Book Review: Ulysses by James Joyce


What can I possibly say about Ulysses (1920) by James Joyce in way of review? Here are 18 thoughts, one for each episode.

  1. I can’t believe I finally finished reading Ulysses.
  2. I can’t believe I read Ulysses for fun.
  3. I can’t believe I didn’t read Ulysses in my college English courses.  What cowardice forced my professors to make us read Dubliners over and over again when class room discussions would have made reading Ulysses such a valuable experience?
  4. Ulysses lends itself well to reading online via DailyLit.
  5. It takes a village to read Ulysses.  Here are some resources I referred to guide my way through the book:
      1. Joyce does a spectacular job of drawing in mythology, literature, history, and current events into the storyline of June 16, 1904.
      2. It’s equally amazing how Joyce well-plotted the movements of characters and overlapping plots in that one day in Dublin.
      3. The structure of the book is remarkable – each episode alluding the the Odyssey as well as having symbols, colors, body parts, writing techniques, et al as detailed in the Linati and Gilbert schema.
      4. The experiments in language and writing styles to evoke meaning beyond the plot and dialogue is also impressive even if it makes the book quite complex to read.
      5. Despite all that, I actually think I understood a good portion of the novel.
      6. Which doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read it again some day to gain a richer understanding.
      7. And despite being a “masterpiece of modern literature” and all that, Ulysses is also pretty funny.
      8. I mean there are as many fart and penis jokes in this book as your typical Kevin Smith movie.
      9. Ulysses can also be quite grotesque and disturbing.
      10. But always poetic.
      11. And sometimes quite sexy, although with an earthy realism.
      12. If this is not a good enough review for you, I have also posted my reflections while reading the book:
      13. Next I’ll have to re-try reading Finnegan’s Wake.

      3 thoughts on “Book Review: Ulysses by James Joyce

      1. Interesting thoughts, this actually makes me think if i should start reading Dubliners again, or try Ulysses, which was not included in my rading list for the literature class either. I did read The portrait of the artist, which i found amazing. I guess i should go to the library now, Ulysses seems to be quite challenging :)

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      2. wow, is this the same book? I guess I’m just a moron. I can’t make sense of it. There are words, and those words form sentences (most of the time)… (god forbid James consider quotation marks so one can figure out when he is expressing a thought and when he is having a character speak)… but those sentences rarely form actual thoughts. it would have made equal sense to me if it were written in German (no, I can’t read German)…
        I really think that the people who love this book do not understand it either, but they are afraid of being judged, so they claim it to be a great novel…
        to be honest, I gave up just short of half way (which I suspect is further than most people who claim to have liked it have actually read)…
        I liken this to those who stand for hours in an art museum staring at a circle of rocks in the middle of the floor, or a black dot on a yellow background, and claim that it’s “brilliant” (see what I did there James, those are called “quotes”), fools who think that they can appear less so if they can appear to “get it” when in fact, the joke is that there’s nothing actually to “get.”
        Anyway, I hated this book.

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