Reading Ulysses in 2020
December 28, 2019 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me fulfil my resolution to read Ulysses next year.

I have read previous related questions and will check out material contained therein but interested in personal recommendations to help get me through the tome. Books, websites, podcasts, off the wall suggestions. All welcome.

(I lived in Dublin for a few years and am familiar with the city)
posted by roolya_boolya to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend this Naxos audiobook (they also have an abridged version available in an iPad app with annotated text).
posted by pinochiette at 8:11 PM on December 28, 2019

When we read it in college we read The New Bloomsday Book alongside. It’s a chapter-by-chapter guide that walks you through what you just read. I remember it being accessible and illuminating.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 8:39 PM on December 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have to second both the Naxos and the Bloomsday BOok recommendations. In particular, the little musical bits at the beginning of the audiobook "chapters" do a great job setting the mood, in addition to being period-appropriate.

IF you want to read the book by hand, which I know is not the correct phrase but I'm coming off a cold and a Braille reader anyway so it applies… DOn't worry too much about understanding everything. There are large sections you can just read and let the words kind of flow over you, and they will create a feeling, a sense of place, or what have you if you don't worry too much about what is actually happening, which might not be very much.
posted by Alensin at 9:07 PM on December 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

A great gloss, almost essential, in my opinion, is "James Joyce's Ulysses" by Stuart Gilbert.
posted by Chitownfats at 9:13 PM on December 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

New Bloomsday is a must. Also I highly recommend Ulysses Annotated.

Set a reading schedule. Lots of bits you just have to power through.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:00 AM on December 29, 2019

Maybe take a look at Infinite Ulysses?
posted by onebyone at 3:13 AM on December 29, 2019

let the words kind of flow over you
That’s exactly what my classics professor told us. Treat it like a breezy novel you’d read on the beach. Then if it hooks you, go back.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:45 AM on December 29, 2019

I had always wanted to read Ulysses, but I never got past the first chapter. It felt like a puzzle to crack, a mountain to climb, a prize to win, but never like a book I loved.
Then, a friend asked me to join a group at her UU church that was going to read it together. Only one person in the group had read it before. There were about 15 or so of us, and our plan was this: every two weeks, we’d meet for two (maybe three?) hours and read it out loud. We all brought whatever reference books we had, and we stopped reading whenever we wanted/needed to clarify something. Some nights, we barely covered a page or two. Others went much quicker. We relied on Gilford’s Ulysses Annotated, Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses, and Blamires’s The New Bloomsday Book, among others. We also drew from my and my fellow readers’ backgrounds—some of us had been Catholic, some of us had been to Dublin, some of us had read other works by Joyce, some of us had backgrounds in psychology. We had very little in common (well, maybe they had more in common, as members of the church, but I wasn’t a member, and they never discussed church stuff during the meetings).
There were a few times where I missed meetings for weeks at a time, but the group was always there for me when I was ready to catch up.
When we finished that book, yes, I understood the literary allusions within and about it. I knew a lot more about Joyce and about writing and about reading and about people. But the best part was that I loved Bloom and Stephen. I knew them like I know real people. This was not something I ever expected when I had attempted to read the book out of ambition rather than out of genuine curiosity, and it kept me going through the more difficult parts of the book—even when I was super annoyed at Joyce for throwing up what often felt like obstacles between me and the characters I had grown to love.
I share all this because I think that it was the community around the book that made this possible—it provided support and enthusiasm even when we were individually discouraged as readers. It helped me to hang in there until I was truly invested. If you can find a group of kind and curious strangers, it might make your reading pretty wonderful, too.
posted by TEA at 9:22 AM on December 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I finally read Ulysses in 2018—after having it looming at me from various bookshelves for over a decade—by using it as a before-bedtime soporific with the "let the words flow over you" technique, or as I call it, "reading a book by looking at every word of its contents in order." In other words, every night I read until I was too sleepy to continue. I think it took me a few months. In terms of the amount of effort invested I guess I'm sort of on the opposite end of the spectrum from TEA, above. They surely got more out of it than I did, but I did finish and even intermittently enjoy it without ever having to leave the house.

I did use Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses, mentioned multiple times upthread, to get the lay of the land for each chapter "episode." The schematic that Gilbert lays out explaining the episodes' various associations and techniques kept me from feeling completely adrift and helped me appreciate Joyce's cleverness more than I would have on my own, but past that overview I didn't try too hard to understand all the specific details and allusions and such. Part of this is that I found Gilbert to be kind of a windbag, and sexist to boot, and part of it is I did just want to get through the damn thing without having to try to understand every bit. Much of the language really is a joy to traverse even without complete comprehension.

Good luck! I have heard that reading Ulysses out loud can make it more enjoyable, and I believe that and think that an audiobook would be a really smart idea.
posted by valrus at 10:27 PM on December 29, 2019

Many thanks for your response so far. I have the Bloomsday Guide, the Gilbert and the Annotated Joyce and will listen to the RTÉ audio suggested in a previous thread.

Related to valrus's comment about Gilbert being a 'kind of windbag, and sexist to boot', I wonder does anyone have any suggestions for Joycean introductions or scholarship written by women. I have started the biography by Edna O'Brien but am interested in pursuing further the learned opinions of women on Joyce.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:20 AM on December 30, 2019

If you can, it helps enormously to set aside blocks of time so that you can submerge yourself in it. Three or four hours a day should be enough and should take you through about fifty pages of this most excellent book.
posted by einekleine at 3:45 AM on December 31, 2019

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