Ulysses Readlong: Part 1

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I went into this readalong thinking it was going to be a complete slog and I would hate it. But honestly, I wanted to know why was considered a classic. I love Ireland and this is one of the most famous pieces of literature from the country. I think I built it up as being so difficult and horrible in my mind that the reality isn’t that scary. So far (don’t hit me) I’m actually liking most of it.

I can’t say enough about the importance of pairing the audio version with the print. I love doing it that way. Instead of fighting through every single line, I hear a lyrical Irish voice reading the conversations to me. It brings them alive. When one person rambles on about some idea, it feels like I’m listening to a long-winded friend. Then I go back to the print version and find passages that I loved. I look at the layout of each chapter because the styles are unique. 

After I finish a chapter, I’ve been reading this guide which provides very short little summaries of what happened. Also, the incredible Adam at Roof Beam Reader is posting his in-depth thoughts about each chapter on his blog. Here’s the link. They are wonderfully detailed and make connections I never would have caught. I love that he highlights the parallels with Greek mythology as well.

Combination of all these elements is really working for me. I’m not a huge fan of every single chapter and of course it is a strange book with a lot of meandering and stream of consciousness thought, but I was expecting that. I wasn’t expecting the beautiful language or profound reflections of life and death. I particularly love the references and discussions of Shakespeare’s work in chapter 9.

I think approaching the book with an open mind and an understanding that it was not going to be an easy read has really helped me enjoy it. I am NOT a Joyce scholar and I’m not reading it with the goal of understanding every single reference made. Instead, I relaxing into the novel and hoping to not become completely overwhelmed by it.
“I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and one livid final flame. What’s left of us then?”

“Here also over these craven hearts his shadow lies and on the scoffer’s heart and lips and on mine. It lies upon their eager faces who offered him a coin of the tribute.”


  1. In the end, I liked it. I liked the last part the best and not just because it was over. It was in those final pages it all made sense to me.

  2. This was my experience with Anna Karenina. The book (like all Russian literature for me) sounded incredibly daunting, but I was enthralled once I paired the printed text with the audiobook. I guess I need to keep that experience in mind when it comes to other daunting books, like this one.

  3. I need to read this one eventually...

  4. ardentreader - Me too! I ended up loving that one because we approached it in the same way.

    Jillian - It sat on my TBR list for almost 15 years!

  5. I'm so glad you're doing this! And yes, I'm also enjoying the commentary at Roof Beam Reader.

  6. This is one chunky classic that I probably never read, but that's awesome that you're going for and enjoying it! Audio + print seems like a great way to go. I'll have to try that with some of the other chunksters on my list.

  7. Jeanne - His insights have been priceless for me!

    Julie - it really helps! The language just flows as you listen to it.