Quick Ulysses

What’s James Joyce’s Ulysses about? BBC News posts a handy plot summary in honor of Bloomsday, June 16. Thanks to Cris Simpson for the link.


Stephen and Bloom meet at last in a maternity hospital in a chapter whose structure is meant to represent both the nine months of pregnancy and the birth of the English language. And they say this book is hard.


(horrorstruck) Blimey, this looks like heavy going.

No kidding! There’s over 100 pages of this stuff, all written in the style of a play script. But all you need to know is that Bloom follows Stephen to a brothel where they have lots of freaky hallucinations.

The comments are good too:

It took me two years to read this book, I had visited Dublin so I read it while following the Dublin Street map, which made it even more time consuming. “I am exhausted, abandoned, no more young. I stand, so to speak, with an unposted letter bearing the extra regulation fee before the too late box of the general post office of human life” Bloom page 642 – blew my mind, made the difficult reading all worthwhile to have found this gem! Thanks for this opportunity.
Veronica Maher, Huddersfield

Author wakes up one morning and decides just how far he can push his luck…..quite far by the sounds of it.
S Gardner, Portsmouth

For a Joyce class in college, I wrote a long paper on Ulysses using a bunch of the styles used or parodied in the book. It was lots of fun. I got an A too.

Here’s Sheila O’Malley’s plot summary with references to Homer’s Ulysses.

About Joanne


  1. Sheila has a much better summary (enough to convince me to read Ulysses for the first time since high school), though her permalinks don’t appear to work. Scroll down a ways:


  2. Mark Odell says:

    “And the head coach wants no sissies,
    So he reads to us from something called ‘Ulysses’.” — Allan Sherman

  3. Mark Odell says:

    Did I neglect to mention ….?

  4. Richard Brandshaft says:

    I had the same lowbrow reaction is I do to Shakespeare snobs, only more so.

    I can see why Shakespeare is important, even though it isn’t my thing. Making one particular convoluted, hard to read book worth the effort of untangling seems to be an arbitrary decision by literary critics. Tom Clancy made complex plots as EASY to understand as possible. That seems to me like a more worthwhile accomplishment.

  5. It bothers me when people who might enjoy complex things are referred to as “snobs”.

    Or that books that are not immediately comprehensible get the label “pretentious”.

    I would never say that James Joyce is “more worthwhile” than Tom Clancy. I would just say that we have different tastes in what we like to read.

  6. Richard Brandshaft says:


    “I would never say that James Joyce is ‘more worthwhile’ than Tom Clancy. I would just say that we have different tastes in what we like to read.”

    That’s what I was trying to say, but you said it a lot more clearly and in fewer words. Looking back at my own post, I can see I phrased it poorly and your reply was justified.

  7. Thanks for that, Richard.

    To each his own, right? At least that was what my mom always told us. πŸ™‚

  8. Me being typically pedantic: that should be Homer’s Odyssey.


  1. Well, well, well

    Thank you thank you, Dave J. Now I owe you yet aNOTHer drink! And welcome, everyone coming to me from Joanne Jacobs….