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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

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fingernails on chalkboard or Ulysses? Fingernails please!
You shouldn't have to be a literary expert to enjoy a novel. Why anyone would say this is the best novel of the 20th century is beyond me. Joyce seems to have many different themes going and breaks new literary ground in this lengthy novel - but why all in one work? This book is extremely difficult to read, to say the least.
This book has so much innuendo and...
Published on April 12 1999 by brukman

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5.0 out of 5 stars Tough but a good read, March 1 2002
Bill (Albuquerque, New Mexico United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
Ulysses has got to be the most difficult thing I have ever read. Being as tough as it is to read, I can see why their is a lot of negative reviews about this book. Most people feel for a book to be good it has to be action packed and fastly paced with a bunch of characters that you like.
Well Ulysses has really none of those things, unless you can identify with Bloom or Stephen then you'll probably like them. When you pick up Ulysses you need to get some help. I read the guide by Gilbert along with the text and it helped me a lot. Without a guide Ulysses can be even harder than than it normally is.
You also should not expect any major or huge events to happen. Nobody dies or anything exciting like that.
Lastly you need to get into a mindset that what your going to be reading is extremly hard, but with a little patience it can be extremly rewarding.
Now, without further ado, I will review Ulysses. I gave the book five stars, but it is not an unqualified five star review. When reading Ulysses in it's entirety, some parts are classic while other parts just seem unneccesary. For example, the Hades episode is the best in the book and probably the best example of realistic writing in the english language. Most of the other episodes are also great, but a few are just a burden to read. The Oxen of the Sun episode in my opinion is pointless. Joyce seems to like the fact that he can write in middle english, so he does. I'm no expert on middle english, but it's damn hard to read and it disrupts any flow the book had. If you can sort out the slang at the end of Oxen of the Sun then I congragulate you, because it was totally lost on me. The Ithaca episode is another example. It is told with a series of questions and are answered in the most drawn out and scientific way possible. Maybe Joyce could have been best served using a diffrent style. Stephen's Shakespeare rant also seems unnecessary and the episode where Bloom is trying to sell an ad to the newspaper is hard to follow.
Ever other episode is expertly written and is a delight to read. The pitfalls of a few episodes are more than made up for with the 14 or so episodes that are expertly written.
What Joyce does with language in this book is amazing. He is a true master of the english language and a master of a multitude of diffrent styles. He writes magnificently but sometimes he can't seem to help but show off his skills.
And to those who think this book is utterly impossible and if anyone says they finished this book is lying, well I swear to god in heaven that I read this book cover to cover. It was no easy task, it took me a long time, but I did finish it. I don't claim to come close to total comprehension but I did read it all the way through.
I would recommend this book to anyone who isn't analytically challenged, has an attention span of at least one hour, and won't be offended if a writer changes styles every chapter. I highly recommend it. If you get through it you can be a literary snob for the rest of your life. Did you finish Ulysses, I did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Choose Your Edition Carefully, March 1 2002
Tom Moran (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
When you're dealing with a book as daunting to the casual reader (assuming there is such a thing as a casual reader of this particular book) as James Joyce's Ulysses, you're going to need every break you can get.
For years I was put off by the Modern Library's 1961 edition of Ulysses, and with good reason. When Judge Woolsey decided in the 1930s to institute what Morris Ernst decreed "the New Deal in the law of letters," making Ulysses legal to own and distribute in the U.S. (before that it was contraband, smuggled into the country as if it was bootleg scotch by, among other people, Ernest Hemingway), Random House, which had locked up the U.S. rights, decided to act fast, while the book was hot (Joyce even made the cover of Time magazine). So they rushed their now-legal version into print as quickly as possible, using in the process the ugliest, most unreadable typeface known to man.
In 1961, they revised the text, getting rid of some obvious errors (if I'm not mistaken they were in such a rush originally that they used Samuel Roth's 1927 pirated edition as copytext!), but for some reason they kept the same repellent font, probably because resetting the whole book in a new font would have been too expensive.
When I finally read Ulysses complete, it was in the 1960 Bodley Head edition, which is miles ahead of its American counterpart in elegance and readability. Unfortunately, the text is not nearly as good (Joyce scholar Hugh Kenner's comment on it is particularly apt -- suffice it to say that it's the title of Jacobean playwright John Ford's most famous work).
So if you're planning on taking a stab at Ulysses, this is what I would suggest. Forget about the Vintage Paperback edition (as well as Hans Walter Gabler's so-called "Corrected Text," for textual reasons too cumbersome to get into here), and go with the Everyman's Library hardcover . The Everyman's Library edition is really the best of both worlds. You have the Modern Library 1961 text, arguably the best one out there at the moment, in a large and readable font. That's the edition to get if you've never tried Ulysses before (although Dover has recently put out a reproduction of Shakespeare and Co.'s 1922 First Edition that's worth looking into).
And if you haven't read Ulysses before, I would suggest that before you do, you: a) read Joyce's earlier and simpler novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, b) try a biography first (Richard Ellmann's is the authoritative one, especially in its 1982 revision, but I'm rather partial to Stan Gebler Davies' shorter biography from the 1970s, which sounds like it was written by a character in Ulysses). Also: c) find and read a good commentary first, such as Edmund Wilson's chapter on Joyce in Axel's Castle, or Hugh Kenner's book, entitled Ulysses or Harry Blamire's The Bloomsday Book. If you're a Joycean newbie, you will need help. Plenty of it.
Even then it won't be easy. But Joyce, with the possible exception of Proust, wrote the greatest novel of the last century, and if you're any kind of a serious reader you really owe it to yourself to take a whack at it. Clifton Fadiman once compared reading Ulysses to climbing Mount Everest. Not many people make it to the summit, but the ones who get to the top are afforded a view that's hard to beat. Reading Joyce is less a matter of reading a book than of having a life experience, and a precious one (although some might wonder in which sense of the word) at that. Good luck.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly COmprehnsible with a dash of preparation, Feb. 22 2002
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
If you want to understand Ulysses, you HAVE to read Portrait first, by JOyce of course. Try to get some portrait commentary so you know where Joyce is coming from, preferably an essay or two on JOyce's aesthetic theory and on the role of Stephen. If you can, read Dubliners too. I listened to an audio book lecture series on Joyce before i began his work ... it spoke of how the book begins in this oddly shaped tower the likeness of which can only be found in Ireland, hence, an American reader would most likely be ignorant as to where the books begins. As you read, consult the ANNOTATED ULYSSES for vocab and sentences that just seem too complex ... like the first sentence of the Bloom section and the ineluctable modality... - most people would not pick up the Jakob Boehme reference in the sentence, and when you do, if you dig Boehme as i have, let's just say it is a pleasant experience. I suggest the Everymna LIbrary series edition, it is a beautiful edition and has some very insightful supplements, including an introduction, the statement by an American judge that has become so renowned, a history of how the book has been printed(and more oft, destroyed) and a helpful chart on the structure of the book. I suggest one reads as much of this book as one can, even if it is just the Stehpen section, else one might die without at least experiencing part of this genius. Knowing a dash about Aquinas and Aristotle and reading some Berkeley will also sharpen one's mind to what's going on here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The 20th Century Novel, Feb. 6 2002
D. Koepsell - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
Why haven't you read this book? There are two types of people in the world: those who love _Ulysses_ and those who despise it. It always astonishes me the degree to which some people loathe this book. One of my very best friends cannot read past an early description of the sea as "snot-green." Go figure. Joyce challeneges our notions about the ordinary. The ordinary is not always beautiful. It is not always remarkable. But seen through the life of one ordinary man, a single day is an epic, albeit an ordinary one. And what's so wrong with that?
Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedelus are perhaps the most intriguing characters in 20th Century art. They are opposites of a sort. Bloom is an everyman, Daedelus wants to be the Ubermensch, but he is far too Gallic. Bloom (the Hungarian Jew - anything but Gallic) triumphs in his epic, this day in Dublin. Stephen, well, he doesn't quite triumph. There are lessons here that one can explore for eons. Why is Bloom successful in his odyssey? Why isn't Stephen? Stephen is trapped in emerging Gallic existentialism, dark, "sinister" as Buck Mulligan describes it. Bloom is, well...Bloom. He is the good kind of existential...the Teutonic rather than Gallic.
Read this book, for God's sakes. Don't take my word for it. Love it, hate it, I don't care. It is life in a nutshell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars incomprehensible masterpiece, Jan. 18 2002
JR (New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
First of all, I won't even begin to say what this giant hulk of a book was about, but it still remains my favorite work of literature of all time. The trick to enjoying this one, if you can use a verb like enjoying to describe it, is to simply let it flow and seep into you. It is like Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon in that, there's so much knowledge stuffed into the narrative you'll never be able to grasp every word... And that's okay. You don't have to. It would probably take you decades anyhow. Just sit back and take your time with this one and somehow, it will become clear to you, the same time it's confusing the hell out of you. A definite challenge between love and hate and both of them will win out by the end. But you will feel rewarded when you're finished, if only to say: "Yeh, I actually got thru the whole thing... Finnegan's Wake, which is really mindboggling, may be more of an experiment but this book is the more satisfying work. Don't let it discourage you. It wasn't meant to be read in one week, or even one month. Personally, I read passages of it in different locations, and somehow, that actually helped...
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5.0 out of 5 stars modalities of the visible, Jan. 10 2002
Doug Anderson (Miami Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
Jorge Luis Borges once thanked Joyce and Picasso in the introduction of one of his books. It was a joke. Borges obviously felt both names had been evoked so many times as to make the mere mention of either of them seem ponderous. I kind of agree with that assessment.
Joyce certainly has received top billing by the academy and if your impression of him is, well, reverent, you are in good company. I read Ulysses first because I wanted to know this huge book which everyone talked about with such admiration and then I read it again in college in a Joyce seminar. I have to say the seminar was enjoyable but not altogether because of the author chosen. I think we students and teacher felt like we were conquering a mountain and were proud of ourselves every step of the way. In memory the actual book does not loom very large in the way other great works do nor do I feel much affection for it. The characters and plot are implanted in my brain but rarely do they move about nor do scenes get replayed in my imagination. Perhaps Joyce's work was so complete that it didn't leave much room for any other imagination to go to work on it so Ulysses never became one of my favorites. I don't suppose I can wholeheartedly recommend the book given my less than enthusiastic feeling about it. In fact I think I learned a lot more from other books by less revered authors. Joyce had talent to spare but I think for me he just loads Ulysses with too many apparently ordinary though symbolic so very literary things and the result is that I am not inspired by his art but rather put off by the excessive weight and meaning the work aquires as one works ones way through. So much has been said about the work that it almost comes to the reader with a feeling of having been pre-interpreted for you. Joyce I think contributes to this reaction because he left little room for "interpretations" of his work, its all layed out for you and there really is no latitude for an individual encounter with it. You either submit to its spell or you don't. Perhaps the net result is that in this case more turns out to be less. It can't be penalized for being too much of a good thing so five stars despite all just said.
Some have mentioned that this book benefits from being read out loud. Perhaps that is the Catholic interpretation of this very Catholic author. Ulysses as incantation. That approach does have its advantages with this book. There is available a recording of Joyce himself reading excerpts from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake(Anna Plurabelle). I've heard it and it is like hearing a fairy tale written by the unconscious for adults. His voice is musical and he reads like he is summoning the spirit.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nest Stirring Hisstory at 10 AM in the school of CatSchism, Dec 7 2001
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
Nest-stirring Hi[s]story at 10am in the school of cat-schism
[This essay is a reflection on the second episode in Joycean Ulysses titled: 'Nestor']
Ire's (land) is the anomie conscientious of 'Trans-mythos' in affectation, floating in a sunken lemuria. Being sunken, is a struggle to trace an identity of conflict in the 'tangible' of being 'historically constructed and hysterically free'.
Stephen comments: "History is a nightmare from which I am constantly trying to wake up" Stephen can never wake up because of the power of sleeping in trance.
The 'nightmare' is tran [s] conscious and can't rationalize, the 'History' of being a nation 'within'. The rationale for it is not within the nation but 'within' the floating possibility of being forever 'Gaelic'.
The undercurrents of it are a conscious effort to unify a clashing opposite of being 'individuated' in ratiocination. Does Stephen succeed?
The 'ideo-graph' of a 'Blakian' vision of human partiality with an irresolved dogma of flesh and spirit are struggling repression's which accommodate the libertine myth of 'hyperborean' Gaelicism.
The secret desires of being rooted in faith clashes of apocalyptic reconciliation are projected to a 'cost' of being 'Pyrrhic' in victory. Utopianism, doxology, theology, dogma and happenings of history float in paroxysms of contemplation mating to be the 'ontic' of 'individuation's. The Gaelic Helen wants to project anthropo-graphs peculiar in egoistic units and Anglicized to a conservatory.
The institution of the archival in culture consciousness wages the dialectic of the personal, in the context of 'Blakian excess and pyrrhic success'. The possibility of being logical is shifted on to the childish of being idiotic in satisfaction.
The 'Pyrrhic' 'pier' becomes a Xantippe who resolves the logic as coming out with ease. Victorianism of being victorious is 'pyrrhic' in being stoic which is negated with the 'epicurianism' of 'Aristotlien' possibilities of imagining the actual as happened in History.
The 'ubermenisch' of being beyond the 'Roman Coin' and existing in the trance sentience of being neither Roman or Jerusalamian is riddled as anecdotal metaphors of being in a mode of 'Christ' whose bondage to the material was itself a 'concern' of being 'immaterial'.
The institution of 'Rome' betrays the individual's home and the riddle comprehends the need of 'Stephen's home' to be in a vision of his totality.
The flesh is flowing to 'homeland' in a grotto of volume fleshy and red- safe in a being of warmth. The intensity to be longing with maternity as a part of maturity in innocence is understanding rather than maturity in purity. The heavenly eternity is infused with a womb of experiencing possibilities. "Heaven starts and ends in it: hell begins out of it." "The sowed knows: but who sows?"
The little boy's hatred for mathematics seeks the revenge of being hermeneutic in 'algebra'. Al-Ja-Bar or the science of 'reuniting' is Arabic and gives the origin of 'algebra'. Alphabets and letters are united as symbols of meaning. Is the meaning justified in unity to be tool for quantification, which quantifies the boy in dread! Algebra 'schizoids' to represent the symbolic of what it cannot mean. Letters become heretic epistemologies of being defined rather than being tools or symbols to express meaning.
The sea's ruler is inebriated in mental urges of being real as 'archaic'. The sea asks who was before the sea? The 'archaic' wants to be legitimate as being a 'history-fair to Irishness. The theology of asserting, who is the 'Poseidon' is significant intensities of being spiritual about a topography that deviates in depression.
The laissez-faire of the 'agrarian' and the houte-coutré of being in the economy of parsimony, is a locus of reflection, where the fantasy to transcend the 'fallibility' of struggle is shifted on to the aesthetic of being a frugal Goth. Stephen reverts to the 'gothic anima' of 'Cassandra' mourning, over the truth of being real- but really believed.
The Hegelian cycle of Hi[s]tory to move to an absolute is contradicted with the little boy's shouts of shooting a goal. The 'goal can be a 'goal' when the boys grow up and become absolutes. The goal in question dichotomizes in a Hi[s]tory to be real with the imagined as existing only in possibilities.
Deary comments on Stephen's vocation to be born, not as a teacher is a reflection of Joyce's will to an actualization of being the master of 'pen-ship'. Cassandra was right! And the right continues the process of being the mortal of Helen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You should probably read this., Nov. 7 2001
S. C Rice - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
I suppose it is pretty hard to add anything to this monstrous string of reviews. But I will comment because (obviously like so many others) I found this book to be very important. The fact that so many reviews exist shows that this book has effected a lot of people (enough to expend their precious energies writing about it). As you can see, not many really ride the middle ground about it. People seem to love it passionately or they hate it passionately. This should be enough to recommend it to anyone. We all should be after books that are going to change us, challenge us, effect our lives and loves. This is a book that has done that for a great many people. If you have not read it, take the time. I do not think that you'll sit in your easy chair and say 'well, it was okay,' and flip on the television.
Personally, I found the book to be lively and entertaining. It was also challenging and arduous. Sometimes I couldn't put it down and sometimes I couldn't pick it up. Sometimes I thought it was a stupid book and sometimes I thought it was the best work of fiction that I had read. Ulysses is overall 'real.' It discusses truth, it changes a lot, like life. All the characters can be seen as stable in their lives, yet metaphysically sort of lost and wandering. That is like Ulysses. It is also a lot like you and I. There are jarring events, changes of style, unexpected devices and layers and layers of erudition. There are also normal everyday joes going about life as usual, to which we can all relate. It was not easy, and that is like life, also. Like life, it has a lot to teach you. And you can come back to this book many times and still find it fresh. It probably will seem an entirely new beast when you return.
Unlike some of the reviewers, I wouldn't recommend annotations. Trust yourself and trust Joyce in undertaking the work. Perhaps you'll miss things here or there. That is okay. You'll still 'get it,' in the end, if you make it. Part of it is seeing if you can make it, so you sort of fail in your test of yourself if you immediately resort to consulting some sort of 'dictionary of Joyce.' For anyone that sees this book as too daunting, let me just say that I'm not an English major or in a literature related field. I'm a music student, just a plain old undergraduate joe that read this book. I read the book without annotations except for one period where I was stuck and thought I didn't understand. I checked the annotations out from the library and I found that I did understand (at least as well as the annotator) and that I just needed to keep going to figure it out, just like in finding out how a Dickens plot is going to unfold. I would recommend against taking that step. Leave the annotations on the shelf. I'd recommend that you, another plain old non - literature joe or jane, try it. Trust yourself and try it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars He laughed to free his mind from his mind's bondage., Oct. 10 2001
Norman cook (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
They list and in the porch of their ears I pour...I mean who writes lines like that?? So here's my explication/review:
Ulysses : Political Commentary And Sensuality
James Joyce was a famous contributor to the 18th century literary tradition. Nevertheless, Joyce's use of the supernatural is all too often mistaken for social commentary in Ulysses. Below, it will be proven that Ulysses's Surrealist overtones and views on hate are not evidence of Joyce's surrender to love. This claim is buttressed by three points: (1) the Surrealist views of Ulysses's protagonist, Tom Joad, (2) Joyce's triumphant use of satire in the work, and (3) the author's employment of human nature, showing the influence of the the British Modernist school.
First, Joyce's male sympathies are evident in Ulysses. To indicate that Ichabod Stephenson is the work's villain, the author makes his dialogue simple. Ishmael Maxwell is a famous character for this very reason; it is also meaningful that scholars--by seeing him as an avatar of Joyce's Minimalist views--have misinterpreted the character King Adams's role in the book.
Furthermore, consider that Ulysses was not so much written by Joyce as belched forth in a fit of sublime inspiration. Ulysses's use of incest is in keeping with its Constructivist point-of-view. Captain Stephenson is a far from marginal character; in fact, it is through him that many of Joyce's 18th century influences show through.
Last, Ulysses cannot be fully understood without examination of the post Minimalist school of Roman literature. Many teens see the book's closing scene as the most enduring; I, however, do not. Nick Daniel is a witless character for this very reason; this is definitely why One-Eyed Caulfield is such a monumental character.
It's easy to forget that Ulysses was the most brilliant work of its time. Perhaps it's time that scholars reevaluated their estimation of the book. Though contemporaries found Joyce's use of dystopic future-vision ponderous, history will vindicate Ulysses. Q. E. D. -- Quite easily done.
The End
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just Read It... Don't Try to Understand..., Sept. 4 2001
This review is from: Ulysses (Paperback)
If you approach Joyce's Ulysses looking to be told a story worthy of the Modern Library's #1 book of the 20th Century, then you will most likely be disappointed. But if you throw aside your expectations of what makes a book great and just read the words as you would the people, places, sights and sounds that trigger your thoughts during the course of a normal day, then you will be amazed.
In Ulysses, James Joyce uses his superhuman vocabulary and literary knowledge to relate a day in the life of a couple Irishmen (Stephen Dedalus and his friend, Leopold Bloom) and the people with whom they interact. Joyce's words are abnormally sophisticated, yet one never gets the feeling he is simply showing off. While his writing style is often referred to as stream-of-consciousness, it is clear that every word is appropriately placed and deeply thought out. As Ulysses meanders along through its day, the objects that enter the periphery of the protagonists triggers emotions and thoughts that lead to: poems, songs, theological and political discussions, laughing, shouting, incoherent noises, etc. The novel ranges from sublime to aggravating, but that is only because it is so true to its form. How many times in a normal day, if we were to stop and ruminate upon what we were just thinking, would we then think, "What was that?" But then it's quickly on to the next interaction destined to spark different emotions, thoughts, ideas, etc...
It is impossible to sum this book up. It follows no plot or pattern other than that it is simply 1 day. A few people... 1 day.
Reading this book reminded me at times of the Simpsons episode where Homer is seen watching an episode of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. "Brilliant!" Homer remarks, but then quietly to himself, "I have no idea what is going on here." While I often found myself in Homer's predicament while reading Ulysses, I was always able to appreciate Joyce's writing, even if the individual words were all I understood. For that reason, I plan on reading this book again several years from now to see what life has taught me that might expand my understanding of Joyce's beautiful day.
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