Ulysses – Book Review

Originally wrote this as a Sample for a freelance book review website that turned out to be a scam. Normally I do not write reviews in formula nor so briefly, and did so only because of the requirements of that application. But regardless; a sample.

My first Facebook photo; but it does apply

Upon completing James Joyce’s Ulysses I am as compelled to write a memoir of the experience as I am a review. The difficulty of this book cannot be understated, and the labyrinth of its ceaselessly obscure and specific content is like buckshot blasted over an open field, trailing you to the most forgotten of philosophies at one point, well out-of-print fictions at others, and a whole lot more other strange academic nooks besides, often all within the same sentence. Pair this with a purposefully alternating, radically original writing style which routinely yanks the rug from out under your feet the moment you feel you’re getting a grasp, and Ulysses is undoubtedly the most devilish, confounding, and unfriendly novel you will ever come across.

Struggle as it is though, Ulysses is perhaps the greatest book ever written, and while this book will require more than a dictionary at the ready to successfully complete, the extra effort required in no way diminishes the impact of this, however challenging, pristine story of communion.


Ulysses tells the story of one day in Ireland as seen by its two main characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Stephen Dedalus is a young-adult intellectual who has recently returned to his home country after failing at his literary dreams abroad, whereas Leopold Bloom is an older, eccentric Dublin native of Jewish ethnicity with marital problems. Both characters are facing alone the greatest burdens of their lives, and it is on this day that both men reach the breaking point of how much fear, frustration, and solitude that they can endure. While almost entirely isolated throughout the novel, it is through their lonely aggravation, and their desperate actions to model sense of their lives on their own, that eventually culminates in a complex, warm understanding of the true significance of human trust and sharing.


There is a power in Ulysses, a human heart, that cannot be found elsewhere. The complexity of its structure, the great distance which initially separates its two main characters and how only at the greatest depth of their abysses is there found the necessary connection, spirals into an immaculate, solidified representation of sincerest humanity. The chaos of the text, which is reinforced by the particular writing style employed for each increasingly anarchic event, forces a proximity to frailty and angst, and the impressive understanding of these sorrows cultivates only a greater sensation of intellect, peace and satisfaction once the ill in their roots are inevitably addressed.

Although not a short book by any means, there is still something remarkable in how much Ulysses addresses within its text. This is a novel which carefully arcs through a summation of the error and antagonism all human beings will face in their lives, both internal and external, and while these stresses are showcased through the individual sensitivities of the two main characters there is not one conflict within the novel that does not hold some universal quality. Whether meaningless cruelty, religious prejudice, or selfish regret, the collection of struggle in Ulysses is impressive less for the amount, but rather the studied, patient sympathy each receives.


Ulysses is a very specifically constructed novel that, while resoundingly successful with its intention, does so at the expense of inviting readers to approach. The robust vocabulary, multiple languages, abundance of arcane references, and challenging writing style are going to cause every reader abundant bouts of confusion, if not vexation. That said, while these attributes would be enough to shrug off almost any other novel, Ulysses is truly the exception. This is a special book; it would not be this immaculate proof of literature if the reader had been considered for even a moment in its development, and while impossible to imagine any reader not throwing this book aside multiple times during the course of its reading, it is likewise impossible to perceive a reader not feeling obliged to the text for having caused so upon completion.


James Joyce’s Ulysses is a book you ought to read. This is a novel which vigorously unearths the core sensations of existence, and the raw display of these feelings inspires endlessly. There is not a sentence in the novel lacking in engagement, and the force of its narrative is likewise riveting. And although this text may be upheld as something exclusive, the reality is that all persons, whether the most practiced literary savant or casual bedtime reader, are going to find themselves equally challenged by this text. Have heart, as while everyone is contested by this novel all who finish it are appreciative for having matched it, and you will be too.

5/5 Parnells

5 parnells


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