Ulysses

Written 14 March 2024

I made it through Ulysses, finishing it just before the beginning of Lent. I managed it through a combination of kindle, audiobook on Spotify and (once I’d reached my monthly usage limit) a librevox podcast. The kindle was fine and the audiobook was excellent, but perhaps the less said about the librevox podcast the better. With episodes being read by a variety of contributors, all with different accents, their renderings of the text were somewhat variable to say the least. Some were very good, but one was not a native English speaker, and Americans really struggled with some of the language. Not because it’s Irish English, but because if Bloom paid 7/6 for something this is not “seven dash six”. This made it all a little unsatisfactory, which is a shame because the other books I have listened to through librevox recordings have all been excellent.

I have done things in the wrong order: I did read Dubliners before, but left A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Odyssey until afterwards. And I’m sure I have only really absorbed a small proportion of what the book is really all about but despite that, and taking the book as a whole, I enjoyed it. It is important to stress that I enjoyed it as a whole because it is a work that is by turns mesmerising, boring, bewildering, funny and frankly impenetrable. It’s not easy, straightforward, linear or neat but that is what makes it what it is. I’m left feeling that it really is a very important book indeed; if a book can be said to have charisma then Ulysses has it in spades. 

There’s little point in attempting to summarise the book here: there are any number of reviews, essays, books and videos that will all do a much better job than I can. The fact that there is such a plethora of material out there on the subject of the book is testament to its power to entrance.I have found myself trying to find out more about it and have planned a second reading that I will start soon. I have now equipped myself with an annotated copy and plan to go through it much more slowly, taking my time, using notes and also the resources available on the internet (especially www.joyceproject.com). Looking forward to it, and might put some things on the blog about it.

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