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Ulysses Reissue Edition

873 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679722762
ISBN-10: 0679722769
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Editorial Reviews Review

Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book--although he found it sufficiently unobscene to allow its importation into the United States--and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacal obsession." None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book. Even the verbal vaudeville of the final chapters can be navigated with relative ease, as long as you're willing to be buffeted, tickled, challenged, and (occasionally) vexed by Joyce's sheer command of the English language.

Among other things, a novel is simply a long story, and the first question about any story is: What happens?. In the case of Ulysses, the answer might be Everything. William Blake, one of literature's sublime myopics, saw the universe in a grain of sand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a day distinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom's case) masturbate. And thanks to the book's stream-of-consciousness technique--which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river--we're privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.

Both characters add their glorious intonations to the music of Joyce's prose. Dedalus's accent--that of a freelance aesthetician, who dabbles here and there in what we might call Early Yeats Lite--will be familiar to readers of Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man. But Bloom's wistful sensualism (and naive curiosity) is something else entirely. Seen through his eyes, a rundown corner of a Dublin graveyard is a figure for hope and hopelessness, mortality and dogged survival: "Mr Bloom walked unheeded along his grove by saddened angels, crosses, broken pillars, family vaults, stone hopes praying with upcast eyes, old Ireland's hearts and hands. More sensible to spend the money on some charity for the living. Pray for the repose of the soul of. Does anybody really?" --James Marcus


"Ulysses will immortalize its author with the same certainty that Gargantua immortalized Rabelais, and The Brothers Karamazov immortalized Dostoyevsky.... It comes nearer to being the perfect revelation of a personality than any book in existence."
-The New York Times

"To my mind one of the most significant and beautiful books of our time."
-Gilbert Seldes, in The Nation

"Talk about understanding "feminine psychology"-- I have never read anything to surpass it, and I doubt if I have ever read anything to equal it."
-Arnold Bennett

"In the last pages of the book, Joyce soars to such rhapsodies of beauty as have probably never been equaled in English prose fiction."
-Edmund Wilson, in The New Republic

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 783 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 16, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722762
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (873 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,086 of 1,153 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ulysses is one of those big, mad bellwethers of a book that X will tell you is the biggest, best, most important blah blah blah and Y will tell you is a load of badly written tripe. Neither X nor Y tend to notice that the book consciously encourages both responses...but, well, I'll get back to the academic riffing in a minute.
I first tried to read Ulysses aged about 14 (I was an annoying little boy that way) and didn't get very far. The first three chapters are set in and around the mind of Stephen Dedalus, one of the most ridiculously clever and over-educated characters ever conceived, as he takes breakfast with some friends, teaches in a school some miles south of Dublin and walks along a beach. Along the way, his mind ruminates on subjects as diverse as 16th century underworld slang, his dead mother, and something he calls "the ineluctable modality of the visible" which I'm still struggling with. But he's a curiously ambiguous character, this Stephen; he fancies himself as a poet and rebel but when, on the beach, he picks his nose, he has a quick look around to see that nobody's watching before he smears the snot on a rock. (Joyce likes to poke fun at pretension this way - although he doesn't suggest that Stephen's ideas or rebel stance are completely hollow, either.)
The 14-year-old me didn't get that far. I gave up. It wasn't until I was 19 or so that I got as far as chapter four and encountered a Mr. Bloom, pottering around the kitchen making breakfast, that I started to get a grip. Bloom is one of the most likeable characters in fiction. He's a quiet, rather shy, oddly intelligent advertising salesman married to a voluptuous siren of a wife, Molly.
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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderfully crafted book -- the physical object, that is, and not just the text. (Because if you're willing to pay this much for a copy of "Ulysses" you obviously take that for granted.) The volume is larger in size than typical hardcover books today, meaning that the type is a decent readable size and the margins are generous (for the note jotting fiends among us). Great care has clearly been taken in the choice of paper and the sewn binding, which allows the book to lay flat during reading and insures years of re-reading. Although there is no dustjacket the cover is made of very durable material; various cover protectors can be found to stand in or, for the really paranoid, a slipcase can be made or found. It should be added that the text is presented as originally published, so there are no notes or glosses to help the first-time or casual reader; neither are the episodes keyed to any of the line numberings found in other editions. However, those wishing to refer to notes would be best off buying one of the helpful readers' companions by Gifford or Blamires anyway. In relation to other available editions, this one occupies a vast middle ground between the throwaway mass-market paperbacks on the one hand and the out-of-reach collectors' editions on the other. The book's durability and elegant though understated presentation should prove most attractive to those readers who intend to read the text again and again, whether for pleasure or for study. In short, this volume is a keeper.
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203 of 220 people found the following review helpful By james on July 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have frequently heard Ulysses proclaimed the best book ever written, but I could never understand why. I purchased this edition of the novel three years ago, and since then it sat on my shelf, a mighty 900 page undertaking that I kept putting off. I was reluctant to read it, for I have often heard how difficult it was to get through. Finally, I have read it, and though I believe it presumptuous to call any one book "the best book of all time", I certainly believe that Ulysses could claim that title. First off, it is not a difficult read. If you could get through A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, you can get through Ulysses. I heartily recommend this edition because of the brilliant introduction by Declan Kibard. Before I read Ulysses, I could not understand how this could be the best book of all time. According to my understanding, it was a novel detailing, in 900 pages, one day in the life of a Jewish Irishman, Leopold Bloom. A totally unremarkable day at that. After reading Kibard's introduction, I was fiercely eager to begin the novel. In his introduction, totally some 70 pages, Kibard answers the precise question I had: Why would this book be called the best of all time? This book is never boring, and is actually a quite enjoyable read. It is arranged in 18 chapters, and to me, the most astounding aspect of this piece of literature is the fact that every chapter is written in a different style. Joyce wanted to show that "originality" in terms of style was merely a new arrangement of previous styles, and so shows his brilliance as a writer by changing his technique and method completely in each chapter. It is indeed difficult to believe they were written by the same person.Read more ›
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