Sunday, December 29, 2013

What to read to understand 'Ulysses'?

I plan to re-read Ulysses next month. I don't have time to read 5-10 books about it. Can you folks suggest 1-2 of the best books to read to understand what's going on? I'm posting the query here as I assume there are other folks who want to understand James Joyce better as a key to understanding Robert Anton Wilson's writings.

13 comments:

Boris the Spider said...

I recently heard a podcast (Chris Ryan's Tangentially Speaking) chat with Frank Delaney, whose Re:Joyce podcast sounds brilliant: http://blog.frankdelaney.com/re-joyce/. It examines Ulysses line by line.

gacord said...

Right, but FD has only just gotten to Bloom and he's at episode 185. It's great fun, but not gonna get Tom ready in time.
First I'd like to say you don't _need_ any precursor to read Ulysses. It's not FW. That said, Declan Kiebard's "Ulysses and Us" hits the high spots and is a pretty quick read.

Eric Wagner said...

Hugh Kenner's book Ulysses seems like a great into. I also love David Hayman's Ulysses: The Mechanics of Meaning.

Eric Wagner said...

Of course, the Wilson books you've already read also act as a great intro to Ulysses.

michael said...

The language of Ulysses is so gorgeous, I highly recommend reading it for that reason alone. So, according to Joyce's pal Pound, I'm advocating a reading based on melopoeia, the musical qualities of the text.

That said, our brains want to know more about what lies beneath the dance of Joyce's intellect (Pound's "logopoeia"); so I would have Gifford and Siedman's Annotations to Ulysses open to the chapter you're, so you can look up which heretic Stephen is thinking about, or obscure allusions to Dublin events that happened before 1904, etc.

Here's the thing: don't stop reading Ulysses. Read it all the way through, keep pushing. Get an understanding of the geography of the text. Then read it again, after reading in books by Stuart Gilbert, Kenner, Ellmann, Joyce's Letters, Tindall, and any number of 1000 other exegetes.

After many readings, I now go back and read in certain chapters, and it feels like that part of the day, I'm alert to the colors and mood and how the section relates to The Odyssey, and I know what's happened and is about to happen...yet I always experience something NEW. This NOT one of those books to read with the intent of "Well this is a famous book and I like to call myself well-read so I'll gut this through in order to say, like the mountaineers, that I've done it 'cuz it's there."

Eric Wagner once asked RAW how to become a better writer, and RAW said to read Ulysses 50 times. (Correct any part of that I got wrong, Prof Wagner?)

Eric Wagner said...

I think he said 40 times. I've only read it nine times so far.

gacord said...

Well blimey I was trying to keep it simple. I think what Michael said may be one of the best "guides" in 3 short paragraphs (where I think the advice truly begins.)

Also, Thanks @Michael and @Eric because you've offered me a couple more books to add to my "get" list.

gacord said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tony smyth said...

I'd highly recommend going to Dublin on Bloomsday. You go to various parts of the city and hear parts of the book read by actors in the locations and times they are supposed to be happening in the book. Some of the shops and pubs from 100 years ago still exist. The Guinness is damn good too.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. I don't know that I'll make it to Dublin this year, but I will order some of the recommended books from the library.

PQ said...

Anthony Burgess' book "ReJoyce" has a great chapter-by-chapter synopsis of Ulysses (and Portrait and FW, the book is a really a must-read).

I think the best approach would be to stick with a book like Tindall's guide or even the outdated but still-excellent Gilbert. Read a Ulysses chapter then read the chapter walkthroughs in the guide of your choice, while always having the Gifford Annotations handy to explain the multitude of miscellany everywhere in the text. Though, I'd strongly advise not to get too bogged down in the annotations and trying to understand every reference or else you'll never make it through the book.

Harry Blamires' "New Bloomsday Book" is a very clear walkthrough of the ACTION on just about every page. And I've been itching to read that Declan Kiberd "Ulysses and Us" book that was mentioned above.

PQ said...

Also, it almost goes without saying, but the most important guide to reading Ulysses is a DICTIONARY.

gacord said...

I find the Gibert nearly timeless and a must have. But, it, too, is denser than I wanted to offer Tom. But along those same lines, I really like Frank Budgen's "The Making of Ulysses".