games with the ways that we (sometimes lazily) tend to read. The rest is just a bonus. Joyce is just so generous in his joking and his desire to give us more than we normally expect from a book that we can get a bit overwhelmed by the cornucopia of stuff that he lays at our feet.
I first read Ulysses when I was about 17 - I was still in what Americans would call high school, I wasn't reading it because I had to, but because I had heard it was supposed to be one of the best books around and it was set in the city around which I had grown up. I found the first three chapters a bit tricky but I kept going, because it seemed to me that the guy knew what he was doing. Then I got to the fourth chapter, and it suddenly became much easier. It seemed to me that this was the kind of thing that most of the writers I liked were trying to do, but most often failed at, because they just weren't this good. Joyce is supremely good at conveying the physical sensations of being alive - what it's like to be hungry, sad, lustful, worrisome, tired, hopeful, nervous. As the book went on, I knew I wanted to trust this guy. In the later sections, Joyce seemed to be expecting what I wanted to happen, and seemed determined to persuade me that how I wanted the book to develop wasn't necessarily the best way for the book to go - and I believed him. Since I hadn't read many "great" novels, his changes in style seemed to me to be exactly the sort of thing that an adventurous writer should be doing. I thought then, and still think, that he can be a bit garrulous, but he's such a skilful writer that I don't wish he'd made the book any shorter than it is.
By the end, Ulysses had come to represent my basic idea of a really great novel. I had no notion that most novels aren't anything like as daring or as enjoyable. The only other novels I've read since which are both as courageous and as entertaining as this one are Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow", Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and Melville's "Moby-Dick". Which, I know now, will tell you a lot about my taste in fiction.
You really don't need to be an expert reader to appreciate "Ulysses". If anything, it's better if you have either read everything, or next to nothing. The notes are handy, if you want to know all that's going on - and I don't see why that should hurt. But even without them, Joyce - as they used to say of a certain brand of beer - can reach parts that other writers (or for that matter, beers) can't reach. He is a truly wonderful writer, and I'm (foolishly) proud that the greatest of novelists in the English language was an Irishman.
People are still writing great novels - Pynchon's last was a lovely late masterpiece, and Don DeLillo is as vigorous as ever. But my personal opinion is that Joyce kicked a flagging Victorian form into new life, and the impact of his scuffed tennis shoe is still raw and smarting. "Finnegans Wake" is still awaiting the readers it deserves. In the meantime, there's no reason why any curious reader shouldn't get something out of "Ulysses". It's my favourite novel. It's also the best Irish book so far. Mind you, I can't wait till Mairtin O Cadhain's "Cre na Cille" gets translated into English...
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, maddening brick to smash against your skull.,
To smash your skull against a maddening, beautiful brick.
Let me just begin by stating how much I loathe Ulysses. I hate Stephen Dedalus. I hate Leopold Bloom. I hate Molly Bloom. I even hate their cat. They're all fatuous and arrogant and dull and dishonest and insecure and insincere and superficial and greedy, and they all take part in a story that's a boring, tedious, frustrating, incoherent, big fat waste of my time and energy. Anyone who claims otherwise is either a massive liar or a sick masochist who deserves to have a bag slipped over their head and be taken away from society. As such it remains one of the most astoundingly honest and ambitious works in modern literature. There is not a book currently existing which is simultaneously as repelling and compelling. Is there a more divisive stirrer of passionate debate in the field of art? Normally a very relaxed, some may say apathetic and pacifistic, individual, I once heard my English teacher saying that Ulysses was nothing but complete garbage. I calmly stood up and punched him in the throat, and I received polite applause as I was escorted from the classroom. Later on, when I reread a section of Ulysses near the middle, I discovered that he was completely right. But you know what? That's life. And that sense of living pours off Joyce's pages and through his eccentric mouldings of the English language like a waterfall. It's almost too much to bear at times. We eat, we drink, we urinate, we defecate, we sneeze, we fart, we stink and we have sex, and after a few decades we die. No hidden wisdom. No great awakening. No grand nobility. No spiritual nirvana. That's LIFE. And the sooner you come to terms with that, the more depressed you'll be. Wonderfully, wonderfully depressed.
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the hype...you can read this book,
This review is from: Ulysses (Hardcover)
Despite what the reviewer from MA had to say about this novel, it is readable and it should be approached by anyone who is interested in it. It is not an easy read, but then again, really innovative and engaging works never are. Joyce does something in this novel that few authors have the courage to do--trust the reader's intelligence.
Yes, this is a retelling of The Odyssey, but even without that framework, the novel stands by itself. The story picks up about a year after Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man leaves off with some of the same characters, notably Stephen Dedalus. But the protagonist of the work, Leopold Bloom, is the real stroke of genius. It might help to read Portrait before approaching Ulysses just to get an introduction to Stephen and his family. Anyone who really wants to get as many allusions as possible should probably use Gifford's annotations, which are available for both texts.
As for our friend from MA...well, what can you say about someone who is reviewing the Cliff's Notes version of the text? Is that what Poly Sci majors read in order to try and feel intelligent as English majors?
Do not be afraid; you can read this book. If you are afraid of starting a book that is so long by yourself then get some friends or family involved and read the book out loud to each other. It's marvelous.
5.0 out of 5 stars ULYSSES: BOUNDARY AND GATE INTO A WORLD.,
This review is from: Ulysses (Everyman's Library, 100) (Hardcover)
I encountered Ulysses when I was in high school in the late 60's.
It was the time when the great gulf between the classical-rooted modern (of which Ulysses is a summary representative), and the techno-corporate post-modern was becoming painfully clear. The encounter with Ulysses was an unsettling experience because I was so immediately and deeply drawn to the book that I couldn't leave it alone (I kept it with me all the time to grab any chance to read more), but I also knew that I was by no means equipped to read this book satisfactorily. I actually had a teacher who mocked my attempt to read it on my own because, I'm sure, he felt so intimidated by it himself and he was, after all, a 'teacher'. My lack of the necessary tools in this case was painful to me and I was determined to gain them with or without help. This determination, which involved a great deal of hard work in the glow of midnight oil, led me to a much deeper understanding of how different Joyce's 'cultural' world was from mine. American high school education was not, is not, designed to prepare one for an encounter with Ulysses, it has a very different purpose. So I worked at Ulysses nearly a year and began to get a grasp of the cultural depth behind it, and absorbed by it, that had no immediate connection with my own culture. Please recall that the world of Ulysses is the world that Joyce himself grew up in, it was common for young men to be familiar with not only classical English, but French, Italian, Latin and even Greek. It was normal to read books many times over a life-time. Long literary texts were carefully written out by hand, the techno-revolution that created fast, disposable ART did not yet exist. When Joyce said it had taken him a life-time to write Finnegans Wake and therefore the reader could spend a life-time reading it, he was making a rather confident but basically reasonable statement. After grasping this I went back and read Dubliners, the Collected Poems, Exiles, Stephen Hero, A Portait Of The Artist, and then read Ulysses again (I was not willing to meet Finnegan yet, because when I did I wanted to be able to converse with man.) So I succeeded in getting a feel for the overall shape of Ulysses which was very important because it allowed me to focus on the details within a more solid context. Then at that point it became a matter of how far I wanted to go with it. I saw at this point that Ulysses was in part a modern summary expression of a European culture that was at that time dying and becoming the 'past', the stuff of 'history'. It was in fact a part of the same cultural world as The Divine Comedy, much more than it was a part of my post-modern cultural world. This fact has nothing to do with whether or not Ulysses is worth reading (to me it was obviously worth reading intimately, it is a work of genius), but it has everything to do with how it is understood by readers today. I could give an episode by episode analysis of Ulysses from my perspective, but I think that would not be of as much value as addressing other questions. I will choose two.
1. Why do Joyce's last two enormous books, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, have such a conclusive, end-of-the-line, nothing-more-to-be-said, feeling about them? They describe a cultural borderline that is rather apocalyptic in its scope and suggestion. They are like the amazing last testament of a cultural world whose fire is fading out into the past. I think Joyce knew that he was the last of a line and so he put everything into it. His favorite books were Homer's Odyssey and Dante's Divine Comedy and he aspired to be in their company even though he was a modern artist, the last one. And it is highly relevant that his compatriot, friend, and fellow-artist, Samuel Beckett, who was born in the same world as Joyce knew that Joyce was special case and that nothing more could be done in the direction that Joyce represented.(Beckett is probably the only great artist who successfully strandled the modern/post-modern borderline because he understood what Joyce had achieved and what it meant for his own art.)
2.My second question concerns the many negative reviews that Ulysses has here. Do you reviewers who trash Ulysses with such smug confidence really believe that you are qualified to make a meaningful statement about this book? And if so, then why didn't you? You are certainly not obliged to like Ulysses, but could you at least be responsible enough to have some idea of what it is before you bless us with your holy judgement upon it?
5.0 out of 5 stars This book could change your life,
By A Customer
Well, the reviews on here so far have been very mixed, and I'd have to say I more or less agree with all of them. That's right. All of them.
First of all, the ones that accuse Ulysses of being a load of gibberish and a sluggish read. They're right. However, Ulysses is not meant to be a pure pleasure read. It's meant to be studied. I read a lot, and before Ulysses, the longest a book had ever taken me was two weeks. Ulysses took me two months. I did it as a part of my AP English project, and tackled it AFTER I had read Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and sections of Richard Ellmann's biography. Even then, I kept Ulysses and Annotated and the Cliffs Notes close by my side.
There are many parts of Ulysses that don't make sense. But the parts that do are brilliant. Joyce was a true genius, and if you take the time to studdy his work, you will be blown alway by his mastery of the English language, and his understanding of human nature. I hope to become a writer someday, and reading Ulysses has totally changed my outlook in writing and life.
I would be lying if I said I enjoyed Ulysses all the way through. But after you have read it, you will find that your mind is open to a million different poissiblities concerning life, other people, and the use of language.
Who knows? Maybe someday I'll write my own Ulysses...something a bit more reader-friendly...
5.0 out of 5 stars please note which text you read,
By A Customer
This review is from: ULYSSES HC NEW REV EDN (Hardcover)
Another reviewer complained about "Ulysses, the Corrected Text" as a rewrite by Danis Rose; it is NOT. The Bodley Head (London, 1984) edition of this name was edited by Hans Walter Gabler and has a preface and recommendation by Richard Ellmann, the foremost biographer of James Joyce. This edition is a significant contribution to Joycian publishing and a "must" addition to any complete library of Joyce's works, alongside any of the "original" text works. Joyce's manuscript as sent to the printers was difficult to read (it had many handwritten corrections of corrections and border notes which the original publisher could not decide whether he was supposed to use), and Gabler merely did a highly-regarded job of reconsidering original manuscript materials and other sources. The first- or second-time reader of Ulysses likely would not notice the differences in the text, but Joyce scholars and Ulysses fans regard this as an important reconsideration and an essential work. Most editions of Ulysses use an identical numbering system for sections and paragraphs so that comparisons between editions are easy to make.
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely worth the eight-month read,
I didn't have much time to devote to Ulysses, since I read it while juggling a job search, attempts to make rent, a full load of college courses which required me to read twenty other books over two semesters, a series of personal projects, and about ten other books I was already working on. But after eight months I finally got through it, and the experience was liberating.
No longer shall I be forced to wonder what all the praise and controversy has been about. Far too many people view Ulysses as a monolithic literary monster that they can never hope to tackle- hey, maybe they're right. I don't know. But my encounter with Leopold Bloom has changed me for the better, and the knowledge that every day and every action is an Odyessey is more than enough to get a person out of bed in the morning.
So... dare I take the next step, and join the fun over at Finnegan's Wake?
5.0 out of 5 stars Last great book,
By A Customer
I see that the Euros love to trash modernism. Because they lack the brains to come up with anything better. This here book is the end of you, and it came from a blind Irishman. God, that's embarassing.
2.0 out of 5 stars Huh?,
... The critics rave about Ulysses. Many readers who've slogged all the way through proclaim it to be the greatest book of the 20th Century. Put me in the camp of those who thinks it's a pile of gibberish.
It's the only book I've ever read that still had me scratching my head after three chapters. Is it a novel? A series of unrelated short stories? A poem? Apparently, only intellectuals can tell.
I was taught that writing is the process of communicating with readers. This book fails miserably at that. I honestly can't summarize the plot. I didn't understand it. Maybe I'm stupid, but I think the fact that Joyce repeatedly breaks into long stretches of French and Latin and his own made-up words--none of which I understand--has something to do with it.
I give the book two stars because of Joyce's obvious mastery of vocabulary, and because maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm too ignorant to comprehend the genius. But I doubt it. To me, reading enjoyment shouldn't be this hard. --Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.
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Ulysses by James Joyce (Paperback - Jan. 5 2010)
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