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Ulysses

Written by: James Joyce
Narrated by: John Lee
Length: 29 hrs and 57 mins

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Publisher's Summary

Joyce’s experimental masterpiece set a new standard for modernist fiction, pushing the English language past all previous thresholds in its quest to capture a day in the life of an Everyman in turn-of-the-century Dublin. Obliquely borrowing characters and situations from Homer’s Odyssey, Joyce takes us on an internal odyssey along the current of thoughts, impressions, and experiences that make up the adventure of living an average day.

As his characters stroll, eat, ruminate, and argue through the streets of Dublin, Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness narrative artfully weaves events, emotions, and memories in a free flow of imagery and associations.

Full of literary references, parody, and uncensored vulgarity, Ulysses has been considered controversial and challenging, but always brilliant and rewarding.

Public Domain (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the critics say

“Comes nearer to being the perfect revelation of a personality than any book in existence." ( New York Times)
"To my mind one of the most significant and beautiful books of our time." (Gilbert Seldes, The Nation)
“Joyce soars to such rhapsodies of beauty as have probably never been equaled in English prose fiction." (Edmund Wilson, The New Republic)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • sleiii
  • 2011-05-27

Pure Joyce

The reading is magnificent. Through the crowded pages and episodes of literally hundreds of characters, the narrator, John Lee, manages to catch in all their tones, quirks, and color the distinct voices of each. His inflection, pitch, and cadence is clear and deadly accurate. Not only are the rolling rhythms of Joyce's prose maintained with uncanny naturalness--thoughts are recognizable as such (not merely rendered as captioned overlays) and the tones, timbres, moods, and motives of the enormous flood of speech are rendered in as richly and varied accents as they would if one were walking the streets of Dublin.

From heavy Latinate meditations to the onomatopoeic replication of linotype machines in the newspaper office and the raucous imitation of a gramophone recording of a deceased grandfather, Lee's renderings are palpably believable as both the realities they represent and, more importantly, as empathetic interpretations of the individual hearts and minds they issue from.

I was first a bit wary of the lower cost and ratings of this version compared with the nearly tripled price of the most reviewed recording (who knows what they were thinking), but after listening to the provided sample of its long stretches of rushed and flattened monotone and hokey interpolated music recordings, I moved on to find this gem. It does what Joyce's greatest gift does--bring the full panorama of humanity to life purely through language.

28 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • R. Kravitz
  • 2014-03-03

Marathon Man

Would you listen to Ulysses again? Why?

This is a once in a lifetime experience -- I would never be able to sit down and read the book, but hearing the voices, those Irish voices, internal and external, as the history of the world filters through the events and consciousness of a single day in Dublin, expands the sense of what is possible in language. Younger and older language artists, Daedalus and Bloom, survive debauchery and humiliation, contemplating, absorbing, reacting to the death of a mother, the infidelity of a wife, the centrifugal and centripetal forces from home. Obscurity and arcaneness to a modern reader melt away in the wash and ocean of mesmerizing sound and language.

What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I heard John Lee read Orhan Pahmuk's Snow and couldn't place his exotic sounding accent which seemed perfect for that book. But to hear him read Ulysses is to know that this is what he was born to do, that Irish voice, that Irish soul.

Any additional comments?

This is a mammoth undertaking.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Josh
  • 2011-05-03

A forceful narration but a long haul

This is James Joyce fired out of a cannon. An impressive demonstration of narrative athleticism by the talented John Lee does not compensate for a lengthy difficult listen and lack of nuance. It may possibly have been compressed in post production on the other hand to squeeze it into a certain time frame in which case they should de-compress it and re-publish. The nuance might bloom once it has air. 60% speed should do it. Then you might have a great audio.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sally
  • 2012-11-04

Not for Everyone

Would you try another book from James Joyce and/or John Lee?

James Joyce is an acquired taste as far as I can figure. It would depend on the person whether I would recommend it. John Lee would be perfectly fine on something that wasn't so *completely* taxing and mind-numbingly difficult.

What did you like best about this story?

I rather did like that there was stream-of-consciousness and alliterative prose, but not to the extent it happened in this book. I know that Joseph Campbell read this book 56 times, bless him, but I can't see getting through it once. (I got two thirds through)

Would you listen to another book narrated by John Lee?

Oh yes.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Maybe.

Any additional comments?

Having it audio did help me a bit getting through the stream-of-consciousness way that it is written. Hearing expressed in a voice is quite a bit easier than trying to interpret it as text, as happened in the last Joyce book I tried to read. So if a person was keen to read a Joyce book having an audio book is helpful if it is hard for them. The whispersync might even be better, but I can't say for sure.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tom O'hayon
  • 2017-03-17

Perfect

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

If one only gives up on understanding every little thing about this book (an impossible, tedious and no doubt boring task), one would enjoy a funny, intelligent and inspiring masterpiece.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jesse
  • 2012-05-17

Narration could have used better direction

Any additional comments?

A fantastic novel and at times the narration is perfect. The last two chapters especially are great. Unfortunately the lack of indication when a chapter starts is a serious drawback. Lee does a great job bringing out the accents and Dubliness of this book though.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tad Davis
  • 2010-07-09

Brisk

John Lee gives a brisk and engaging reading of this difficult book.

In an earlier release of this audiobook, the narration ran all the episodes together without a break. Since each episode has a distinctive style, this quickly became confusing. Fortunately the publisher has fixed this: the episodes are now clearly separated by a pause of several seconds. It's a small change (maybe not small from a technical standpoint, but to the listener), but it makes a world of difference.

I don't recommend trying to listen to this without some written aid in hand - either the text of the novel itself, or a summary and analysis like the book "Bloomsday" - or even Spark Notes. The first couple of episodes are pretty straightforward, but after that it will be rough going without a crib of some kind. That's true for any audio version of the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Kenneth
  • 2011-09-09

Incomprehensible

I give Joyce credit for trying something new and perhaps in written form this book might be interesting but as an audio book, I found it to be completely incomprehensible. I had absolutely no idea what was going on even after I went to Wikipedia to read their summary as I was going along. For the first time ever, I have given up on a book. I got about 10 hours into it but it became drudgery to try to keep up with what was going on. I found myself zoning out and rewinding all the time. I wish I could say I loved this book as the other reviewers have but it was way too far out for me.

Perhaps most disappointing was that I love John Lee so much but even his performance was mediocre and could not save this book. He does an admirable job with his Irish accent but it was so thick I couldn't understand much of it.

I cannot recommend this book unless you already know the story, are from Ireland and are on some kind of hallucinogenic. Otherwise, it was all gobbledygook to me.

13 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • 2019-01-28

It is meant for college, not just to read.

This is often listed as one of the greatest books of all time, but only if you have extensive previous background. You need to know the Homer, but the later modified version. You need to understand the history of Ireland in the early part of the previous century. It is for college classroom. If you buy this expecting to read a great book, you will be disappointed. Read Proust or Don Quixote or Anna Karenia. And any audio version is ultimately over acted, as this version is.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Charles D. Hensley III
  • 2018-04-13

light over dark

I really hope that they do not take this portion away from the movie. I have truly enjoyed this book for many years and am glad to see that it has made a comeback.