Baffling Poetic Dream

By James Joyce
Irish, 1922 
Random House/Bodley Head Text
Philosophy, Modernist, Avant Garde

Main Attractions

Penguin Modern Classics1.  A simple story that’s outlandishly complicated       
2.  Invented words nestled into perfectly formed sentences
3.  More language jokes than can ever be interpreted
4.  Only two main characters & the lady who outshines
5.  Perhaps a wildly Irish satirical adaptation of The Odyssey 
6.  Set on a single day & takes a full single day to read through
7.  Each episode reveals a different narrative structure
8.  Humanity’s 3-D consciousness compressed onto a flat page
9.  Loaded with puns, bawdy humour & mundane moments 
10.  Painstaking, attention to finite details of Dublin & humanity


These quotes are only from Episodes 1-5:

Cuisine & Delicacies

Ranked as: Han Jeong Shik
Without question, this book presents a major learning curve for readers of Joyce or for any new to avant-garde literature.  Careful readers are heavily rewarded each time they return to its pages.  It’s packed with allusions and references to literature, puns between different languages, poetic lines and sheer moments of wisdom.  None of these are clearly laid out for us, it takes a bit of curiosity to really dig in and discover them.  In this way, the book comes alive because it’s a concentrated dialogue between the text and the reader.  Or would it be a dialogue between the author and the reader?  Naturally, this complexity will give itself to a variety of interpretations which makes it a great work for conversing with other readers over.  In this way, the sheer variety offered merits it the designation of Han Jeong Shik.

Why Visit Here

It's just a party for language.  Imagine all the letters on a dance floor having a good time with freedom to let their 'phonemes' out!  It doesn't have to make sense for it to be a good time.  St. Patrick’s Day is well known all over the world and is widely celebrated.  There is another Irish holiday worthy of celebration and is devoted entirely to Ulysses.  It’s called Bloomsday and occurs every June 16th.  It’s a day when everyone takes to the streets with public readings of Ulysses, which conveniently takes about 30 hours to complete.  This is just enough time for a full day of partying that drifts long into the night.  Reading Ulysses is a way to embrace this literary holiday that’s becoming a world wide event.  Recently, Ulysses was translated into Korean and more languages are accessing Ulysses each year.

Here’s a great video by Ted-Ed that gives a great overview for why we should read Ulysses:

Destination Summary

This video has many spoilers because it shows just how simple the plot really is: Mr. Bloom & Dedalus wander around Dublin for the day and end the night at a bar before going home.  Knowing the very ending really is a spoiler but it won’t ruin the whole experience of reading Ulysses.  When you do begin to drown in the language, (everyone does at some point) this video can help by reminding you of the basic plot so you can get your bearings again.  It’s a great reference point & is oh so sweet!

Ulysses to Go by Sommer’s World Literature to go:

Travel Advisory

It faced obscenity trials in USA when it was first published.  Ironically, these obscene scenes are exceedingly difficult to fully interpret so how obscene are they actually?  If one puts in the time and pays careful attention, some snippets of an exposed ankle will reveal itself.  Be warned, there are far more obscene moments than mere ankles.  But nothing that a raging hormonal teen of today wouldn’t be able to come up with on their own.

While Ulysses is loosely based on The Odyssey, it’s not necessary to read Homer’s epic to understand Ulysses.  Perhaps, it could help.  The best advice is to begin with Joyce’s earlier works listed below because you can see him develop his thoughts and build upon earlier ideas.  Reading Hamlet or knowing the basic story could help also because it’s mentioned many times throughout Ulysses.

Packing List

✓ Every highly academic work written on the subject of Ulysses
✓ A fireplace or matches & a safe place to build a fire
✓ Will power to toss the academia into the flames
✓ Courage to brave these waters alone for the first time
✓ Money to replace the burnt academic works

Recommended Resources
Alternate Books
✓ Dubliners By James Joyce (1914) - Many of these characters also show up in Ulysses
✓ The Dead By James Joyce (1914) -  This story is briefly touched on in Ulysses, moreso in Finnegans Wake.  It’s part of the Dubliners collection.
✓ A Portrait of an Artist as a young Man By James Joyce (1916) - Stephen Dedalus is the main character for both Portrait & Ulysses
✓ Finnegans Wake By James Joyce (1939) - If you enjoyed Ulysses, plunge into Joyce’s book of the night

Movie Adaptation
✓ Ulysses Directed By Joseph Strick (1967) - An adaptation with an interesting flashback style for revealing character's thoughts. 

Joseph Strick

Other Sources:
Yeats bought a signed 1st edition:
When Yeats & Joyce met:

Some articles on translations of Ulysses

Graphic Novel Format

How to Read Review:

Free Audiobooks:

Jim Norton is excellent, but it's not free (that I can find)