It is about the work Ulysses. Considered by many to be the second most difficult book to read in English (mainly because the most difficult book in English requires a working knowledge of 8 other languages to read), reading Ulysses can be enjoyable and challenging. Despite its reputation, it is not that difficult to read.
Step 1. Understand Ulysses
Before learning how to read Ulysses, you have to know what you will be getting involved in. The Ulysses consists of 18 "episodes". Each episode was serialized separately and each one reads completely different. For example, episode 14 parodies all the great authors of the English language, from Chaucer to Dickens, and episode 18 is a lengthy monologue of almost 10,000 words and covers two huge sentences without punctuation. Each episode reads like a completely different book and in it lies the beauty of Ulysses.
Step 2. Don't use a guide book
If you do a formal, academic study of Ulysses, you must buy a guide book. Those books are about four hundred pages long and they explain Ulysses line by line. That's good as the Ulysses is full of esoteric puns and references and the guide books explain it all. However, switching from one guidebook to another over and over is very annoying. The best way to read Ulysses, if you're trying to read it for fun, is to just dive right in and save all the guide books for some college course.
Step 3. Understand that you can have fun
Seriously, this seven hundred page text is hilarious. The whole point of the novel is that Joyce takes the epic heroes of "The Odyssey" and turns them into pathetic Dubliners. The end of Episode 4 features a ten-page excrement joke written in the same elevated language as "The Odyssey." Understanding that each sentence contains some kind of joke, be it about some esoteric reference to literature or a subtle pun, makes Ulysses a very clever comedy.
Step 4. Accept that you won't understand everything
But mainly because Joyce designed it that way. Part of the joke is that you will not understand everything and there is a certain sense of humor in it. Laugh when you can't understand something, because you've made one of the most brilliant practical jokes in literature.
Step 5. Take your time with each chapter
Since each chapter was written differently, it takes a few pages to adjust to the rhythm of each episode.
Step 6. You must know your episode
Since each episode has a different style, knowing in advance what to appreciate can help. So, here is a list of all the episodes and their comedy marks.
- Episode 1: a normal novel.
- Episode 2: An Informal Catechism.
- Episode 3: an elitist male monologue.
- Episode 4: a mockery of the great heroes of yesteryear.
- Episode 5: the hypnotic nature of religion.
- Episode 6: death.
- Episode 7: a joke of journalism (spelled like the writing of a newspaper, pay attention to the headlines).
- Episode 8: some food puns, everything can eat and everything eats in this chapter.
- Episode 9: a mockery of Hamlet and the elitists who debate obscure pieces of literature (it practically mocks certain scholars who would later analyze Ulysses).
- Episode 10: This chapter has nothing to do with the main characters. Instead, it is presented as a set of short stories about the supporting characters. The humor is in the fact that it is largely absurd and that most of the supporting characters make fun of the main ones.
- Episode 11: everything is a musical pun. A lot of onomatopoeia is used.
- Episode 12: There are two narrators, one is hyper-colloquial to the point of making no sense and the other is hyper-scientific to the point of making no sense. Competition between the narrators creates the comic effect.
- Episode 13: It is narrated by a young girl and everything is a joke about sex.
- Episode 14: An elaborate parody of all the great English authors.
- Episode 15: Written as a hallucinatory play in the red light district.
- Episode 16: This chapter is very ambiguous and the comedy comes from the confusion of characters.
- Episode 17: Written like a catechism, the comedy comes from the hyper-scientific questions and the format of the answers that apply to the mundane.
- Episode 18: Bloom's Wife Stream of Consciousness.
Step 7. Use an outline
Joyce wrote two graphic organizers. They are called schemes. Use them as an introduction to each chapter. You can find them here: https://wikifreaks.a.freewiki.in/index.php/Esquema_Linati and here:
Step 8. Read it out loud
If you read it in English, try to read it with an Irish accent. Many of the puns make more sense when you listen to them.
Step 9. Establish a schedule
Reading this novel is difficult, so you must set a schedule or you will give up.
Step 10. Read other works by James Joyce beforehand
Many passages from Ulysses are made fun of by Dubliners and Portrait of the Adolescent Artist, so reading them beforehand will allow you to practice reading Joyce's style and give you a foreknowledge of some of Joyce's jokes.
Step 11. Write down
When you understand a joke, write it in the margins. It will help you understand other similar jokes.
Step 12. Laugh
This is a work of comic fiction. Laugh audibly. Laugh at everything. It's fun.
- Do not be discouraged! It is not an easy task, but it is doable.
- Get a group of friends to read it with you. Two heads are better than one, especially when it comes to unraveling the complex puns that James Joyce uses.
- There are people who read Ulysses at 16. If a teenager can do it, so can you.