Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 23, 2010

I’ve finished Ulysses!

Tonight, I finished reading James Joyce’s Ulysses.  I’ve written my final blog post of ‘disordered thoughts’ about the last chapter, Penelope, and have scheduled it for publication on this blog on Bloomsday, June 16th.



  1. Ulysses is one of those books that I fear I will always be too intimidated to read. I’m curious to read your thoughts though.

  2. Hi Iris, I think that since you enjoy read-alongs that you would probably love Ulysses – it lends itself to bookchat because you can enter it at any level and still enjoy it. I read it first by myself over the summer holidays before I had to study it at university, and at that time my reading was mostly the classics so I was alternately entranced, irritated, confused, bemused, and lost in admiration. I had no real idea what it was about but I still felt it was worth reading. Then, after lectures about it and discussions in tutorials I began to glimpse some of its riches especially the humour which I had missed entirely the first time round. The third time I read it because my adult son was reading it, and by then I had more experience both in life and in reading modern books and even more of it made sense. This fourth time is the best because I’ve been able to play around on the net and use online resources to enhance my reading. I’ve discovered all these other people reading it, being puzzled by it and not feeling embarrassed to say that they don’t understand something.
    Joyce would be saddened to see that his work is intimidating. He didn’t mean it to be.
    If you do decide to tackle it one day, check out Library Thing and Good Reads; they’ve always got groups reading it, that’s where I’m hoping to find companionship when I decide to tackle Finnegan’s Wake.

  3. Lisa – What an accomplishment! I took a course on Ulysses in college and still didn’t read the whole thing! In fact, I wrote my paper on “Penelope” and tried to wing it. Obviously, that wasn’t possible…

    So congratulations, I’ll be looking forward to your Bloomsday post. Where were you 14 years ago??? Hehe.

  4. Well done, Lisa. I read it at university and enjoyed it (in the way one enjoys Ulysses – liking the challenge and the experience) … would like to read it again one day but am not committed enough to do so right now!

  5. *chuckle* I reckon there could be a PhD in the whole notion of what it means to ‘read’ Ulysses. Looking back on my first time I know I read the words, but I don’t think I could have written a paper on Penelope either – and few 18 years old could IMO (unless they have had experiences quite unlike mine at that age LOL).

  6. Re. which I had missed entirely …

    Well done. The humour was the one thing that stuck with me after the first time — a lot of the rest of it dropped away, and it took me a second reading to remember that it was there, but I remember, for a while after Read No. 1., wandering around, muttering, “James Joyce: Ulysses: funny book. Didn’t expect that.”

  7. Lovely to meet up with you today Deane!

  8. It was! Thank you for lunch. (I don’t agree with Randall Jarrell’s she-writes-too-much assessment because prolific fecundity at this stage of her career is part of her style — the more she gives you, the more there is to give, like coral growing.) I think I’m intrigued by the Pembroke because he looks at you sideways, warily, as if he’s expecting you to do something terrible, but he doesn’t know what it will be, and neither do you. So there’s a question there. And his eyes, each one with an indentation above it, like U inverted, along the top of the lid, as if they’ve been set into his skull with an ice cream scoop.

  9. I think you could teach me a lot about looking at art – we must have lunch again soon!

  10. Lisa, thank you for your long and honest answer. I love to hear about people rereading books throughout their life and what ‘growth’ they realised they went through through rereading the book. (That must be one of the worst formulated sentences ever).
    I think you’ve convinced me that I really should give Ulysses a try sometime!

  11. Next time I’ll ask you about your embryonic GAN. I wanted to, and didn’t. (You’ve mentioned it once here, in a comment to WG.)

  12. Iris, I look forward to reading it about it on your blog some time!

  13. Deane, we can chat for hours – but not about my GAN – you’d be bored silly!

  14. I know a couple of people who like to talk about their GAN-equivalents (short stories, poems, and so forth). This is a form of boredom I’ve had some practice with.

    • Deane, you may inspire me to write more than I have been – so that I can live up to your expectations:)

  15. Ulysses is the book I sometimes use as an example to teach my college students a reader’s humility: i.e., if I have trouble understanding a great book, it isn’t the book’s fault!

    • Hi Shelley, welcome to chatting on ANZLL:)
      What you say is so true. I wish some Amazon reviewers knew this!

  16. Holy smokes! I think applause is in order. That is quite the task. Congratulations!

  17. […] book.  I am mean with my five stars, I reserve them for spectacular books like James Joyce’s Ulysses and Patrick White’s Voss so I didn’t rate anything with five stars last year even […]

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