It is a much-acknowledged fact that Joyce’s Ulysses is one of the most difficult books to read in the English language, but I am here to tell you that if you were to *listen* to the abridged text of Ulysses performed by Jim Norton with Marcella Riordan, you wouldn’t think so!
Well, it would help somewhat if you were familiar with Homer’s Odyssey in which Odysseus, not unlike Leopold Bloom is on a journey– a physical one primarily that leads to the most fascinating encounters along the way. Bloom’s journey is part-physical and part metaphysical in every sense of that word given the stream-of-consciousness style of prose that Joyce employs in huge sections throughout the novel. And what a journey it is! It comprises the duration of one day: June 16, 1904 (the date sans year being of personal significance to me as well, but owing to completely different circumstances– I was giving birth to my secondborn on that date), that captures the events of a lifetime in a young man in Dublin who within eighteen “episodes” or chapters set in a three-part story takes a trip to Hades and back, all in a days’ work!
Oh, and everything you might have heard about the obscenity charges that led to the book not being allowed to be published in the United States until 1933 will not disappoint! But beyond the shock-value of such prose, this is a tome which contains a plethora of puns and parodies, and is quite funny, in fact. Joyce’s style is radical for his time, and perhaps remains the same even today, but in the final analysis it is about the perspectives and realities of a young man with whom life is a thousand layers deep every which way you peel. And the fact that I can say even that much is somewhat meaningful because I *have* had the– perhaps ambivalent pleasure– of having read the work!
Read it if you dare to complete it; listen to it, if you wish to experience some vague form of accomplishment.