Sisters Book Club December Selection: Ulysses by James Joyce

“So, I’ve been thinking about the December book selection for Sisters Book Club,” I said to my sister on our weekly phone call. I didn’t lead with that. I started with the standard run-down of all of the cute things her niece and nephew did this week, and an hour later, I got to Sisters Book Club.

“Oh, yeah?” she replied.

“Yeah. I’ve done something a little crazy—or maybe a lot crazy—and I’ve already joined two reading challenges for December, one to read St. Augustine’s City of God and the other to read James Joyce’s Ulysses…”

“Uh-huh.”

“…so I’m not sure how much else I can read in December.”

“Ah.”

“I thought about having Sisters Book Club just read one of those books, but I’m not sure if City of God really matches the character of Sisters Book Club.”

“Well, how about the other one?”

Ulysses? Well, I guess we could. It’s kind of a challenging read, though. I’m not sure how popular a choice it would be for Sisters Book Club.”

“What it’s about?”

“It’s a stream-of-consciousness, modernized version of Homer’s Odyssey.”

“Huh.”

“It was also banned from publication in the U.S. for several years because of obscenity charges.”

“Well, I’ve got a pretty light December, so I could probably do it.”

And so that’s how we picked Ulysses for our Sisters Book Club December selection.

The other read-along I’m involved in for this book is at Roof Beam Reader. There is a much more complete description of the book there, as well as some pretty cool resources and pointers in the comments, including a link to a color-coded, annotated, online version of the book. Roof Beam Reader will also be posting updates and thoughts along the way, so if you’re looking for viewpoints and discussion beyond the brains of my sister and me, that’s a great place to visit.

If you’d like to read along with us, you can state your intention in the comments or join our Sisters Book Club Goodreads Group. Or you could bypass us altogether and just join the read-along at Roof Beam Reader, which is totally cool with me.

The dates for Roof Beam Reader’s read-along are December 15 – January 5, and the official dates for Sisters Book Club are December 1 – December 31, but I’m starting as soon as I finish this blog post. Well, as soon as I finish this blog post and the dinner dishes. Which probably means I’ll be starting it tomorrow.

12 comments

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  6. Wilson Varga · November 26, 2013

    Perhaps first time female readers ought to begin reading ULYSSES with those episodes focused on women. The first half of Nausicaa is Gerty MacDowell’s soliloquy, perhaps the easiest reading in the novel (video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMSqjtrFmhs ). Then maybe Calypso to meet Bloom and wife Molly (videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alVFMu0fXYw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrBU3e4FxXE ). Then maybe Penelope for Molly’s soliloquy (videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knqddhUR_SU and from the movie Bloom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNTlDesrY3w ). Molly’s soliloquy is not overly difficult if the reader is prepared with her background story from Raleigh ( http://tinyurl.com/lcbgnnq ) and with what she represents from mythology from Campbell. Then onto Wandering Rocks where the Dedalus sisters, Gerty MacDowell, and all major characters make appearances. Then onto Sirens (video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnFw-haE2n4 ) where the barmaids Lydia and Mina frustrate suitors and are frustrated in turn. By then the first time female reader ought to know who is who and what is what in ULYSSES, so subsequent episodes ought to be somewhat easier. Go back (at that point) and read the second half of Nuasicaa, for example: Bloom’s soliloquy.

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  7. AreYouFinishedYet · November 24, 2013

    You go, girl. I’ve never read Ulysses, but always wanted to. I used to teach the Odyssey when I taught high school, so naturally…

    I make no promises, but I MIGHT try to tackle this. I think the book club would be fun. Don’t think badly of me if I wimp out though 🙂

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    • CJ · November 25, 2013

      No worries about my harsh judgment…I’ll be so busy trying not think badly of myself (for either not finishing or finishing and not understanding any of it), I’ll not have any time for judging anyone else!

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  8. Wilson Varga · November 23, 2013

    I am willing to bet the Roof Beam Reader(s) read in the published order, despite recommendation to do otherwise for one’s first time. Why don’t you gals read in the order of increasing difficulty as follows (earlier sets are easier than later sets):
    { 10: Wandering Rocks, 13: Nausikaa, 2: Nestor, 8: Lestrygonians }
    { 4: Calypso, 5: Lotus-eaters, 6: Hades, 11: Sirens, 16: Eumeus }
    { 1: Telemachus, 7: Eolus, 12: Cyclops, 9: Scylla and Charybdis }
    { 15: Circe, 18: Penelope, 17: Ithaca }
    { 14: Oxen of the Sun, 3: Proteus }
    See who enjoys it more? See who quits sooner?
    Find links to various guides and videos on that Roof Beam Reader blog. Hope this helps.

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  9. Alynia · November 23, 2013

    I have not read Ulysses yet – I did try, but did not make it through yet. I have heard it is a great book though, so I definately want to try it again.

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  10. Jenn · November 23, 2013

    I read Ulysses in graduate school and I had a difficult time understanding it. I’ve often thought of rereading it to see if I could understand it better. Are you a Joyce fan?

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    • CJ · November 23, 2013

      I’ve not read much Joyce, but I’m not a fan of modernist literature in general, except for Kafka and Hemingway. I put Ulysses on my list (along with Fitzgerald and Woolf) to force myself to branch out a bit. We’ll see how that goes.

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