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Subject: For those who have read James Joyce's Ulysses rss

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I've never read it.
I borrowed the audiobook from the library for my daily commutes. I'm having a REALLY hard time getting into it. It's really dense, and obtuse. I'm on the 2nd CD out of I think ~30, and honestly it sounds like someone is just reading random sentences out of a bunch of different novels, skipping from novel to novel after every sentence. On the plus side, the reader has a nice Irish accent, I find myself just tuning out the words and listening to the accent.

Would it be easier to read the book first?
Does it just not work as an audiobook (unless maybe you're very familiar with the material)?
Or, is it probably just not for me at all, even in book form?
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I did the audio book and I agree with you. Very dry and very confusing.
And there's nothing to do with the accents contributing to the confusion-- it's just a slog to listen to.
I'd think that an actual book would be worse, myself. I'd be skipping pages like crazy.

I forced myself to finish listening and there were really only two parts that ever held my interest. Otherwise, like you say, almost like random sentences.
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Ulysses is Modernism at it's worst (or best, depending on your view). Elitist, obscure, etc. It's considered a masterpiece by lit professors and unintelligible by us common folk.

There is an excellent commentary which you should read along with Ulysses. Sorry, I don't remember the name. Probably just google for it or similar commentaries.

Basically, Ulysses is not very understandable just to pick up and read. You can enjoy the artistic style and the language, if you are into that, but to get much meaning you will need to study about the book.

Get started here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_(novel)
(you'll need to cut and paste this link, just clicking it here doesn't seem to work - it leaves out the last ")" )


"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan...." Oh, the memories. Good luck.

(No, I never finished it either. Life is too short and there are too many other good things to read, IMHO)
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Ulysses was originally published as a magazine serial, as it was being written. I think it works best like that, reading a chapter per month.
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I read 100 pages, deduced that so far all that had happened was some guy went out for a walk, and returned the book to the library.

I would never recommend reading it in any format. I can see it is a cool stylistic experiment but it is no fun at all to read.
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If you really like lit that you can sink your teeth into (and make understanding it a mini-hobby) I also recommend Goethe's Faust. It's esteemed even more highly than Ulysses by comparative lit and German lit professors. Of course, if you can read it in the original German that's best...
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On the other hand, Joyce's two books Dubliners (short stories) and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are excellent but are straightforward and accessible reads, unlike Ulysses. They are still lit so there is a lot going on, but enjoyable if you like literary reads.

The novel Finnegans Wake maybe too, although I've never read it

Joyce is considered one of the best writers ever in English.
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Don't worry, most people who say they've read it probably haven't.
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Joe Gola
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I think you're wasting your time. It's a book that requires careful reading, and you'll need to pause to consult a dictionary (and an encyclopedia) fairly regularly to understand what's going on. Additionally, it's impossible to convey some of the formal stuff, like the headlines in Aeolus or the play structure of Circe. There are some chapters that might translate well being read — the early Bloom chapters, for example — but the super-dense, hyper-intellectual Stephen Dedalus stuff is probably going to come off as gibberish.

I was very into Joyce back in the day. I never did Finnegans Wake, but I've read Ulysses multiple times, read Ellmann's biography, read a bunch of commentaries and annotations, et cetera, et cetera. From that perspective, here is what I would suggest: read Dubliners, his first book. It's great. And stop there. If you absolutely adore it and must have more (and are interested in Irish history and early 20th century Irish politics) then read his second book, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. If for some reason that does not cure you of your Joyce enthusiasm, then hunker down and tackle Ulysses.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissive of Ulysses; it's genius. Calling it elitist is like calling a barn swallow an elitist for flying more acrobatically than a pigeon; it's not elitist, it just does what it wants to do. The problem, however, is that the book is so specifically about one place and one time, and is so extraordinarily self-fascinated and self-involved, that it's just not worth reading unless you have a very strong interest in literature or Ireland or (most importantly) James Joyce himself.

But, again, like I said, if you consider accessibility to be component of greatness, then Dubliners is arguably Joyce's greatest work, and that's the one you should read.
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Brian Baird
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I read it over a summer & found it ridiculously hard to parse, never mind understand. Read "A Portrait" a few months later & found it easier to read, but not really any easier to grasp. Gola speaks the truth. I couldn't imagine an audio reading of it being any value at all to be honest.
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sbszine wrote:
Ulysses was originally published as a magazine serial, as it was being written. I think it works best like that, reading a chapter per month.

... and letting your subscription lapse.
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Gola wrote:
But, again, like I said, if you consider accessibility to be component of greatness, then Dubliners is arguably Joyce's greatest work, and that's the one you should read.

Yep, Dubliners is the one to read.
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Michael Debije
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Read it, understood 25%, but cannot imagine listening it to it. I had to read, reread, and rereread sections myself, taking great care and time. I would get nothing from an audiobook.
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b a n j o wrote:
MWChapel wrote:


I've read 7 of those. So I should say I've read all 10?


Clearly the author themselves hasn't read Les Miserables, as they state
8. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo and A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens: Virtually every bit of literature about the French Revolution could be tied here,

given that the setting of Les Mis is NOT the French Revolution (1789-1799), but rather the Paris Uprising of 1832 (AKA "The June Rebellion")... whistle
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I read it for an English Lit. class in college. We had a companion study guide that was bigger than the book to help explain it. I remember reading it at night, understanding little even with the study guide,and then going into class the next day to hear the professor and wondering how he got all this out of it.

Looking back I think the only thing I learned was the definition of cuckold. Thankfully it hasn't been useful in my life.
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Bryan Thunkd
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I tried to start the book and barely made any headway and decided I'd come back to it another time. It's been a while and I've never bothered... maybe I won't now.
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
Clearly the author themselves hasn't read Les Miserables, as they state
8. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo and A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens: Virtually every bit of literature about the French Revolution could be tied here,

given that the setting of Les Mis is NOT the French Revolution (1789-1799), but rather the Paris Uprising of 1832 (AKA "The June Rebellion")... whistle


Ah-- now I have read Les Mis, twice, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The first time I read every single word; the second time I skipped a lot of the war stuff, because it wasn't that interesting to me the first time around.
But while I'd say that the main story in Les Mis is focused on the conditions leading to the Paris uprising, yes, there is a lot of background stuff on the French Revolution (the parts I skipped the second time) in there as well. Napoleon did this, and then that, and flanked his army thusly...

Thenardier, who is reimagined as comedic relief yuk in the stage show, was a soldier during the Revolution, in the book, and he looted dead bodies for jewelry. His background info during the war helps to paint his character as mean, self-centered, opportunistic, and uncaring.
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I read Ulysses in high school and got an A for my book report.

Note - Cliff notes really came in handy whistle
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b a n j o wrote:
MWChapel wrote:


I've read 7 of those. So I should say I've read all 10?
I've read 4 (Atlas Shrugged, Les Miserables, 1984, Moby Dick) and as I said started but gave up on a 5th (Ulysses).

Of the four I read, I enjoyed them all, although Moby Dick was pretty slow going and Atlas Shrugged was a fun read but the philosophy underlying it kind of made my skin crawl. Les Miserables I read in French, as a class assignment. I don't remember a whole lot about it but I remember liking it a lot better than memorizing verb conjugations for the millionth time.

I can't believe people would lie about reading 1984. That's a fast read! You can finish it in an afternoon if you just plow through it.
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Just echoing what others have said: I cannot think of a worse book to listen to by audiobook than Ulysses. Beyond the reading difficulty, it's full of references to things outside the book that were obscure back when it was written, no less now.

However, reading on a tablet might be ideal since you would have easy access to resources such as Wikipedia while reading it. I wonder if there's a nice annotated version out there for eReaders.

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When setting out to read Ulysses, you must first ask yourself why you are reading Ulysses.

I did not have a satisfactory answer to that question, read it anyway, and consider it a complete waste of time for me. I'd say it was mainly so I could say that I've read Ulysses. So, here I am saying it: I've read Ulysses. Now if you could all just pile the fucks you give about this over there in a nice orderly fashion...

If you want to read a doorstop impressive tome, just go for Infinite Jest or Gravity's Rainbow. You can do either alone (GR will benefit from an analysis companion, but you could just google some summaries to keep you on track). Ulysses is not something to read alone. I wouldn't bother (again) outside of a classroom setting with a knowledgable Joyce scholar.
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I didn't finish Ulysses or Atlas Shrugged.

I Have read The Fountainhead, Moby Dick a coupla times, Hunchback of Notre Dame, other classics.

I need to check out Dubliners it seems.
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tesuji wrote:
Ulysses is Modernism at it's worst (or best, depending on your view). Elitist, obscure, etc. It's considered a masterpiece by lit professors and unintelligible by us common folk.
A good summary. I am reading it at the moment.

I love reading, I don't mind modernism or wilfully (and it is wilfully) obscure writing, I love cryptic crosswords and I have a pretty strong vocabulary (not to mention an O-level in Latin and a passing interest in Irish history and the geography of Dublin, which have all come in handy). Even with all this in my favour and having got into something of a rhythm now I am 850 pages in, I am still finding it very hard going. I have been tempted to give up several times but I only have 100 pages to go now and my teeth are gritted.

It is tough to read, I have sometimes had to reread sentences or whole paragraphs several times over. I imagine it is even tougher to listen to. If you have only got to disc 2 of 30 then you have some much, much tougher sections to come. I found the section in the brothel, which is written in stage directions with every character changing costume for every line of dialogue, probably the toughest one to read and I am currently in the middle of a section in which every paragraph is structured as a question and answer.

In short my advice would be to give up and get hold of the Richard Burton version of Under Milk Wood instead. That was designed to be spoken, not read, the accent is still beautiful (Welsh, not Irish), it is complex and many-stranded but it only takes 2 or 3 listenings to really get all the detail. And it is only an hour or so long.
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Thanks all.
It was the only audiobook on the shelves of the library that looked interesting (at least, after I found out that my previously selected Don Quixote was actually PART TWO of Don Quixote, and 30 CDS at that! and Part One was unfortunately missing...). Too many mysteries and romances...
So I figured I'd give Ulysses a shot.

I think that I won't put myself through any more of it though, and just return it.
It sounds more like a "literature experiment" than anything else...
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I can't imagine it as an audiobook--it would be like English as a foreign language--plus, you'd miss out on the way the text is laid out, which is important in certain sections.

Read it, but be warned that this is not the place to start with Joyce, post-modern literature, or stream-of-consciousness. It's not an easy work. I'd start with Dubliners as far as Joyce goes.

Diis
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