Monday, May 27, 2013


Pretty me, reading Ulysses
hahaha! It's not Marilyn, it's...

THIS the FOLLOW-UP to my previous post:
"Reading Ulysses: Guided Or Unguided?", so it might help if you want to read that first.

Every REFERENCE in this post is listed at bottom of that first post "Guided or Unguided."


James Joyce's Ulysses intimidated me. I wanted to prepare myself before I began it. I wanted to research and find out ahead of time, for example: Which edition? Read it cold, or buy guidebooks to explain it? -especially on the first-time read. Which guidebooks? etc.

In the first post "Guided or Unguided" I researched and learned the many options readers have, for "how" to read Ulysses.
By now I'm halfway through the last chapter! Yes! Here I tell you which of those options I chose, "how" I read Ulysses after all.

So you can go read "Guided" where I research my options; or break the suspense now and keep reading to see what I chose!

life-size Odysses faces off some Sirens or so.
Is O. the beardless one?
fr Karl Lagerfeld's gorgeous life-size 15-glass-panel 
mural for a Monte Carlo hotel lobby


The biggest question is, read it cold or use guidebooks and notes?
Before I started, I was intrigued early on by this statement:
"..the best way to read a book 'on a maiden voyage' is to just read it, 'sans lifejacket.'"
However- I did not believe that! I wrote my entire "Guided" article just to test it.

This quote nearly convinced me that to do a cold read, to simply luxuriate in "ordinary man" Leopold Bloom's "rollicking" roll through "a living, breathing" old Dublin, enjoying the "rhythms and voices," the multitude of colorful characters, places, emotions... the amazing possibilities of language."

Very enticing!

Video: not to be outdone by Ulysses fans Marilyn & Madonna, 
LADY GAGA is a SIREN (mermaid) named Yuyi.
Rather terrifyingly fishlike, isn't she. Hope they get her to the ocean fast!

So- did I decide to sail "sans lifejacket" or not? Suspense!


Remember I am a nobody! I know nothing about Joyce or the Canon. Everything I did here, I did because it was the choice that FELT GOOD, and I generally do as I please.

Reference #s refer to "Online References" at bottom of first post.

1) I joined a Ulysses reading group I found at This is no doubt the single most important step I took. There's nothing like a support system, people to push you on, people to talk to who care about the same weird stuff you do. Suddenly, it's fun. And they are obligated to make you feel smart.

If you don't like to get complicated, just do step 1 and forget the rest.

2) The other important step for my pleasure: I downloaded the RTE dramatized recording for my ipod, it's legal (Reference 11).

3) And you can't overlook the delightful ruling in the 1933 obscenity trial: Woolsey ruling (reference 3).

members of Dublin's Bloomsday Survival Kit
group devoted to bringing Ulysses to life,
act out Ch. 15 Circe with ashplant

4) Edition: I thought I'd be cool and get the controversial Gabler edition, but I got nervous. Then I realized at my level the edition didn't matter, so I "took the middle way," the safe classic edition, ala 1961. I was disappointed they'd changed the cover from that marvelous large block typeface, to a dumb squiggle. I should have ordered the old one off (Reference 7)

5) If I used a kindle, would I buy the physical book too? YES! I'd use the reader for a) the subway and b) for "search," to find names again etc. (very important). That's one of the perks of reading a huge book, to feel a big, solid book. Besides, you always want a hard copy of the special ones.

6) Guides: I bought Gifford's notes and was soon sorry I did. Friends swear by it, but for me, it's too detailed for a first run. Maybe a few peeks next time. So I bought Blamires, more general, much better; I also chanced upon a random guide by some guy Killeen, I have no idea how he stacks up, but I like him, he's just my style.

This taught me that whoever you pick, just make it someone who looks at books the way you do, and thinks the way you do. I also used the online high school cheat-sheet, which is a surprising help.

BUT-- how much did I use the notes? Stay tuned!

..and pretty ME reading Molly aloud! :)

7) Chapters aren't indicated, so I labeled my chapters as they correspond with each Odyssey chapter: Ch. 1 Telemachus etc. This is how people talk about it.

8) I agree with Nabokov that I should follow Bloom's journey around Dublin on a map, but I couldn't figure it out, so I was lazy and didn't try (References 9&10).

9) I read with a pencil, and in the margins put ideas & questions and kept track of the plot: "SD library," "LB memory," "hungry" etc. Or you get lost looking back.

10) OK here it is, what we've been waiting for:

As I began to read, I realized I wanted to sail on my own, without guides! Then I got lost in Ch. 3 Proteus (Stephen on the beach). So I read just exactly enough in my guides to get my bearings- not more- and listened to my RTE recording three times in a row. It's a poetic chapter, so to listen helps you understand it.

As I began reading the guides, I realized that I didn't want to depend on them much, I wanted to keep my head free of people's interpretations. I realized I wanted a slower unfolding, to wade in little by little, level by level, each time I read it. This seems the best method especially if you have full good intentions to read it again.

So there you have it.

I admit at times I did need to use the guidebooks
(funniest tumblr, for lit lovers: lolerature.tumblr)  

11) These are the chapters I used guides for to get my bearings, but not in-depth: Ch. 9. Scylla & Charbydis, for help with Shakespeare; Ch. 10 Wandering Rocks, for a quick touch-base; Ch. 12 Cyclops, for help with the parodies. Ch. 15 Circe, for a general idea of the structure.

12) That one, Circe, I miscalculated. The RTE recording was such an enrichment to the book, that when I saw Circe was done as a play, I figured it would be better as drama, so I didn't read much, I mostly listened. A big mistake. It slips by the ear so easily, you think you understand it. It sounds great, but when you go over the text later, you realize you missed a lot because it's more tricky and deep. I found out the recording is a help but not a substitute.

Wow 12 steps, I made that pretty complicated.

Overall, Ulysses is easier to read than you think! At the basic plot/character level, I mean. The style changes constantly but after awhile you kind of get the hang of things. Stephen Fry called it a great comic novel, a useful way to think of it, but it's ultimately serious, with many tender moments.

...And most of all... Leopold Bloom is so vulnerable, kindly, fallible... and lovable, all that is large and small in us, I get almost emotional sometimes over him, when he bumbles!

Kate Bush waited 20 years for permission
from the Joyce estate...


I can't resist reprinting a couple of my favorite things I already have.
20 years ago, British singer Kate Bush wanted to write a song using as lyrics Molly Bloom's "Yes" soliloquy. Joyce's ornery grandson of the James Joyce foundation refused to release the text, as they refused most such requests.
So Kate, as humbly as she could, wrote her own lyrics in the spirit of Molly, "but obviously I'm not James Joyce." She called it The Sensual World, 1989.

Finally over 20 years later, in 2011 all Joyce copyrights expired and Kate finally had permission. She changed the lyrics back to Molly's words. She renamed it Flower of the Mountain, with the same melody (see Reference 13 for videos). Here's flower of the mountain & Molly clip. 

And, from the work-in-progress comic book  "ulysses-seen" (Reference 12)

Buck Mulligan borrows Stephen's noserag. . .
"The snotgreen sea. . ."
 from scholarly Ulysses comic book  ulysses-seen

Speaking of Madonna and Gaga, I can't resist this little story I already printed in two previous posts- I like this story!

Eve Arnold was famous for earning the trust of even her most
skittish female subjects, thus her photos were remarkably sensitive,
some of the best we have of many female stars, of Marilyn

I think Marilyn Monroe would agree with this "go-as-you-please" method. Here is how she read Ulysses:
From a letter by Eve Arnold, about the day she took the photo:

“We worked on a beach on Long Island…I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up (I was trying to get an idea of how she spent her time). She said she kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time.

"She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it–but she found it hard going. She couldn’t read it consecutively.

"When we stopped at a local playground to photograph she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her.”

It was candid!

Marilyn kept Ulysses in her car
to dip into for ex. while waiting for
Eve Arnold, 
her photographer
Marilyn appears to be dipping into the end of the book, the soliloquy.
They do say Marilyn was actually pretty intelligent, loved reading and writing, and thought about things. Full list of books Marilyn owned: Marilyn's library,

publisher: Abrams Books, Eve Arnold's photos of Marilyn: website link


The Paper Art Shop said...

Lovely post! I am just starting with Ulysses....I was intimitated too for a long time, but now I already survived chapter 3!!!! So I think I can go on....

Eve Scherr said...

Readers, if you want to follow the writer of The Paper Art Shop as she reads Ulysses:

Thanks, I'm so happy that you found my thoughts helpful & not more confusing! Feel free to further comment on this post & my previous Ulysses post as well.