I decided that this would be the year that I would read Ulysses. I’ve made two attempts on it before, but stalled a little before 200 pages in (my edition is 700 pages long): so, after Lestrygonians.
This time round I’ve got myself an audio reading to help me through. It’s an unabridged reading from Naxos Audio, read by Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan. (You will perhaps know Jim Norton as Bishop Brennan from Father Ted.)
Anyway, this has definitely been the way to go. I started a couple of days before Bloomsday, and after a month I’m halfway through. I’ve not been worrying myself too much about chasing up all the references, but have used these summaries to give me some guidance at the start of each chapter. This time I found the text on Gutenberg (probably naughty, it doesn’t come out of copyright until the end of the year), and have been reading on my Kindle. The text doesn’t have references, which has speeded up the process somewhat. I imagine it’s very easy to get lost in the various schemata. I don’t mind missing everything as long as I’m getting the gist. Either it works as a novel with some characters in it or else it doesn’t.
I am happy to report that it does. Damn, though, it’s funny. Jim Norton is great. The characters spring to life, and the complete bewilderment you have when reading cold as to focalization is circumvented by him voicing it for you. The episode I just read/heard, Cyclops, is a case in point: the (unnamed) narrator had a very distinctive down-to-earth Dublin voice, and all the ancillary characters have their own voices. Then all the tangents (and long lists) are given in a different, brisk tone (making them very funny). Best of all, we hear Bloom’s speaking voice (we have hitherto heard Bloom primarily via stream of consciousness as warm, humane, rather sad) as someone else hears it… whereupon he becomes prissy, argumentative and rather annoying.
There’s no way I could have done all that myself. As a result, I’m cracking through, and it’s become completely accessible. So if you ever thought you might give it a go, this could be one way in.