112 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 1999
Nearly everybody knows about Joyce's extravagant depiction of one day in early 20th century Dublin, and almost nobody has actually read it (unless forced to do so at school).
The length of the book, the legendary "difficulty" of the English, even the lack of punctuation, all serve to make most potential readers queasy. This perception is enhanced by the enormous volume of secondary writing on the book and Joyce himself. Everything about the text seems to be a license for academics to be pretentious and superiour. Read Ulysses for pleasure? Are you mad? Have you been down the pub with Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus?
As far as I am aware, I am neither mad nor drunk, but I do recommend holding one's literary breath and plunging into this masterpiece.
This book is truly an extraordinary novel. Joyce is a master at depicting and analysing mankind. His ability to describe human emotions on both a concious and sub-concious level is amazing. I am not saying it is easy. To be honest, there are large parts of the book that even after re-reading are way over my head, but too many believe that the book is beyond them. One should not focus on the bad, but the good, and the overall effect of the novel is nothing short of awesome.
So go on, ignore the stigma and the prejudice.
Read Ulysses, for fun.
172 of 184 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2004
So much has been written about this book in the past eighty years that its reputation alone is enough to dissuade some readers. I think that the reviews printed here reflect the balance of opinion about it, both why it is so revered and why some describe it as being unreadable. For what it is worth, 'Ulysses' is, for me, one of the most sublime monuments in world literature, a book unlike any other, and one that deserves a place among the very small number of classics that should be enjoyed for centuries to come. However, I do understand those that have struggled and failed with it.
Firstly, to like this book is not 'pretentious'. It is perhaps my pretension that made me read it and want to understand it to begin with, but certainly not my pretension that made me enjoy it. These are not to be confused. Secondly, it is 'difficult'. If someone tells you otherwise, I would like to know what they are comparing it to. Joyce's language is convoluted and obscure, and often important events are referred to so obliquely that they bypassed me if my attention was wandering. I have read the book twice and realised that I missed much the first time round. However, the rewards for sticking with it are huge. Thirdly, don't let the scholarly dissection of the book put you off. There are a lot of themes underpinning the book, not least the explicit parallels with the 'Odyssey' and the slightly more implicit theme of the relationships between fathers and sons (paralleled by a reference to Hamlet that runs through the book). However, it would be wrong to view 'Ulysses' as some sort of puzzle to be solved. It is, very simply, a book about a man (Bloom/Daedalus/Joyce) and about Ireland in 1904. For all its scholarly overtones it is about a day in the life of an everyman. He isn't a hero, he doesn't save the world or fight the bad guy and, paradoxically, this should make it more, not less, accessible to most readers. If you are able to overcome the complex structure (which becomes one of the book's joys, honest) and lack of plot then the odyssey through a single day and a single language, and a single city becomes the most incredible journey in literature. I have read it twice, and both times I was unable to out the book out of my head for several days after I had out it down. It felt more like having an important life moment than simply reading a book. I read a lot, but only a couple of books make me feel this way, and this is one. If this (admittedly pretentious sounding) review doesn't put you off, then please make the effort to read this book. It really is worth it.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2010
I recently read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Wordsworth Classics)and was very impressed with the notes. I found they gave just enough information to help me understand the text, but not enough to interrupt the flow of reading. I can't imagine a better version for the everyday reader. I have had similar experiences with many other novels that Wordsworth publish.
Ulysses is probably more in need of notes than any other novel, so I thought, "Wordsworth are bound to have their usual nice notes...", when I ordered it. Imagine my disappointment when I found they provided no notes at all! I'd held off buying another version with notes until this was published because I like the Wordsworth price & font. But, for Ulysses, notes are by far the most essential attribute!
I will now have to buy either Ulysses: The 1922 text (Oxford World's Classics) or Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics). These are the only versions I know of that have notes. They also have 'look inside' enabled. I recommend that anyone start reading at page 1 in 'look inside' and see which one has the most helpful notes for them. Try and see them in a bookshop or library if you can, so you can judge their physical layout -- Oxford use a small print size, which I can just about manage, but it's definitely a negative.
The average reader (i.e., readers like me!) will need to access the notes several times before page 2, so it should soon become obvious which is most helpful version for you... if you are average...
Update: Do you know what ouns (mentioned on page 1) are? Neither do I. Penguin's supposedly annotated edition doesn't bother to tell you, Oxford does. And it's a lot less expensive! I think my buying decision is made... see my (upcoming!) review of the Oxford edition to see if it holds up to more detailed scrutiny.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2013
I put off reading this book for so long - years. Then, I heard that it was going to be dramatised for BBC radio 4 for Bloomsday 2012. So I thought I better get reading. It took me two months to get through it, but I'm really glad I did. I found that I had to change the way I normally read a book, but I found that challenging in an interesting way. If I let my mind slip in and out of focus, the prose would pull me along - a bit like how you would listen to music. Because Ulysses really is a literary symphony. It is everything that has been said before and well worth the effort. I listened to the dramatisation afterwards and was really pleased that I had read the book first.
It is a real doorstopper of a book. One of the actors in the dramatisation, Andrew Scott, said don't be put off by how long it is, it is about what it is to be human. And that is pretty accurate, I think.
I didn't read it with any 'reader' accompaniment (just because I didn't want to) and I didn't read it with the Odyssey in mind (just because I read the Odyssey so long ago and it isn't fresh in my mind).
However, if you don't like long and difficult reads, this book is very much not for you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2013
I have been reading Ulysses now for the best part of 40 years and have a number of editions on my bookshelf from the two volume Odyssey Press edition (2nd edition 1933) to this one. I have no doubt that this is the edition to have whether reading it for the 1st or 40th time. The annotations are superb; Sam Slote, at last, picks up on the apparent errors regarding the death of Mrs Sinico and the bee sting but oddly misses the error regarding the colours of Miss Douce's and Miss Kennedy's hair in Wandering Rocks. On p.180 we read "Bronze by gold, Miss Kennedy's head by Miss Douce's head, appeared above the cross blind of the Ormond Hotel". It is however Miss Douce who is bronze (Bronze Lydia (Douce)) and Miss Kennedy (Gold Mina) who is gold. Oddly the note refers the reader to the note on p.188/1 where the hair colours are correct but no comment is made. Does anyone know what Joyce's manuscript says at the point in W.R.? That said the annotations are nothing short of excellent and add a new dimension to the reading of the novel. However many editions you may own this is essential and the one to have and read/reread. It sets a new level in scholarly commentary on the novel.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2012
I have been through a few Kindle versions of Ulysees now but have given up on each after a chapter or so due to poor formatting or missing/jumbled text. I was about to give up on counting it in my library until I saw this version and for the sake of a quid - thought I'd give it a try. And I'm pleased I did. It is presented perfectly and if you are going to attempt this goliath of a book on your Kindle then you'd be hard-pushed to find a more readable version. It comes with some decent original photos too - but more importantly, it is true to the print version and set out as it should be for Kindle - with menus that actually work and page breaks where they should be. Everyone should at least try to read Ulysees in their lifetime - give it a go!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 October 2013
Joyce's last great work is a 628 page book of comic prose, written in a language that shares some elements with English as we know it, but relies heavily on multilingual puns and other effects that make it seem at first wholly impenetrable. The clues are there, however, and since the book's publication in 1939 a dedicated following of Joyce scholars have set out to elucidate its many difficulties.
This edition, in Oxford World's Classics, is the most helpful that I have found so far. Having tried the Faber (small print, no introduction), the Penguin (good introduction by Seamus Deane, brief chapter summaries) and the Restored (baffling introductory and afterword texts, questionable repagination), I've been enjoying Finn Fordham et al's expert handling of the text in this Oxford edition. The chapter summaries are particularly helpful, and no reader will want to be without them. More succinct than Campbell or Tindall, and inevitably less thorough than McHugh's 'Annotations', the Oxford edition is surely the quickest way into this deeply puzzling text.
As Anthony Burgess said about Jeri Johnson's superb edition of 'Ulysses' in its 1922 text (also in the OWC series), "this is the one to get".
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2008
I'm in two minds about this book.
On the one hand, this is quite obviously a work of genius at some level, full of beautiful poetry, humour and truth about the human condition, all filled into a day in the life of the two (or three including the last chapter) main narrators.
On the other hand, there are so many allusions to things the average reader will be ignorant of as to render meaningless, which allied to the difficult narrative makes this a highly frustrating read.
In trying to understand parts of the novel that passed me by, I did some literary research and discovered the amazing depth this novel. Each chapter for example (apparantly!) has a theme based on colour and body part, and for this to be successfully woven into a story is a great achievement. The different styles and techniques used to tell the story is also highly impressive, while at the same time adding to the difficulty of the read.
The book is full of riddles and puzzles, some of which the answers to remain elusive to minds greater than mine. And there-in lies the problem; who has the time to spend reading and re-reading a book that is already close to a thousand pages long in order to fully understand it?
I have given this four stars rather than anything lower (and I very nearly did), to acknowledge that many of the problems of this book are down to the ignorance and lack of patience (or intelligence) of the reader, and indeed there are parts that are genuinely enjoyable through being funny, truthful or touched by genius.
However the nagging doubt remains that this book and the praise it has engendered is a partial case of the emperor's new clothes (and indeed the same could be said of modernism as a whole). At the very least, it seems that in being so tremendously ambitious, Joyce fell slightly short, as he himself is known to have admitted.
52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
This is the most important question for those who have yet to dip their toes in this 'difficult classic' - they may have read 'Dubliners' or 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' but find 'Ulysses' daunting.
Well, yes - it is worth the trouble, and the trouble may be less than you think and the effort more fun than you imagined. This book is very funny and very beautiful.
The book concerns a day in the life of Stephen Dedalus young would be writer and Leopold Bloom middle aged advertising space salesman, with the final chapter being given to the nocturnal thoughts of Bloom's unfaithful wife,Molly. During the day Bloom attends a funeral, faces down a racist bigot, masturbates and saves a drunken Stephen from two British soldiers before taking him home. The books famed mythic parallels, it's symbolism, puzzles, allusions etc are all very well when one has made some headway into the book - and it is a book one goes back to, but the nervous reader is more concerned with its difficulty.
The simple answer is not to get too bogged down when one does not understand something. Skip with impunity. Do not give up stumped at chapter three - we've all been there and it is worth pressing on. The difficulty lies partly with Joyce's 'internal monologue' technique particularly when the thoughts being set down in this abbreviated form are those of the erudite (and pretentious) Stephen - and partly (especially in the second half of the book) with the plethora of styles Joyce uses to mirror the action of the book - parody, pastiche and musical and rhythmic devices. Yet in these styles lie so many of the book's joys - one is again and again stopped in one's tracks by a perfectly shaped sentence ,a piece of intriguing wordplay or a sly shaft of wit.
If you persevere with this book you will find your own reasons for going back to it. This book in a very strange and subtle way, is a lifechanger.
53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2003
I'm just completing a re-reading of Ulysses twenty years after reading it as a student, and I'm amazed at how much I'm enjoying it. Yes, it's difficult and packed with allusions to literature, religion and philosophy that I've no idea about. But the sheer poetry of the writing, the humour and the inclusive passion for experience and existence, thought and emotion, have carried me over the difficult passages. 80 years after it was written there's still nothing to compare with Ulysses in its daring, scope and formal experimentation. If you want to understand the modern novel at all, start here.