James Joyce's masterpiece, published in 1922. Chosen by a bunch of literary types in 1998 as the best book of the twentieth century. Set in Dublin during the course of one day, 16th June 1904.

The 16th June is celebrated in Dublin and elsewhere as Bloomsday, after Leopold Bloom, the book's central character, rather than after Harold Bloom, an elitist literary critic who likes Joyce very much, and said so in his appalling book, The Western Canon


Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known---cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all---
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, my own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle---
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me---
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tennyson's well known short work is based upon the Inferno by Dante. It was very remarkable to hear it read out loud in part by Bruce Boxleitner in the Babylon 5 episode The Long Night. Upon his return home from the Trojan War Ulysses became restless and set about on new voyages. Tennyson's friend Arthur Hallam had just passed away when he wrote this poem and he was looking for some kind of closure, a way to move forward in his own life and to come to an understanding about his own mortality.

The line where Ulysses explains that his son, Telemachus, will "pay meet adoration to my household gods" when Ulysses departs seemed like an admonishment to me. I thought the teacher was up to some kind of trick when she assigned us to study this poem in English class and I moved away before I could really get a handle on it so it was a mystery to me. Years later now as a parent whose job is dissipating as my sons become more and more responsible, the meaning is as straightforward as it appears and really a coming of age tale. One of saying goodbye to times and friends who have passed on, finding his place in the world, and Ulysses encourages (rather than what I thought was an admonishment as a teen) as a parent, for his child to carry on and do a good job.

I have since discovered that the old Romans celebrated the Feast of Mars on March 6th honoring the household gods, Penates and Lares, who were figures of importance in the Roman ways of their religious life. Since every householder was a priest this is simply what Ulysses is telling his son that he will take over as head of the household and oversee his duties while he travels onward. Hallam is Ulysses gone off to face unknown and new horizons leaving his legacy behind for Tennyson where He works his work, I mine.

Basically James Joyce's book follows Homer's (Homerus) famous poem/book, except for several parts. For example, the Wandering Rocks is added by Joyce itself, and basically gives a birdsview/summary of the book. As you may recall, in the real Homer, Ulysses was given two choices by Circe to route: Scylla and Charibdis or the Wandering Rocks.
Every chapter also symbolizes an organ in the human body or a symbol(or more, Irish/Greek/Jewish related).
For example, the Aolus chapter (who was the god of Winds in Greek mythology) is symbolized with the Lungs.
That's not all: Every chapter is symbolized with its own colours, every chapter symbolizes the growth of 'language' (with the climax in Oxen of the Sun.
Note that the '3 books' also mark 'the Holy trinity':
Stephen (son), Bloom (father) and Molly(the 'glue'/holy spirit).

Joyce's Ulysses can be organized in the following 'books' and chapters:

Telemachiad ('the search')


The Odyssey

The Lotus eaters
The Lestrygonians
Scylla and Charybdis
The Wandering Rocks
Oxen of the Sun



/msg me for any questions or remarks
Freewheeling 1967 film of the unfilmable book.

Shot on location in Dublin by American director Joseph Strick, budget constraints meant that he could not remain true to the period in which Joyce set his novel. Therefore motorcars, buildings and garb the like of which Leopold never saw on June 16, 1904 are all frankly displayed. Even now as I write, in these heady times of strong economic development, Dublin is a relatively slow changing city, and much fun can be had by those familiar with the city observing differences and similarities between then and now. Indeed, there is something both amusing and refreshing about the complete disregard for period, dealing as we are with such a revered tome.

This, then, paradoxically becomes one of the film's successes: a feeling for this small city, its life and its atmosphere, of which the characters' chance intersections and near misses are an inevitable consequence. A great help in this is the cinematography. It has the gorgeous clarity and richness of a certain mid-sixties b/w film stock; that high-contrast black-and-white reminiscent for me of films as diverse as Before The Revolution, The Servant and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. (This whole point seems to me a litmus test for fans of the book seeking to enjoy this attempt to film it: inevitably, liberties are often taken with the source material, and so some sensibilities could regard with contempt.)

Another success is Milo O'Shea as Leopold Bloom, who skillfully reveals the unassuming cuckold's great compassion and, ultimately, his unconscious heroism. I think it is this one actor who does most to help the film adequately impart the book's great message, that eloquent plea for a pluralist, tolerant and multivocal Dublin(Ireland/Europe/world) summed up by Molly's final orgasmic affirmation.

It is just as well for Mr. Strick that there are these limited successes. There are other flaws less serendipitous than the blasé modernity. The cost of the film's brisk pace is the omission of some chapters, while others are over "faster than you can say 'Gerty MacDowell"'. There is of course a heavy reliance on voice-over that can do no more than hint at complexities in the text. Despite the attempt to wrap the tome up in 132 minutes, the pace sags at times, and certain sections of the book which would seem to lend themselves to cinematic interpretation (such as Nighttown or Bloom's taking leave of The Citizen) are, I feel, missed opportunities.

Ulysses The Film remains a useful bluffer's guide to Ulysses The Novel, but the quandary here is that to enjoy the film (which I did), a knowledge of the book seems necessary. One recalls the richness of the text as one watches. But for many people who admire the book, the film must seem, as Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary of Joyce's masterpiece, "a damp squib...a misfire."

I believe that this has the (surprisingly late) first instance of the use of the word "fuck" in a feature film, though the IMDb gives the same year's I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name as the other possible contender. Although, contrary to popular belief, the book was never officially banned in Ireland, the film certainly was - a shameful state of affairs that was not put to rights until the Irish censor passed it last September!

No attempt has been made to film Ulysses since 1967, though a new effort is in production. An interesting parlour game for those interested in both Joyce and film is to speculate as to who among the current crop could best direct such a venture. Needless to say, many think it an abominable idea in the first place. However, the Quail at The Brazen Head has the intriguing idea of filming an episode at a time! To wit: ‘"Proteus" -- Wim Wenders. I think his best work has a quiet, soul-searching aspect that is well suited for Stephen's philosophical musings. "Cyclops" -- Oliver Stone. Just wait, before you raise a cry of indignation, think about it a second. Who can better merge together a jillion different styles and perspectives, from a fierce polemic to a farcical epic? And hey -- who better to capture the Citizen's raving paranoia? Come on, you know I'm right. . . . "Oxen of the Sun" -- Peter Greenaway. I can't think of anyone even close. Greenaway 's fascination with the relationships between sex, food, and language make him the only director who can meet the challenge of this episode: as Mina Purefoy gives birth, a drunken party rages on as the narrative evolves through the history of the English language! Hell, I'm surprised he hasn't done it already! "Circe" -- Ken Russell. A master at filming surreal experiences and making the viewer feel like they are hallucinating themselves. His skillful use of music will also come in handy!’

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