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on 3 October 2013
Finnegans Wake. Well it took me 6 months to read Ulysses (including the excellent guide book necessary for comprehension). That's about 250 hours.
I thought I'd try FW next. I have 3 books to help understanding, that's 4 books to read. So far I have read the introduction & a few pages of FW. I recon it takes 2 hours to read each page of FW to have any hope of understanding it. The problem is that having deciphered each sentence & paragraph it takes so long that the previous paragraph has been almost forgotten & is difficult to reprise. I can appreciate that it is a great novel. BUT do I want to spend 2 to 3 years to read it? Somehow I feel that I can use the time so much better. I am not going to give up, but perhaps I will wait until I am infirm & obliged to stay in & read, & I have the necessary 1500 hours.
If I were cynical I could perhaps mock/joke about FW by saying that each word has so many meanings/interpretations/double meanings/etc/etc that by only a slight extension perhaps the whole OED (Oxford English Dictionary) could be replaced by one word since each word has all meanings. FW renders language both very rich & meaningless.
Reading & understanding this book is a truly daunting intellectual challenge & not for the fainthearted & not just `for fun'.
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on 31 December 2015
The main plus-points of this edition of one of the greatest & most controversial books ever written are Jeri Johnson's wide-ranging introduction and comprehensive notes. For the general reader, a minor drawback is that the text itself sticks to the 1922 edition, which contains some well-recognised errors & departures from Joyce's manuscript, but again the book is worth finding & buying for Ms Johnson's contributions.

As for Joyce's masterpiece itself, so much has been written by others that I hesitate to comment - I have just finished reading it for the second time, after a gap of some 50 years. Reading this account of the to-ings & fro-ings of Leopold Bloom & Stephen Dedalus, and of their friends & acquaintances, in Dublin on 16 June 1904 remains - despite (or because of!) the aid of notes etc - as daunting as ever. Even if one ignores the echoes of Homer's Odyssey, the details of Irish political issues, and the Catholic church ritual & Latin, the book is no easy read. By turns, it is dazzling & disappointing; intriguing & irritating; uplifting & upsetting. And one emerges at the end more akin to having successfully hacked one's way through jungle than having climbed a mountain.

Nevertheless, anyone who regards him- or herself as interested in literature has to undergo the experience; not to do so would be like calling yourself well-travelled, never having visited Paris or New York.
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on 28 September 2016
What can you say - except that re=reading this as I did recently, it just gets better - exciting experimental prose but also deep understanding of character and a clear sense of narrative - we truly want to know if Bloom will manage to resolve things with his wife - and we sense his preoccupation with her all the day that this book recounts. The young Stephen and he finally meet up and Stephen's own dilemma about how he considers his life and Ireland and his skills and trade as a writer, as a visionary in some ways - and we really care. Distinct characters observed well, with great wit and balanced masterful prose ... Still one of the greatest novels of modernist times.
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on 14 August 2017
Ulysses is a classic, of amazing depth, and skill in its abstract and rolling description of Dublin life all in the day of its main characters. For poetic prose lovers this is a must. For people who like challenges in text, this would satisfy, but too we all learn to go with the ever flowing luminescence of its aesthete Stephen Daedalus, and his unlikely companion of the road, Leopold Bloom.
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VINE VOICEon 26 October 2012
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
This is an 8 disc set of the Radio 4 reading / dramatisation of James Joyce's modernist monument which was first broadcast in the summer of 1991. Stephen Rea (who played Bloom in the film version titled Bloom) here reads the Dedalus chapters and Norman Rodway voices the Bloom chapters while Sinead Cusack breathes life into Molly.

Some chapters, notably Circe, are `dramatised' rather than straight readings, in that other voices than Rea's, Rodway's or Cusack's are used. Naturally the text has been abridged but usually this has been done with great skill though I suppose some may find favourite phrases or elements missing. I was surprised, for example, that the final accusatory "Usurper" was missing from Telemachus.

More surprisingly the order of the first few chapters has been tinkered with, presumably to introduce us to Bloom and Molly earlier in the proceedings. Episode 1 here matches the opening Telemachus section but then Episode 2 skips the following Nestor and Proteus sections to go directly to the Bloom focused Calypso which is the 4th `chapter' in the book. Episode 3 then goes back to Nestor and Proteus.

Thereafter the order is maintained, though this sort of tinkering is to be expected in any dramatisation so there's no point getting too uptight about it. If you object to that sort of thing then just stick with the book - I've no patience with those who insist on absolute, puritanically observed adaptations that maintain total adherence to the original. What's the point? That's not to say that this is unfaithful to the text.

The readings are vivid and alert, the dramatisations bring the characters to roaring, bellowing, scornful, mournful, lusting, regretful, boasting, shame-faced life. I'm not a Joyce scholar, but I've lived with the book all my life and while large parts of it still elude me, and probably always will - Oxen of the Sun, Eumaeus, I'm looking at you in particular - I still love the book, partly for the glories of the language, and certain favourite chapters and passages, partly for its elusiveness (though I'm fairly sure I've cracked one reference in Lestrygonians that I've not seen elucidated anywhere else (not in Gifford's Ulysses Annotated anyway), and partly for its difficulty, it's challenge, the opportunity to always find something new each time you open it.

I did find this dramatisation easier to follow with the text at hand, though one needs to be fleet of finger to be able to track it through the abridgements. If listening to it without the novel unless the passages were really familiar, I did occasionally drift off - the spoken language not overcoming the deliberate tests that Joyce seemed to set on the reader's boredom threshhold, even when excerpted.

While Ulysses is a novel and not intended necessarily to be acted, like Shakespeare, it benefits from being read out loud, so that what can be obscure or inexplicable on the page suddenly becomes intelligible when spoken. If you have grappled and failed with Ulysses but wish to persist this may an alternative way in, or if you already love the book or want to love it more this version is worth your while. Yes, I said yes - it is.(Sorry, too hard to resist.)
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2013
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
This is a review of the BBC Audio CD, not Ulysses itself

I've not read Ulysses and it has a bit of a fearsome reputation so a BBC Radio adaption seemed like it might be an easier way to approach it. We drive a lot on holiday so it was to be our holiday listening. Unfortunately we didn't get far with it. Right from the start Ulysses prose if pretty dense and a bit tricky to follow. Reading it as a novel I think I'd be checking back, re-reading sections. That's not practical on a CD. Add in the distractions of driving and it just wasn't working as a listening experience.

If you already know the novel and want to revisit it, or prefer audio books and are planning to give it your full attention then this might work very well. But I think I'm going to have to try the book.
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on 23 December 2016
It's like reading poetry, the rhythm is wonderful, some parts are fantastic descriptions, others indecipherable. A part of me understands why it is thought great, another wonders how it can be great if so few people bother to finish it. I'm at around 10% of the way through, I'm having a rest from it but I probably will return to it, if only because the cadences can be soothing and soporific on a sleepless night, seriously.
I find it works best for me if I just read it and enjoy the effect of the words, gathering up the parts I comprehend and let the rest just flow over me, appreciating the general atmosphere.
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on 10 October 2015
Finnegans Wake - the one book— other than Shakespeare—that every creative writer should read. It is by no means an easy read and as difficult book go, it probably comes at the top of the list in terms of literature. *No pain - no gain* is what they say about physical training - and artistic training is little different. However - if you take it a page at a time and allow it to percolate- it will be found to be incredibly rewarding. It is the most colossal feast.
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on 21 April 2013
This book is a riot of humour, erudition and sheer fun. Yes it helps (a lot) to keep an explanatory text handy but why is that such a problem? The rewards far outweigh the effort required. Leopold Bloom must be one of the most interesting, and accessible, anti-heroes in literature - and his wife Molly runs him a close second. I'd urge anyone to give it go. Don't make the mistake of leaving it 30 years like I did.
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on 19 March 2012
I, like most people, have "wanted" to read Ulysses for a while but every time I picked it up it brought a darkening cloud over my brain. After a few false starts I decided to listen to it and what a joy it was. The subtleties of the language and the beautiful accentuated words is truly brought home. Remember when you were taught Shakespeare at school? The dry reading, the learning chunks verbatim , the starts and stops.... It was never meant to be experienced like that. A play is to be performed. To appreciate the play it has to have life breathing from every line, Ulysses is very much like that. When you hear the book it is a totally new experience and you will find yourself digging around in the book while you listen. This makes Joyce as accessible as it is ever going to be but like most good things it takes work. A masterpiece.
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