Joyce’s experimental masterpiece set a new standard for modernist fiction, pushing the English language past all previous thresholds in its quest to capture a day in the life of an Everyman in turn-of-the-century Dublin. Obliquely borrowing characters and situations from Homer’s Odyssey, Joyce takes us on an internal odyssey along the current of thoughts, impressions, and experiences that make up the adventure of living an average day.
As his characters stroll, eat, ruminate, and argue through the streets of Dublin, Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness narrative artfully weaves events, emotions, and memories in a free flow of imagery and associations.
Full of literary references, parody, and uncensored vulgarity, Ulysses has been considered controversial and challenging, but always brilliant and rewarding.
Public Domain (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Comes nearer to being the perfect revelation of a personality than any book in existence." (New York Times)
"To my mind one of the most significant and beautiful books of our time." (Gilbert Seldes, The Nation)
“Joyce soars to such rhapsodies of beauty as have probably never been equaled in English prose fiction." (Edmund Wilson, The New Republic)
John Lee gives a hearty but flawed performance of "Ulysses." The energy and the humor come through -- this is, after all, one of the funniest books ever written -- but there are quieter moments as well, and these fare badly: Lee delivers everything at a breakneck pace, not so much narrating the book as declaiming it.
In addition, there are some errors in the production design of the audiobook that detract from its effectiveness. First and foremost, "Ulysses" is full of music, from snatches of song to the quarter-hour tolling of a bell tower. All are rendered in the same straightforward declamatory prose style of the rest of the narration. Second -- and it's possible this is a problem with the Audible rendering rather than the original audiobook -- the episodes all run together without a second's pause between them. Whether you view the book as three long chapters or eighteen separate episodes, there are clear indications of breaks throughout the text, each accompanied by major changes in tone, style, and narrator. Here, the last sentence of one and first sentence of the next seem to be delivered in the same breath.
It seems to be using a better (more recent) text than the Naxos version. The Naxos version has a number of other flaws as well, but it does a far better job of capturing the music and the rhythm of the narration than Blackstone's offering. If Blackstone were willing to undertake it, a little re-engineering of this title could make a huge difference and might justify a higher rating.
The reading is magnificent. Through the crowded pages and episodes of literally hundreds of characters, the narrator, John Lee, manages to catch in all their tones, quirks, and color the distinct voices of each. His inflection, pitch, and cadence is clear and deadly accurate. Not only are the rolling rhythms of Joyce's prose maintained with uncanny naturalness--thoughts are recognizable as such (not merely rendered as captioned overlays) and the tones, timbres, moods, and motives of the enormous flood of speech are rendered in as richly and varied accents as they would if one were walking the streets of Dublin.
From heavy Latinate meditations to the onomatopoeic replication of linotype machines in the newspaper office and the raucous imitation of a gramophone recording of a deceased grandfather, Lee's renderings are palpably believable as both the realities they represent and, more importantly, as empathetic interpretations of the individual hearts and minds they issue from.
I was first a bit wary of the lower cost and ratings of this version compared with the nearly tripled price of the most reviewed recording (who knows what they were thinking), but after listening to the provided sample of its long stretches of rushed and flattened monotone and hokey interpolated music recordings, I moved on to find this gem. It does what Joyce's greatest gift does--bring the full panorama of humanity to life purely through language.
This is James Joyce fired out of a cannon. An impressive demonstration of narrative athleticism by the talented John Lee does not compensate for a lengthy difficult listen and lack of nuance. It may possibly have been compressed in post production on the other hand to squeeze it into a certain time frame in which case they should de-compress it and re-publish. The nuance might bloom once it has air. 60% speed should do it. Then you might have a great audio.
James Joyce is an acquired taste as far as I can figure. It would depend on the person whether I would recommend it. John Lee would be perfectly fine on something that wasn't so *completely* taxing and mind-numbingly difficult.
I rather did like that there was stream-of-consciousness and alliterative prose, but not to the extent it happened in this book. I know that Joseph Campbell read this book 56 times, bless him, but I can't see getting through it once. (I got two thirds through)
Having it audio did help me a bit getting through the stream-of-consciousness way that it is written. Hearing expressed in a voice is quite a bit easier than trying to interpret it as text, as happened in the last Joyce book I tried to read. So if a person was keen to read a Joyce book having an audio book is helpful if it is hard for them. The whispersync might even be better, but I can't say for sure.
This is a once in a lifetime experience -- I would never be able to sit down and read the book, but hearing the voices, those Irish voices, internal and external, as the history of the world filters through the events and consciousness of a single day in Dublin, expands the sense of what is possible in language. Younger and older language artists, Daedalus and Bloom, survive debauchery and humiliation, contemplating, absorbing, reacting to the death of a mother, the infidelity of a wife, the centrifugal and centripetal forces from home. Obscurity and arcaneness to a modern reader melt away in the wash and ocean of mesmerizing sound and language.
I heard John Lee read Orhan Pahmuk's Snow and couldn't place his exotic sounding accent which seemed perfect for that book. But to hear him read Ulysses is to know that this is what he was born to do, that Irish voice, that Irish soul.
This is a mammoth undertaking.
A fantastic novel and at times the narration is perfect. The last two chapters especially are great. Unfortunately the lack of indication when a chapter starts is a serious drawback. Lee does a great job bringing out the accents and Dubliness of this book though.
Retired dentist after 37 yrs & with strong artistic interests left intensive reading until my latter years and am having a ball!
I really wanted to get this classic under my belt, but found that it was just too complicated for my busy mind and knew that I would not get used to it even if I were to persist. Perhaps I will come back to it when I have time to concentrate really hard for 100% of the time. Others may well love it and the language was delightful in the sample but not for more than an hour of my busy day. I wish I could say more.
I give Joyce credit for trying something new and perhaps in written form this book might be interesting but as an audio book, I found it to be completely incomprehensible. I had absolutely no idea what was going on even after I went to Wikipedia to read their summary as I was going along. For the first time ever, I have given up on a book. I got about 10 hours into it but it became drudgery to try to keep up with what was going on. I found myself zoning out and rewinding all the time. I wish I could say I loved this book as the other reviewers have but it was way too far out for me.
Perhaps most disappointing was that I love John Lee so much but even his performance was mediocre and could not save this book. He does an admirable job with his Irish accent but it was so thick I couldn't understand much of it.
I cannot recommend this book unless you already know the story, are from Ireland and are on some kind of hallucinogenic. Otherwise, it was all gobbledygook to me.
This is one of the worst classics I have ever heard. Almost as bad as Grapes of Wrath.
"Excellent Rendition of Joyce's Masterpiece"
John Lee has done an excellent job in reading this great book.
There were a few minor errors in the pronounciation of placenames (e.g Killiny pron as 'Kill-in-ey' instead of ''Kill-ine-ey') but they would only be obvious to an Irish person and in no way does it detract from the enjoyment of John's very fine narration.
This audio-book is ideal for the 'Ulysses' novice (but be sure to read some of the many guides to the novel also - you don't set out to climb Mount Everest without doing some homework) as well as for those of us who already love it. It is a marvelous, witty, life-enhancing, enjoyable work and this comes through in this excellent audio version.
I have just finished this epic novel by James Joyce and whilst it was a marathon, I have achieved another goal in my must read (or listen to) list of great books. I don't pretend to understand all of this complex work (in fact I would say 50% of it was most incomprehensible to me) but what I did understand I enjoyed immensely. John Lee is a magnificent narrator and the book is read in a most ear pleasing manner. My only criticism is that being born in Dublin myself, I noticed a lot of incorrect pronunciations of both Street and Place names but this was only a minor irk. For all those people who have always wanted to read Ulysses, this is the way to do it.
I just couldn't follow the plot line! Either I wasn't paying enough attention or this was just hard reading!
No, I've read worse!
Yes, quite a few. John Lee is an excellent narrator. I've never heard him do an Irish accent before but it was consistent and well delivered.
Boredom, really, and relief when it was over.
"Hard going, but worth it."
The author's turn of phrase. The language is beautiful and is made to be read (or heard) out-loud. Ideal for an audio book. The Molly Bloom final chapter could (should?) be a book or play in itself.
Er, there's not really much of a story. The character rolls around Dublin carving a route in the shape of a huge question mark. Stream of consciousness, yes. "Story", no.
Narration was just right.
A film that's far too clever for you. Wake up for the last chapter though.
A very difficult 30 hours, but like an ultra-marathon the sense of accomplishment at the end made it all worthwhile. I'm not clever enough to understand it, however like a great painting or piece of music you can just stand back at marvel at its brilliance. The final seven sentences (and some 2hrs listening) from Molly in bed are absolutely staggering and had me gripped to the end. Yes!
"A Gentle Behemoth!"
I'm an English literature student and being faced with Ulysses in my fast approaching second year of uni was pretty daunting so I decided to get it over and done with over the summer holidays. I would not characterise the book itself as particularly enjoyable and it was by no means easy to get through but I can safely say that tackling this book was made so much easier through the use of this audio book and I am so thankful to John Lee for taking so much time to read this behemoth for the benefit of us poor student folk! Thank you very much to everyone at Audible for producing this 😃
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.