Everything You Need to Enjoy Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses on Bloomsday

ulysses first edition

Since its pub­li­ca­tion in 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses has enjoyed a sta­tus, in var­i­ous places and in var­i­ous ways, as The Book to Read. Alas, this Mod­ernist nov­el of Dublin on June 16, 1904 has also attained a rep­u­ta­tion as The Book You Prob­a­bly Can’t Read — or at least not with­out a whole lot of work on the side. In truth, nobody needs to turn them­selves into a Joyce schol­ar to appre­ci­ate it; the unini­ti­at­ed read­er may not enjoy it on every pos­si­ble lev­el, but they can still, with­out a doubt, get a charge from this piece of pure lit­er­a­ture.

Today, on this Blooms­day 2014, we offer you every­thing that may help you get that charge, start­ing with Ulysses as a free eBook (iPad/iPhone — Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats — Read Online Now). Or per­haps you’d pre­fer to lis­ten to the nov­el as a free audio book; you can even hear a pas­sage read by Joyce him­self.

The work may stand as a remark­ably rich tex­tu­al achieve­ment, but it also has a visu­al his­to­ry: we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured, for instance, Hen­ri Matis­se’s illus­trat­ed 1935 edi­tion of the bookJoyce’s own sketch of pro­tag­o­nist Leopold Bloom (below), and Ulysses “Seen,” a graph­ic nov­el adap­ta­tion-in-progress.



Even Vladimir Nabokov, obvi­ous­ly a for­mi­da­ble lit­er­ary pow­er him­self, added to all this when he sketched out a map of the paths Bloom and Stephen Dedalus (pre­vi­ous­ly seen in Joyce’s A Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man) take through Dublin in the book.


Oth­er high-pro­file Ulysses appre­ci­a­tors include Stephen Fry, who did a video expound­ing upon his love for it, and Frank Delaney, whose pod­cast Re: Joyce, as enter­tain­ing as the nov­el itself, will exam­ine the entire text line-by-line over 22 years. Still, like any vital work of art, Ulysses has drawn detrac­tors as well. Irv­ing Bab­bitt, among the nov­el­’s ear­ly review­ers, said it evi­denced “an advanced stage of psy­chic dis­in­te­gra­tion”; Vir­ginia Woolf, hav­ing quit at page 200, wrote that “nev­er did any book so bore me.” But bored or thrilled, each read­er has their own dis­tinct expe­ri­ence with Ulysses, and on this Blooms­day we’d like to send you on your way to your own. (Or maybe you have a dif­fer­ent way of cel­e­brat­ing, as the first Blooms­day rev­el­ers did in 1954.) Don’t let the tow­er­ing nov­el­’s long shad­ow dark­en it. Remem­ber the whole thing comes down to an Irish­man and his man­u­scripts — many of which you can read online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

James Joyce’s Ulysses: Down­load the Free Audio Book

James Joyce Reads From Ulysses and Finnegans Wake In His Only Two Record­ings (1924/1929)

Hen­ri Matisse Illus­trates 1935 Edi­tion of James Joyce’s Ulysses

Read Joyce’s Ulysses Line by Line, for the Next 22 Years, with Frank Delaney’s Pod­cast

The First Blooms­day: Watch Dublin’s Literati Cel­e­brate James Joyce’s Ulysses in Drunk­en Fash­ion, 1954

James Joyce, With His Eye­sight Fail­ing, Draws a Sketch of Leopold Bloom (1926)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (5)
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  • Dr Jack Dempsey says:

    FANTASTIC web-page for the great­est day in lit­er­a­ture! Thank you VERY much for all these links/resources.…

  • joe says:

    I tried to read it but had a hard time. Maybe I’ll give it anoth­er try. Should I do it?

  • Paul says:

    Yes yes yes.

    I’ve been read­ing it for about 20 years, kind of not want­i­ng to fin­ish it. I’ve recent­ly start­ed at the start after occa­sion­al­ly dip­ping in and out, but not real­ly pick­ing it up for a few years, not because of dis­lik­ing it, just being eas­i­ly dis­tract­ed by oth­er books.
    It’s like read­ing Shake­speare — you just need to get into the rhythm and think about how your mind wan­ders as you walk around every­day just going about your busi­ness — how your mind is wan­der­ing even now as you glance up from the screen and think about what else you might be doing. Joyce cre­ates the inner life of his char­ac­ters (and the whole city of Dublin) like no one did before.

  • Stephen says:

    I’m off the read the Ger­man trans­la­tion again.…..

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