Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 27, 2009

Ulysses by James Joyce (disordered thoughts of an amateur – intro)


Having joined Team Ulysses at DoveGreyReader (and the group read was my idea so I’m quite excited!) I am now embarking on my fourth reading of Ulysses by James Joyce.

To take my own advice, I’m heading this post with the link to Ulysses at Wikipedia because if offers a bit of guidance with the way Joyce plays around with different literary styles and uses allusions etc, and I am going to want to refer to it often.  It is the difference in literary styles that I remember most from reading this book at Melbourne University in 1981 – and I do so wish I could remember the name of my tutor because she was excellent – I would have liked to pay homage to her skills in leading us onto a higher plane in reading pleasure than ever we could have had without her.

Update 16/6/17 This chart would have been useful if I’d known about it….

A brief digression….

Wikipedia tells me that James Joyce first discovered Ulysses the hero when he was a child, reading Charles Lamb – and this has reminded me of the disaster which befell my beautifully illustrated copy of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare….

No amount of rearranging the shelves in the library could make space for some of my larger books, and I resorted to placing some of them in a stack on top of the shelves.  These shelves are almost floor-to-ceiling, but there is space to store the books for The Spouse’s business records, should the ATO ever wish to audit us.  (They’ll be wasting their time if they do!)  Alas, I had forgotten that when the shelves were installed, within the corner where the two sides meet is vacant space, leaving a splendid column of empty air to collect cobwebs – and a perilous edge beyond which anything which fell might never be retrieved.  As the business records bred, the space they took up edged ever closer to the precipice, but it was not Business Activity Statements Nos 31-34 which toppled to their doom but my Tales from Shakespeare, an illustrated  World of Charles Dickens and some treasured children’s picture books.  I have tried everything possible to get them out of their tomb, but the architecture of the shelves defies all efforts.  The books are there till the shelves are demolished, where they are likely to be turfed out with the rubbish by some heartless tradesman.  I am still very cross with myself about this….

UlyssesMy copy of Ulysses is far from lovely.  It is a battered old Penguin, and I am astonished to find that it is full of pencil annotations in my own hand!  When was I ever such a vandal?  I hope I didn’t do this to any of the other books that I read at university because I dislike reading books so mutilated – the (usually inane) comments in the margins detract from the flow of reading the author’s words.

Why for example did I underline Buck Mulligan’s claim to Stephen’s pay packet on p17?  ‘How much? Four quid? Lend us one.‘  Instead of simply reading on, I’m now pressured into considering the signifiance of these seven words.  I’ve missed something that I ought to recognise, and 28 years after marking the book I can’t remember the import.  It’s very tiresome, and it’s my fault entirely.

I wonder how many who have signed up to Team Ulysses will finish.  Will I?  I have already read it three times, and there are so many other wonderful books as yet unread, and yet more that I have read and loved and want to read again.  We shall see…

Links to my disordered thoughts for other chapters are below. NB Page references to anything before Chapter 11 are to my 1979 Penguin, and after that are to my Penguin 2000 reprint.


  1. […] Have just seen that ANZLit Blog is having a group read of Ulysses – I might have to give it (yet) another go… VN:F [1.5.2_773]Rate this […]


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