Written over a seven-year period, from 1914 to 1921, this book has survived bowdlerization, legal action and controversy. The novel deals with the events of one day in Dublin, 16th June 1904, now known as "Bloomsday". The principal characters are Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly. "Ulysses" has been labelled dirty, blasphemous and unreadable.In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book - although he found it not quite obscene enough to disallow its importation into the United States - and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacal obsession". None of these descriptions, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in its own way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, "Ulysses" is also a compulsively readable book.Amazon.com Review
Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, andunreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolseydeclared it an emetic book--although he found it sufficientlyunobscene to allow its importation into the United States--andVirginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacalobsession." None of these adjectives, however, do the slightestjustice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernistmasterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism andvulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in aclose-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegeticalindustry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses isalso a compulsively readable book. Even the verbal vaudeville of thefinal chapters can be navigated with relative ease, as long as you'rewilling to be buffeted, tickled, challenged, and (occasionally) vexedby Joyce's sheer command of the English language.
Among other things, a novel is simply a long story, and the firstquestion about any story is: What happens?. In the case ofUlysses, the answer might be Everything. William Blake,one of literature's sublime myopics, saw the universe in a grain ofsand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a daydistinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalusand Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing pathswith a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat,stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom's case) masturbate. Andthanks to the book's stream-of-consciousness technique--which suggestsno mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river--we'reprivy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almostevery variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian foldsof a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimentalwork but the very last word in realism.
Both characters add their glorious intonations to the music of Joyce'sprose. Dedalus's accent--that of a freelance aesthetician, who dabbleshere and there in what we might call Early Yeats Lite--will befamiliar to readers of Portrait of an Artist As aYoung Man. But Bloom's wistful sensualism (and naivecuriosity) is something else entirely. Seen through his eyes, arundown corner of a Dublin graveyard is a figure for hope andhopelessness, mortality and dogged survival: "Mr Bloom walkedunheeded along his grove by saddened angels, crosses, broken pillars,family vaults, stone hopes praying with upcast eyes, old Ireland'shearts and hands. More sensible to spend the money on some charity forthe living. Pray for the repose of the soul of. Does anybodyreally?" --James Marcus ... Read more
Customer Reviews (431)
A Show About Nothing
This review is for people that have not read this novel and are frightened by it.
Greatest novel of all time, blah blah blah. Forget the academic wankery that has encased this novel like a black, shiny coffin. Joyce never meant this novel to be read with reverential nods and oh so serious frowns. This is a novel that is bursting with atmosphere and life.
In its essence, this novel attempts two major tasks: to inflate one utterly ordinary day in the life of a human being to epic proportions, and to do so by undertaking a different writing-experiment for each chapter.
The "epic inflation" aspect is absolutely fascinating. Mr Leopold Bloom spends an entire day wandering around Dublin for a bit, then comes back home. Absolutely nothing "epic", in the usual sense, actually occurs here. He encounters a spiritual son in the form of the slightly malnourished, youthful, pseudo-intellectual Stephen Dedalus...but the encounter doesn't really lead anywhere.
Rather, it is the point of the novel to inflate the simple things in life to something epic. Taking the Odyssey as its skeleton (and you really should be familiar with the Odyssey before attempting this book), Joyce turns each tiny incident during the day (in pretty much "real time") into an epic event with its own incredible atmosphere and drama. Even Bloom sitting on the toilet, going to the post-office, or drinking instant chocolate become massive epic events.
To some degree this is slightly self-mocking. However, the novel makes you see your own life in a slightly different way. Maybe there are no "dull" days in our lives; from a certain point of view even the most mundane stuff, like dropping off something at the post office, or drinking Ovaltine, becomes miraculous.
Secondly, there is the experimentation. The fact that each chapter is a totally different experiment gives you a real sense of curiosity about the novel. What is coming next? Stream of consciousness wackiness? A play? Random newspaper headlines? The division of the book into different experiments means that, even if you don't like one chapter, you can read on in the hopes that the next chapter will be more to your taste.
Think of it as being like a concept album. Even if you don't dig Within You Without You, When You're Sixty-Four is just around the corner.
Overall, I liked the atmosphere of the novel. Even if sometimes you don't totally get what's happening, you get a strong sense of Dublin c. 1904, with people lunching on gorgonzola sandwiches and sherry at pubs, people wandering along Sandymount Strand and buying sweets, people going to the turkish bath and buying scented soap.
There is also the unmistakeable tang of the Homeric Aegean. Dublin is near the sea, like Troy, and you don't forget it. Whether wandering the sandy beach, eating headless sardines from a tin, or watching drunken soldiers wandering along the street at night, the sea is never far away.
Don't be put off this book. Wallow away in something that is truly an epic "show about nothing". Speaking of which, what is this book comparable to in the modern world?
§ "Seinfeld", with its excruciating minutiae about life in New York City being raised to the mock-epic level, whether it's George lying about his job or Elaine wondering if a rabbi is gossiping about her.
§ "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", with its exuberant, youthful experimentation with the very bedrock of music albeit with a playful unpretentiousness
§ most oddly, "24", with real time coverage of events in such a way that every single hour has something epic happening in it.
A genius, yes, but one I really do not like
Joyce was a great genius, granted, but what he did with his genius is something that doesn't appeal to me. Dangling the snotgreen stuff at the beginning of the book is not what I would call an inviting beginning. Yes, it's a marvel of writing, but I do not like what it is being marvelous about, or at. It's like a beautiful women who farts a lot but doesn't give a damn, because she knows her bosoms are so fetching. Well, fetching bosoms can take a woman only so far, just as fetching writing-- even a genius's writing-- can take a book so far. (IMHO). So yes, I like Joyce's writing's beauty and I like its fetching sensations, but I do not like his artistic manners and I do not like the liberties he takes with my attention-- which he sure knows how to catch, but so what. So can Flaubert (a greater writer, imho), and so can Proust (almost ditto).
With all that out of the way I'll not-grudgingly say you probably have to read Ulysses, because, first, it sits like a dead weight in the midst of modern writing, and, second (if you are a writer), so you could steal some of Joyce's marvelous writing technique. But I would not read him more than once.
This is the most beautiful book to come out of Ireland in our time.One thinks of Homer.
Be careful which edition you buy.
I bought the edition with the Despite it being on the expensive side, I do not think this is a good edition to buy. (I mean the one with the plain white cover with small black text). Be careful, the text chosen in the review is not accurate to this edition - it has no map, etc. I think it is possibly the uncorrected edition which means tons of mistakes that JJ later fixed, if I have it right. Well, 1/3 of the way through it is not too late for me to switch to one of the 'corrected' editions.
There is no publication information in this book.
The novel is great, but just be careful which edition you buy.
I suppose I shouldn't complain much at 95 cents, but the text has a disconcertingly high error rate.There are no italics, verse is not offset, there are scattered typographical errors, and I've found a few instances where stray numbers appear in the text.Also, I'm only three chapters in.
If you are unfamiliar with this book and care about these things, you might want to look elsewhere.
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