February 2, 1882 – Birthday of James Joyce

James Joyce, the Irish novelist and poet, was born on this day in history, February 2, 1882. Joyce is widely regarded as one of the most important authors of the twentieth century, but many of those who want to sample his books give up early in the process.

Photo of James Joyce in 1934

Photo of James Joyce in 1934

Joyce is best known for his 1922 novel Ulysses, often ranked as one of the greatest books ever written, which describes a single day – June 16, in the life of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly, and Stephen Dedalus, a young would-be-writer — a character based on Joyce himself. (Molly is based on Joyce’s wife Nora Barnacle.) Even now, June 16 is celebrated around the world with “Bloomsday” celebrations, the festivities for which include public readings from the novel, scene reenactments (particularly the famous last chapter consisting of eight long sentences spoken by Molly Bloom), listening to traditional Irish music, and/or visiting Irish pubs.

Bookstore in Dublin, Ireland around the time of Bloomsday

Bookstore in Dublin, Ireland around the time of Bloomsday

Joyce’s genius, encyclopedic knowledge, and inscrutability are legend among his would-be audience. As Joyce declared about his masterpiece Ulysses, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” And indeed, you need an annotated guide even to read the annotated guide to Ulysses….

But Rob Berry, an artist, has created a graphic novel adaptation called Ulysses Seen complete with explanatory annotations in order to foster greater understanding of this masterpiece. As Berry’s website explains:

“. . . ULYSSES [is] accompanied by a page-by-page reader’s guide and dramatis personae. The reader’s guide is enhanced with discussion groups and links to online information sources, photos, videos, and other assorted bric a brac, allowing you to dive as deep as you like into the world of Ulysses. If you’ve always wanted to read ULYSSES, but have been intimidated by its size and density, this is a great way in and is a great new way in its own right to experience literature.”

You can access his work here.

Illustration from the Graphic Novel "Ulysses Seen"

Illustration from the Graphic Novel “Ulysses Seen”

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11 Responses to February 2, 1882 – Birthday of James Joyce

  1. Care says:

    “you need an annotated guide even to read the annotated guide to Ulysses….” YIKES! I have attempted this book but didn’t get very far. Ti of BookChatter.net is hosting a readalong. FYI

  2. Jeanne says:

    The stories in Dubliners are quite accessible; my favorite is Araby.

  3. Michelle says:

    Fun! I am attempting to read this behemoth for Ti’s readalong. I discovered an app that allows you to read only a small section at a time. Ulysses is broken up into 109 sections, so I will be reading it until April…if I last that long. I already have favorited a website that breaks down each scene for me. Stream of consciousness is not my cup of tea. But I want to find out why people call it the best novel ever written.

  4. Ti says:

    We are in day 2 of the Ulysses read along and so this is perfect timing.

  5. Rachel says:

    John Green has talked about how in college he and Ransom Riggs did an independent study that was just Ulyssess for a whole semester!

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