Must Have: “Ulysses” Annotated



Despite what the cold-sweating Vores would have you feel, there is really nothing to fear in reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce famously said about writing Ulysses, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries.”

Suckers that professors are, they completely fell for it. (And the self-conscious, irony-loving suckers that they are, they will often preface their criticism with that same quote…wah-wah.)  Ulysses is perhaps the most written about novel, period. There are literally a ton of resources out there to help. And you could spend a lot of time trying to process the plethora of insights and close readings. I neared insanity when writing my criticism on the book more than a decade ago. I had such heedless balls.

With all this help out there, I want to call your attention to just one very necessary guide: “Ulysses” Annotated: Notes for James Joyce’s “Ulysses” by Don Gifford and Robert Seidman (University of California Press)(and do what you can to buy it from Ben’s bookstore…although they devote an entire section of their website to the upcoming Da Vinci Code sequel (who saw that coming?), it is a fine institution you should support).

Although we will gain a lot of insight from each other as we collectively move through the book, there will be more than a few references we’ll miss. Unless you have immediate recall Robert Greene’s “A Groat’s Worth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance (1592)” or of obsolete Irish idioms such as “tare and ages,” their key significance will float right passed. However, with Gifford and Seidman in our corner, we will know that “a groat was regarded as a trivial sum” and that “tare and ages” was “a mild Irish-English oath from ‘Tare and ouns,’ the tears and wounds of Christ.” See, wasn’t that helpful?

It is a little annoying to read a book of annotations along with the book itself, making subway reading impossible. My apologies. But trust me, it’s worth it. If there was a ever a book to read another book with, it’s Ulysses.

It’s even recommended that you read Ulysses twice: once while going back and forth to the annotations, and then the second time straight through. I did it ten years ago, but I was going nuts, stuck in a snow entombed one-room cabin in the middle of Ohio. 

So in addition to Vintage edition of Ulysses (The Complete and Unabridged Text, as Corrected and Reset in 1961), I also recommend you picking up “Ulysses” Annotated. There is even an essay on Ulysses and its historical context, which is also helpful reading. 

We have 38 days before we begin on June 16th. More than enough time to get ready. As Winston Zedmore joyously declares in Ghostbusters: “We have the toolsWe have the talent.” Nevermind the Vores and their glandular issues. 

ghostbustersWe ain’t afraid of no seminal modernist text!


11 Responses

  1. Thank you, Eric, for pointing Wandering Rocks readers to our Web site to purchase their copies of “Ulysses Annotated.” Regrettably, the high volume of traffic that resulted from this post has crashed our site for the indefinite future. We will alert your readership as soon as it’s back up.

  2. By the way, Dan Brown has a new book!

  3. I know! “The Lost Symbol”! We have to wait until September 15th! 126 days of agitated anticipation! What sacred institution will Dan pornogrify next!

  4. Alright….I’m in. Annotated & Vintage edition on order, regrettably not from aforementioned bookseller & former employer. Gotta brush up on my Homer as well.

    Also, word on the street is that Joyce actually got most of his inspiration for Ulysses not from The Odyssey, but actually “Digital Fortress.”

  5. Excellent to have you aboard. You’ll find from the annotations that Joyce drew richly from a deep well. Dan Brown may not be in that well, in even a Jungian universal unconscious kind of way. But we’ll save that discussion for our collective reading of “The Lost Symbol,” hitting bookstores Sept. 15th!

  6. Even if we do not include any Dan Brown in our reading list, I feel like we should have a professor of ‘Symbology’ in this forum.
    Joyce was heavy on the symbols from what I understand.

  7. Rambling voice mails left on Vores phone notwithstanding this is the most I could remember: Witty smart persons communal flagellation of members precedes/presupposes orgasmic release on us all. And yes to my yes of anomic knows (no?). Read something else. Listen mine bantams! Wasting time of testudines in deep wells placated by their magnificence. In baskets they’re placed. Pull! Hoisted by remembrances of asparagus induced olfactory sensations on the morning hence. Stampeded by collusion of bush league based postmodern bush leagues. Arthritic loin thrusts. Cessation with tears. Suzanne approves!

  8. Mark Hoobler, I nominate you to be the Wandering Rocks honorary symbologist.

    Internet Tough Guy, I nominate you to be a douche.

  9. I’d prefer a circle douche.

  10. […] addition to the book of annotations I mentioned when we started this thing, I’ve come across a few other tools. I’ve posted […]

  11. […] read next page. Before I do, checking Don Gifford. S stands for Stephen, Subject (1st part of syllogism, there is a logical structure). [12:41 […]

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