Happy Bloomsday! For any who may have missed my prior brief announcement, the next book queued up for a group read here at Infinite Zombies is Ulysses. It’s a book I’ve started and stopped several times, and so from an Infinite Summer/Zombies standpoint, it represents the first book for me in the true spirit of the original program. It’s one I should have read but have never managed. It’s one I just can’t lug myself up the hill of. It’s one I’m still not sure I’ll be able to get through, even with the help of insightful commentary and cheerleading. With the exception of the (by comparison) light reading of Dracula, I had read and enjoyed all the other books we’ve covered to date. Two of them are among my very favorites. So, a year late, I’m finally taking on a book that represents a known and almost dreaded challenge rather than a reread of a loved thing.

Because I think I’m ill-suited to provide adequate context and background for the book, I’ve asked someone else to coordinate this read. I know Judd Staley because we share an interest in the work of David Foster Wallace. Judd comments with some frequency on the wallace-l discussion list, and he was one of the coordinators of this past November’s Footnotes conference devoted to Wallace’s work. When I measured the temperature of wallace-l a few months ago regarding the possibility of a Ulysses read, he enthusiastically expressed an interest, and when I put out a specific call for help more recently, he answered. A doctoral student working on 19th and 20th century fiction, narrative theory, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, affect, Joyce, and Wallace, Judd was a presenter at the 2009 North American James Joyce Conference, and he’s active in the James Joyce Society of New York. So we’re in good hands.

As we wrap up Moby-Dick, you’ll begin seeing overlapping posts from Judd preparing us for Ulysses. He’ll provide information about differences among the varying editions of Ulysses (if you’re in a rush to buy yours, read the bottom of this, but know that Judd will add some color soon), make suggestions regarding supplemental materials, and provide some literary background. Several of us who have blogged other books here at IZ will continue to write about our reading experience.

Just as we leaped straightway into Moby-Dick after finishing up 2666, we’re not taking much of a break before starting Ulysses. The date by which you’ll want to have finished the first chunk of reading is July 12, and this will be an eight-week read.  Ulysses has no clearly marked chapter breaks but is divided up informally into episodes (about which presumably more later). This will be something of a pain to track across multiple editions. The weekly assignments and approximate page counts will be as follows:

July 12: Episodes 1-3 (~40 pages)
July 19: Eps 4-6 (~50 pages)
July 26: Eps. 7-9 (~80 pages)
August 2: Eps. 10-12 (~ 100 pages)
August 9: Eps. 13 & 14 (~65 pages; ep. 14 is where a lot of people give up)
August 16: Ep. 15 (~150 pages, but it’s a play, so there’s not that many words per page)
August 23: Eps 16 & 17 (~100 pages)
August 30: Ep. 18 (~35 pages of unpunctuated monologue)

I do hope you’ll join in.

17 thoughts on “Ulysses

  1. Paul June 16, 2010 / 11:09 am


    I did rather hope you’d have a Bloomsday kick off. Of course, I suppose we should just read the book from start to finish today, but that may be a bit much.

    I wanted to post about this the other day, but this seems as good a time as any: Ulysses Seen, the comic book rendition of the novel. I’m just not sure if it will meet our schedule.


  2. Daryl L. L. Houston June 16, 2010 / 12:15 pm

    Yeah, I’m totally going to follow that site as I read along. If you click the panels in the comic, there are detailed annotations about both the book and the comic. Very interesting stuff. There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about nudity in the iPad version of the comic, but just yesterday, they announced that Apple has backed down, so you get to see weenies in it.

  3. Joann Karen June 16, 2010 / 1:22 pm

    Happy Bloomsday ! Count me in for Ulysses !

  4. crazymonk June 16, 2010 / 1:37 pm

    My Bloomsday book recently came in the mail. Now I’m just waiting for the book itself.

    I know that Ulysses begins on the coast of Ireland — does that make it a summer beach read?

  5. Steve P. June 16, 2010 / 1:55 pm

    plenty of people have called it beach of a read. Can’t wait to see what develops here. Happy Bloomsday to all.

  6. Greg Carlisle June 16, 2010 / 2:08 pm

    Last year’s New Yorker calendar featured on Aug 29/30 a panel labelled “The Ultimate Beach Book” in which two sunbathers look up as a seemingly infinite series of planes fly not ads but the text of Ulysses overhead.

  7. Kevin June 16, 2010 / 8:29 pm

    Along with Gravity’s Rainbow, this is one of those books that I’ve picked up and put down so many times that I’ve started to view them less as novels and more as weight training devices. Still, after almost a year after first deciding to try and read Ulysses, I think this group read is finally just the thing to hammer the proverbial nail in the proverbial coffin once and for all. I’ve talked to quite a few professors and bookworms over the past 12 months w/r/t the book, and one of the tips that keeps getting iterated is that it’s a book that should be read out loud to get the full experience. One prof. in particular (who used to teach the James Joyce class at my college a few years back) actually pointed me in the direction of the audiobook reading of the novel by Donal Donnelly and Miriam Healy-Louie, which have been touted by many to be *the* definitive reading of the novel. That being said, I’m really looking forward to July 12th and beyond – definitely no wussing out this time!

  8. Daryl L. L. Houston June 16, 2010 / 11:27 pm

    Kevin, my experience with this book and with GR have been the same. I finally made it through GR a couple of years ago. Here’s hoping this read does the trick for you and me both.

    • Kevin July 3, 2010 / 1:25 am

      Good to know I’m not alone in my feelings towards those two books. I finally finished Gravity’s Rainbow on Monday, and although I can safely say I understood practically none of it, I’m grateful for the experience because now I feel that I can read and get through pretty much anything.

      I’m currently blazing through 2666 (looking forward to perusing the 2666 site linked in the sidebar), and after Portrait I think the big U and I are finally ready to make extensive eye contact. For realsies.

      • Daryl L. L. Houston July 3, 2010 / 3:34 am

        Kevin, the sidebar links contain some great content for 2666; several of us also blogged it here, if you’re interested and don’t already have enough to read with Ulysses on the near horizon.

  9. Jeff Anderson June 17, 2010 / 10:13 pm

    I’m super excited about the Ulysses read. I’ve been through the book once or twice (probably once, now that I think of it), and quite liked it, but I’ve never had anybody else’s input on it. It’ll be great to see other people’s reactions and readings.

    And as far as never finishing it—the style really does vary dramatically from episode to episode, and I suspect the opening is deliberately difficult, but it changes so much that there’s bound to be something you can love.

  10. Daryl L. L. Houston June 18, 2010 / 9:17 am

    Jeff, I can surely identify with your being interested in seeing other people’s reactions. That’s a big part of what made IJ so fun for me. I think I’ll fare better this time with Ulysses because I’ll be reading more carefully and with determination. I think the last time I tried, I may have put it down not because I couldn’t bear to read it but simply because another shiny object came along and drew me away for a while. So I’m progressing, at least. 🙂

  11. Sorrento June 18, 2010 / 9:45 am

    Ordered my copy last night, along with Ulysses annotated. I think with the help of you Zombies, the Ulysses Seen annotations, and those, I’ll be in good shape. I am very excited for it.

    I’m also excited that I’ve caught up on Moby Dick. Now I can read the site all week instead of catching up on Sunday and reading everything from the previous section all at once.

  12. Aadam Aziz Ansari June 19, 2010 / 9:40 am

    I’m just hoping we tackle Finnegans Wake next.

    …only half kidding. I’d like to finally tackle that indecipherable mess, but it’s essentially impossibly without outside assistance.

    • robberry237 June 30, 2010 / 10:13 pm

      The WAKE isn’t indecipherable, Aadam, but you do need a whole team of ciphers to get the gist of it. And then you wind up finding out the ciphers you employed got more out of it then you did.

      It’s beauty is the arrangement, like a Mondrian painting, but like a Mondrian that abandons limitations rather than establishes them. A Mondrian made of every color in the rainbow breaking the space of the picture plane and trying to form a prism to present colors no human eye can see.

      Yeah, it’s the deep, deep waters of Joycean mystery where there’s no light and the best swimmers don’t have eyes anyway. ULYSSES, however vast, is still just an ocean of language many of us have crossed more than a few times.

      But every time somebody sees something out there you never saw before.

      Looking forward to the reading group, guys. Happy to be involved.

      But FINNEGANS WAKE? That scares me…

    • Kevin July 3, 2010 / 1:35 am

      Every page I open to in my copy of Finnegans Wake is a complete conundrum to me. That being said, in reading aloud what I could make out of the supposed mess, there’s a certain elegance and cadence to it that I actually really enjoy. From what I’ve skimmed of Ulysses the same thing seems to apply, so even if the Zombies don’t end up wishing to take on a group read of the WAKE, I’d certainly be down for taking a crack at it regardless.

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