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
--This text refers to an alternate
'one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century ... this edition, complete with an invaluable Introduction, map of Dublin, notes, and appendices, republishes for the first time, without interference, the original 1922 text.' In Dublin
'After more than seventy years of editorial corrections, specialists will buy the 'uncorrected' edition for its accuracy. Others should choose it as much for Johnson's excellent introduction and notes.' Tim Kendall. Hertford College, Oxford. Notes and Queries
`For anyone coming to this 20th century classic for the first time, this paperback version could well make the going a little easier.' Lancashire Evening Post (Preston)
`Already got a copy of Ulysses. Well, chuck it out and get this ... this is the one, a reproduction of the original 1922 Shakespeare and Co edition ... has extensive notes at the back to explain references and correct gaffes ... Also astonishingly cheap.' Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
`now the cheapest annotated paperback available and comes with a splendid introduction from Jeri Johnson, a map of contemporary Dublin, and a comprehensive set of explanatory notes ... As such, it should appeal both to those who are familiar with Joyce's book, and those who are approaching it for the first time.' Yorkshire Post (Leeds)
`hilarious, poignant, exhilarating ... The excellent guide, editor Jeri Johnson, refuses to allow short cuts for first-time travellers ... The detailed notes are useful ... the ideal way to set off on your personal odyssey.' The Times
`For anyone coming to this 20th century classic for the first time, this paperback version could well make the going a little easier.' West Lancashire Evening Gazette
`For anyone coming to this 20th Century classic for the first time, this paperback version could well make the going a little easier.' Yorkshire Evening Post (Leeds) Midweek section, 9 July 1997