Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cracking Codes & Cracking Jokes: Joyce in the Morning

A few summers ago I tried to tackle James Joyce's Ulysses as a summer reading project. I made a valiant effort and enjoyed the first 100 or pages before I hit a point where I started to lose understanding and with it interest. I know I'm not alone, of the small group of us who had joined a group committed to reading the book over the summer, I think only one of us finished what we'd started.

Ulysses is a book most of us know about but few of us have read. It's been voted the best novel of the 20th century but it's well know for being incredibly difficult to understand. When you think about ways of describing Ulysses, a number of things probably come to mind : it's a classic, definitely, it's a challenge, many would agree. But funny? That's not an adjective that leaps to mind for me.

Not so for W. Terrence Gordon, author of Everyman’s Joyce—he finds lots to laugh at in Ulysses and he wants to help you find it too. He's speaking at the Spring Garden Road Library on June 15th at 7pm for a program called Cracking Codes & Cracking Jokes: Joyce in the morning. As detailed in his program description Gordon "will focus on reading strategies for making Joyce more accessible. Learn how to get all of Joyce, especially the jokes you might have missed. Here is your chance to put the joy back in Joyce on the eve of Bloomsday."

If you're interested in Joyce and Ulysses it's a program you won't want to miss. And in the meantime, here's a few titles you might want to check out:

How To Read Joyce by Derek Attridge

James Joyce by Edna O'Brien (a biography from the Penguin Lives series)

James Joyce : the years of growth, 1882-1915 by Peter Costello

The New Bloomsday Book: a guide through Ulysses by Harry Blamires

Ulysses and Us: the art of everyday life in Joyce's masterpiece by Declan Kiberd

Yes I said yes I will yes: a celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 years of Bloomsday
by Nola Tully (Editor)


  1. I love Ulysses. Once you get the Calypso (4th) chapter/episode it gets a little weird, and then it gets really crazy by Circe (15th).

    But once you are there, it's a really beautiful book about a two men and one woman with changing attitudes, emotions, psychological states (lots of drunkeness) and behaviors. It also goes from intensely realistic to absolutely impossible artificial (not in a magical realist way, but with language - for instance, one chapter is written as if it were a fugue).

  2. Give Finnegans Wake a try, and then go back to Ulysses - it's easy by comparison!