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Ulysses: 06/27/09

Ulysses by James Joyce is a book I've had on my to be read pile for ten years. My husband originally got it to read during a Caltech Bloomsday celebration but finals or something got in the way and he didn't go to read the book. Instead I started it and got a couple episodes into it before I had to box up all my books for our big move from South Pasadena to the Bay Area.

Ulysses is a long book. It's just shy of 800 pages. It's also a complicated book. It was originally serialized and each episode is written in a very different tone and style. What they all have in common is a thematic tie to Homer's Odyssey as evidenced by the titles of each episode and of course by the title.

For reasons unknown to me, published versions of Ulysses don't seem to include the episode titles. It would help to have a book that was at least annotated to know where you are in the novel. There are online annotations online. For the most part I read with the wikipedia site open just to get a very basic sense of what to expect from the episode and to know its title. There are more dedicated sites if you really want to know Ulysses inside and out, such as Ulysses Seen (which also tweets annotations). My point is, you don't have to take this book on alone. There are resources out there. Also, it's a much easier book to read slowly. I took eighteen weeks to read it.

If you would like to read my more in depth thoughts about each episode, links to them are included below:

On July 4th I'll have my first post about Proust's Swann's Way.

Comments (10)

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Comment #1: Saturday, June, 27, 2009 at 18:55:58

Rebecca Reid

Wow, congratulations! You've inspired me. Maybe I can handle this book, especially one chapter at a time!

<"comment2">Comment #2: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:21:25


Thanks! You can do it. There are so many online resources to help you understand Ulysses. It's not just you vs. the book any longer.

Comment #3: Sunday, June, 28, 2009 at 09:11:23

Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

Congratulations on finishing it! I've just started to read it, so will have a look at your posts as I go along. Thank you for the links too!

Comment #4: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:21:25


Thanks! My posts are rather tongue in cheek which is why also included the links to the more straightforward discussions on the book. Happy reading!

Comment #5: Sunday, June, 28, 2009 at 13:42:05


This set of posts is impressive and inspirational, both. I planned to read Ulysses this year, but it hasn't happened. Following your example, breaking it down and reading it slowly, I might stand a fighting chance. Thanks!

Comment #6: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:30:50


Thank you! By only doing one episode a week it took me eighteen weeks. That's a super long time for me to take on any one book but it was the least painful way of working through it. I just didn't have the time or energy to devote to such a complex book if I had read it on a faster schedule.

Comment #7: Sunday, June, 28, 2009 at 17:48:19


I am bookmarking your post. I want to read Ulyesses but am afraid. Your links will help.

I am in the midst of reading Moby Dick, but I am using Daily Lit. Little chucks of reading. I looked at a hard copy and just didn't dare.

Comment #8: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:34:31


I love Moby Dick. I have one with wonderful lithographs. Moby Dick is another book that can be taken slowly as each chapter is so different from the previous.

Ulysses is a lot of word play for very little plot.

Comment #9: Tuesday, August, 31, 2010 at 01:39:41

Bangalow Accommodation

Wow this is awesome - yes maybe I can read this a fwe chapters a week. You're fantastic! Heroditus. Ulysses. All the Classics. Here I come :)

Comment #10: Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 19:39:13


Absolutely. The other great thing about the classics is that you can usually find annotations or help guides online so if you have a question, you can get it answered as you're reading the book. Ten, twenty or thirty pages a week is a manageable amount. Before you know it, the book is done. Happy reading.

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