Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reading Ulysses by Bloomsday

Regular listeners of WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show on 93.9 FM will know that Leonard's book club is reading Ulysses, with the deadline of Bloomsday - June 16, the day on which the James Joyce novel takes place, 113 years ago. There's no way I will finish by this Bloomsday, but at least I've cracked open "the greatest novel never read" and gotten started.

In college when I was studying abroad, I visited Dublin with friends, one of whom had read Ulysses and dragged us across the city tracing Leopold Bloom's route. Now Ulysses is haunting me the way the stories of Flannery O'Connor niggled at the back of my mind after I sat in a rocking chair on her front porch, until I gave in and read A Good Man is Hard to Find. 

The Leonard Lopate radio show has had several Joyce scholars on to speak about Ulysses recently, and you can listen to them here.  Professor Michael Groden recommended listening to Ulysses; you won't get bogged down by points you don't understand because the audiobook will go on. BHPL has the complete audiobook on CD - all forty discs of it - along with a shorter audiobook that was adapted for BBC Radio. A dramatized reading of Ulysses that was originally broadcast on Irish radio is also available free online.

I am tackling the book, not the audio, but I'm taking it slowly.  After all, Ulysses was first published in installments over two years in the American journal The Little Review (March 1918 to September 1920). The publishers lost an obscenity trial after that and could not print the last four episodes of the novel. Read more about the banning of Ulysses in the 2014 book The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for Ulysses.


LZ said...

Highly recommend a companion book like Gifford's Ulysses Annotated to help get you through. It provided me enough liferopes to finish after multiple attempts solo.

Also, don't miss the terrible idea of putting the story into virtual reality! Because, technology!

Fleur said...

Thanks for the advice. Do you think it would help to read The Odyssey first?