First things first, hats off to Jim Norton for an inspired interpretation of what is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. Norton at least makes it possible for the listener to, by and large, keep up with what's happening. Most of the time.
Look, I can see why people rave about the genius of the book. The wildly shifting narratives are blinding to keep up with, especially the stream-of-consciousness chapters, and it must be a special talent that can not only put us in these different peoples' heads, but also parallel Homer's Odyssey in the process. I'm not familiar with Homer and am not particularly inclined to investigate, but all this still could not distract me from the fact that very little of interest is ever actually happening. I think that might kind of be the point though.
At the end of the day, it was on my bucket list to get through this so I'm really glad that I did it. But I would never say this was even close to being a fun read or a riveting story, so I would only recommend this to people who want that sense of satisfaction you might get by having read the book that all that fuss was over.
This book has all the things which annoy me about supposed "great" literature.
It is excessively poetic. (Not a fan of poetry).
It is wordy for the sake of it. (Big fan of directness).
There is relatively little direct narrative. (I like a plain and simple central thread).
Its full of clever devices. (Like my English not mucked about with)
But it is magnificent! I'm pretty sure that I didn't properly follow a lot of it but it doesn't matter. Some of the words made no sense but the sounded beautiful. Some of the scenes were meaningless to me but they were magic to listen to. The whole thing was a joy to listen to.
One of the other reviewers suggest that you should be familiar with this book in print before listening to this but I disagree. I suspect that if I had tried to read this from paper I would have made it t about page 12 before throwing it out of a window. It was made to be read out loud and if there is a better version available than this I'm not sure I would be able to cope with it.
Jim Norton gives each character just enough depth to make him distinguishable wthout creating any cartoon Irishmen in the process. There are a few sections read in a female voice. (Marcella Riordan - who should get a narrators credit). Double handed narration can be clumsy but this is perfectly judged. Overall - an excellent listen.
You can actually learn a tremendous amount about Irish History, Church history, western culture and classical education by reading Ulysses. A monumental work that has been brought back to the epic oral tradition by Jim Norton.
Now in my opinion, this book would be completely inaccessible without Jim Norton. With Jim Norton, the book is accessible, but only with a lot of interest and curiosity. I enjoy it for the "inversion" Joyce pulls on the Odyssey. Ithaca is Ireland and Odysseus is a Jewish man that nobody seems to consider their equal.
Ulysses is best appreciated after having read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (to understand Joyce's Stephen Character, and his issues with Ireland) and Homer's Odyssey (the mythic underpinning of the book). Also needed is Gifford's "Annotated Ulysses" which explains the Irish/Church history references as well as the puns and all of the references to 19th century poetry that Joyce laces throughout.
Ok . . . . Now I can say I read "Ulysses." Do I understand it? Ohhhhh myyyyy NOOOOOO. This is a book that a college course could be based on for a whole year. In fact, there must be courses on this book somewhere in the world, maybe in many places. It is the most convoluted, unintelligible book I have ever read. Why would anyone want to read it? And yet, there is something fascinating about it that kept me going, although by the end I was ready to be done with it.
I read the Kindle edition of this book, along with listening to the audio recording. I could never have done one without the other. Oh, and I also read the Sparknotes, episode by episode, before during and after each one. Sometimes, in fact, when reading the synopsis and analysis of each episode, I would say to myself, "Oh is THAT what was happening?"
This novel is on every "must read" list I've ever read, usually at the #1 position. It is often touted as the greatest novel of the 20th century, so naturally I thought I should read it. But I had heard that it is vulgar, so that made me hesitate (for about 30 years). Finally I figured I could take it. I have read some trashy stuff, and I don't really enjoy it at all. This book, in spite of the fact that it was classified as pornography and not allowed to be sold in the U.S. for a long long time, does not even rank up there with some of the trash that is published today and passed off as great literature. You know, the ones where the "f" word occurs something like 50 times per page. (Ugh I hate those!!!! This book contained almost no swear words.) Or the explicit sexual scenes (see Diana Gabaldon, whose writing I love, and while I would not categorize her writing as vulgar, I could do with a little less explicit intimacy). It does have some fairly clear allusions to sexual matters, but I could not say it is vulgar. The only part I could say might be vulgar is the last episode where Molly is in bed and can't sleep, and we get these gi-normous run-on sentences which are her thoughts just running and running around in her head, her stream of consciousness, and she thinks about every lover she has ever had, and other sexual things. And maybe one or two other places that are kinda nasty.
The story line. What story line? What plot? It is a ramble with no particular direction. And yet, Joyce ties everything up at the end and you "get it." It was written as a parallel story to "The Odyssey", and thanks to Sparknotes, I was able to follow that idea. Luckily, I had just read "The Odyssey" a few weeks ago, so I knew what the notes were talking about. I would recommend anyone wishing to read this book to read "The Odyssey" first. Or listen to it read by Derek Jacobi.
The writing style. You name it, he uses it. Every episode, of which there are 18, uses a different style of writing. One episode uses maybe 10 different styles alone. It is hard work to figure it all out, especially the parts that use incomplete sentences. So very many of these sentences ended with the word "the". Figure that one out. Joyce also likes to make lists. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes just odd. Bloom's last list went like this: "Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailer and Finbad the Failer and Binbad the Bailer and Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailer and Hinbad the Hailer and Rinbad the Railer and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer." I think he was very tired. It had been a long day.
The characters. I have to admit I never got to the point that I cared a great deal about any of the characters. They just weren't loveable. In many ways they weren't even interesting. I thought the most interesting person was Bloom, of course, and although I did finally have some tender feelings for Steven, I just couldn't care that much about him. Molly, eh, not so much either. She was one-dimensional to me. All the women characters were, and the only reason they were mentioned was in terms of some sort of sexual activity. Well, other than Steven's mother, who was already dead at the beginning of the story.
Well enough of that. I just have to say this. The narrator, Jim Norris, deserves 10 stars at least. He is 110% complete and total awesomeness. He is a big reason I was able to persevere with this difficult-to-read book. Now, anyone who would consent to reading this book aloud and who would at least try to make sense of it deserves a medal of honor, but Jim was simply amazing. Marcella Riordan, who read "Molly" was also good, well above average. But it was Jim to whom the huge part of the really tough narration fell, and he handled it like a true champion. I'll be looking for other books read by Jim Norris.
Last word: Was it worth reading? I think I can say at this point that it was worth reading. It is going to take a lot longer to fit it all together and make sense of it than just the few days since I finished it. I will be thinking about it for a long time. A year from now I will probably be able to do a great review of the book.
I do understand what all the hype is about, but there is something in me that keeps saying that the greatest book of the 20th century or any century should be a little more accessible to its readers. It is just too hard to make sense of, at least it was for me, and I am a college graduate, in fact I hold a masters' degree. So . . . read it if you want, but I am not sure it will change your life. That is the biggest reason I am giving it three stars.
I could never have read this classic, but as a spoken book with the amazing narration it was achievable. At times it was excruciating, at times exhilarating, like plunging into cold water, or ripping off a band aid, some sections I could only do a minute at a time, I felt a great sense of achievement when I got to the end. If you ever felt compelled to explore this infamous book, this is a great way to do it.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
I've decided for awhile that I wanted to read "Ulysses" - which really seems like a marathon for readers. I tried reading it once, and couldn't get the rhythm of the language. Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan's reading helped me over that hurdle. I also had the book in front of me, and I used "Ulysses Annotated" by Don Gifford to help me with all the glorious historical, literature, musical, biblical references, along with the 1904 Dublin slang.
I would recommend this recording to anybody interested in experiencing the novel that changed literature.
It was so easy to become engrossed in the characters and the mood of the moment, that I often forgot I was in the middle of this monumental work! Jim Norton's range is remarkable - he made every character's voice as distinct as a fingerprint. He had obviously given careful thought to the sounds of the words, and these sounds rolled off his tongue as though he were making them up. The same goes for Marcella Riordan's characterization of Molly. I'm sure the direction accounted for this as well. I have heard no better audio rendition, and I have heard around a hundred. Reading along simultaneously with the 1984 Gabler edition, some charts, and help from student annotations, I was finally able to complete and enjoy this most essential book. One less accomplishment left before I die!
This should not be your first read of Ulysses. You need to see what it looks like on paper, first. There is no way anyone would be able to appreciate either the book or the audio recording of it by doing otherwise. The reading is not too fast. It is beautifully authentic. Do you want someone drolling on, waiting for you to chew the last syllable, or would you like a wonderfully fluid reading? Jim Norton is mind-blowing at times. He is genius. There are parts I'll listen to over and over and over. I'm serious. I will replay them and replay them. It's beautiful. I can never begin to comprehend how this was put together. Norton's reading has helped me to understand much of what I missed while reading it myself.
Of course it doesn't cater to American readers. The book is a superbly elaborate account of early 20th century Dublin, written by a genius of a man. This reading brings out the native subtleties. This reading makes the greatest literary work of all time live!
No. It's an exceptionally tedious story.
Story? What story?
Jim did an amazing job of making this impenetrable book vaguely accessible. His aplomb at tackling the rambling sentences was wonderful!
It's one of the great books, right? A must read. Thank goodness for Jim's narration to help me conquer this behemoth. While 95% of the book I found exceptionally dull and boring, every now and then it really does soar. Perhaps only because you grasp at straws, but I think there were moments that are sublime...
I can't do it. I downloaded this book because it's on all of the Greatest Books of All Time lists. It's too difficult to listen to, although the performance is very good. It's too disjointed and hard to follow unless you're in a quiet room all alone with Cliffsnotes by your side.