Ulysses, part 1 of 9

Parts 2 through 9 in the sidebar.

This is a documentary/movie-like adaption of Ulysses. It does a good job of it, from what I’ve see, but it’s a creative adaption, so certain things are not exactly as they are in the book, but whoever made this series seems to have known the book well enough to make a good series in spite of the edits.

A note; there’s a very odd, poor quality four or five minute intro/song on this video. The whole movie is not like that.


“…it’s a book associated with dificulty whereas, in fact, it should be associated with joy.”

Here is a short, 2min, book review of Ulysses by writer Stephen Fry. It’s one of the first videos that appears when entering “Ulysses by James Joyce” into Youtube search.

I feel like if I, or anybody else, were stuck in a room with nothing to do but read Ulysses for a month, I would come to enjoy and understand it as Fry does in this video.

Fry is wrong about one point in the review, however; the last words are not “Yes, yes, yes.” They are “Yes I will.”



For something a bit more lighthearted. James first date with Nora, pictured in the bottom right, next to their daughter and underneath their son, stepped out on their first date on June 16th, 1904. This day, June 16th, became the date Ulysses begins. It’s become known as Bloomsday, after Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses. The day is now celebrated by Joyce fans.

The writing style of Ulysses

Attempting to read Ulysses, or attempting to empathize with somebody who attempted to read Ulysses, is very dificult without some prior knowledge of how the book is written and structured.

The book is divided into eighteen chapters, each one structured differently from the rest and each one having a sort of obsessive theme with a color or scientific or artistic development. The chapters are divided into three parts; the Telemachus, the Odyssey, and the Nostos. Telemachus and Nostos both have three chapters, Odyssey has twelve. There’s a reason for this, there’s probably a dozen reasons, but none are apparent to me, as I’ve only read the book once; people do actually study these works for years. Books have been written about this book.

The name of the second part, Odyssey, is a good place for me to segue into the most prominent allusion of the book; each chapter is one hour of the day on June 16th, starting at eight or nine in the morning and ending past midnight the next day, and each one hour chapter parallels a chapter or scene from Homer’s Odyssey.

Several of Joyce’s friends had trouble understanding the book, so he put together a listing of certain themes. Two of these have been collected here and here. I wish I had found them before I started reading, but they were helpful none the less.

The Ballad of Joking Jesus

“The Song of the Cheerful (but slightly Sarcastic) Jesus” was a poem written by a man named Oliver Gogarty, a friend of Joyce. The poem was initially published fully under this name and later in Ulysses as a little tune Buck Mulligan (one of the characters in the first three sections of the book) sings.

“The Song of the Cheerful (but slightly Sarcastic) Jesus” can be found here. This is probably the best source for the poem on the web.

The Ballad of Joking Jesus has been reprinted here:

I’m the queerest young fellow that ever you heard
My mother’s a Jew, my father’s a bird.
With Joseph the Joiner I cannot agree
So here’s to disciples and Calvary.
If anyone things thinks that I amn’t divine
He’ll get no free drinks when I’m making the wine
But have to drink water and wish it were plain
That I make when the wine becomes water again.
Goodbye, now, goodbye! Write down all that I said
And tell Tom, Dick, and Harry I rose from the dead.
What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly
And Olivet’s breezy… Goodbye, now, goodbye!

I included this little rhyme in my blog because it’s one of the earliest and easily recognizable allusions, and is one of the first instances of James Joyce basing a character off of somebody he knew in real life; literature isn’t the only thing the book alludes to. Furthermore, it displays the irreverence of James Joyce well.

A very truthful statement: the guiding statement of this blog.


“I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.”

Joyce was not being self-deprecating, facetious, or disparaging in any way when he said this about the allusions and themes of Ulysses. It’s a deep book.

With most literature, when you want to convey the essence somebody about a poem, essay, book, or whatever, the best way to do it is describe the plot, the characters, the setting, perhaps throw in a neat tidbit about some clever allusion or why the author writes like this.

Not with Ulysses.

I read the book. Well, not true. I deciphered the book, or, rather, tried to decipher what I could, which was most of it, but at times it was like reading while half-asleep; the letters were on the page, they made words, I could say the words aloud, and identify the subject and verbs of the sentences, but any ideas the words may have carried was lost on me. Repeating the plot to you would not be much better for you than the book was for me at times.

To understand Ulysses, you have to understand Joyce, his style of writing, and the themes and parallels of the book, which is what I’m focusing on. I could go and write out an abridged synopsis of the book, but it wouldn’t help, would add far too much text, and I’d probably get it wrong.

Insightful quotes by James Joyce

Here are a collection of James Joyce quotes, both directly and from various books, that give an insight into his character and thoughts that the bibliography, though factual, lacked, in my opinion;

“I confess that I do not see what good it does to fulminate against the English tyranny while the Roman tyranny occupies the palace of the soul.” 

This quote in particular shows off several characteristics of Joyce that really shine through in Ulysses, and are important in understand it; his irreverence and disdain for the Catholic church, an opinion he developed at a young age, coupled with his Irish nationalism, gave him a cynically realistic view of politics, and of Ireland.

“To say that a great genius is half-mad, while recognizing his artistic prowess, is worth as much as saying that he was rheumatic, or that he suffered from diabetes. Madness, in fact, is a medical expression to which a balanced critic should pay no more heed than he would to the accusation of heresy brought by the theologian, or to the accusation of immorality brought by the public prosecutor.”

Very self aware in this quote, as he was a bit eccentric, and also displaying a lot of wit. It takes a lot of wit, and an equal amount of insanity, to write like he did.

“Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honored by posterity because he was the last to discover America.”

Honestly, this one isn’t too deep or revealing, it’s just very witty and insightful, keeping in line with the above quote.

“The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole Life to reading my works.”

“Does nobody understand?” – last words

Both of these very much go together. Firstly, again with the self-awareness. Secondly, I would like to use these two quotes to justify any confusing or “lacking” elements in this presentation. This book is incredibly, incredibly complex. I could fill this blog with the word “complex” over and over again and it still wouldn’t contain as much complexity as Ulysses. My mission of sorts in writing this blog is to show how complex the book is.

Here are some more, should anybody like to read them. Link.