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Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce's Masterpiece
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Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce's Masterpiece

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  144 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Why James Joyce’s great modernist masterpiece is a book that can teach ordinary people to live better lives.

Declan Kiberd, a professor of Anglo-Irish literature at University College Dublin, offers an audacious new take on Joyce’s classic modern novel. Ulysses, he argues, is not an esoteric tome for the scholarly few but rather a work written both about and for the common
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 28th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
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A righthearted but wrongheaded attempt to reboot Ulysses as a fount of the zen wisdom of everyday life and a book every ordinary reader should eagerly glom onto. This is a very stupid idea. God bless Declan Kibert for having such a stupid idea, but God curse all his friends and editors for not strenuously dissuading him from writing this turgid self-defeating attempt to do the impossible.

He’s an academic who rages against the elitism of academia, the abstruseness of the professors, and wants to
MJ Nicholls
Hey, pleb! Ever fancied reading the second hardest masterwork by James Joyce, but felt too damn plebeian to do so? Has it ever occurred to you, as you sit in your disreputable alehouse quaffing toxic hemlocks to escape the hell of your nine-to-five backbreaking manual occupation, that a 933pp novel about a cuddly Jewish-Irishman and his quirks is the solution to the pain of being born poor, dumb and drunk? Maybe you haven’t read a book since school, and even then, you only skim-read the first tw ...more
There seem to be two responses to "Ulysses" these days. The first is to proclaim the work's awesomeness by citing Joyce's exquisite mastery of language and form. The other is to complain about how hard it is to read and to conclude that the man was a pretentious charlatan. You wouldn't know it from reading the reviews for "Ulysses" on this site, but there exists another way of responding to "Ulysses": there are people out there who love "Ulysses" not as a towering colossus of the western canon, ...more
Sep 28, 2010 Jim added it
Fascinating book that takes as its jumping off point that Ulysses has been hijacked by the Joyce industry and has much to offer the lay reader. (Sorry, can't bring myself to write "common man" without fearing I'll come off like Barton Fink.) Kiberd's criticism brings home a number of points I'd never really considered before. Everyone knows why the book was set on June 16, 1904, but Joyce labored on the novel during the Great War and Easter uprising, and so writes with foreknowledge of the world ...more
Jim Hale
The danger of consulting any book about Ulysses is that scholarly analysis is a dreadful thing (Stuart Gilbert's overrated guide being the best example of the worst). I didn't have much hope that this commentary would be any more readable, and certainly didn't expect it to be enjoyable, but a joy it was! Professor Kiberd knows how to communicate to a general audience, rather than trying to impress his literary friends. Throughout this fine book I kept thinking how much fun it would be to sit in ...more
James Murphy
It wasn't simply the cover that grabbed my attention: a photo showing Marilyn Monroe in short shorts and sleeveless top sitting in a park reading Ulysses. You can tell she's reading near the end of the novel, probably the Molly Bloom soliloquy. Of course! But I'm passionate about James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, too. The subtitle can be misleading--The Art of Everyday Living. My first thought was that it's one of those books of popular psychology or light philosophy using literature as a loose ...more
I bought this at the Dublin Writers' Museum, and I started reading it in the home of Leopold Bloom!

But I lost interest in it well before I got to the chapter about Molly. To see my review please visit
Ed Smiley
This book takes head on the assertion that Joyce's work is an incomprehensible amalgam of obscure symbols, or the disorderly assembly of random experience in all its vulgarity. Joyce is a very sophisticated writer, nonetheless, and this books seems to almost try too hard to wrest that there book back from the perfessors. Still it is a worthy goal.

Joyce said of himself that he was a foolish man who wished to write a wise book. His method is to recreate life, not by describing it, but plunging the
I am planning yet another attack on Mount "Ulysses." I have learned from my successing at scaling Proust's Peak that it's pointless for me to undertake a frontal assault. I need to proceed by indirection.
In the case of Proust I learned to cope with the "loneliness of the long distance reader" by ingesting six or seven biographies of Proust and his mother before I picked up "In Search of Lost Time" again. After that bit of guidance and instruction, I read the novel through - all 3300 pages - twi
A much needed addition to the *Ulysses* bookshelf, in that *Ulysses and Us* directly confronts the Joyce industry and attempts to reassert Joyce's populist (for lack of a better term) aspirations for the novel--a work that, truly, has a much wider appeal than academia and the Joyce industry would lead us to believe.

For those well acquainted with *Ulysses,* the first couple of chapters will bring the most insight, as Kiberd grapples with how *Ulysses* failed--in terms of Joyce's hope that, at lea
Josh Brown
One of those "I'm reclaiming x from the intellectuals on behalf of the common reader" sort of books that securely tenured professors seem to delight in writing (of course ignoring the irony of doing so - given they would never have obtained their current job by writing such a book). This was a decent reading of Ulysses, though a bit of a misnomer in that the chapter headings are more concepts to be riffed upon than actually proofs that Joyce celebrates them each as part of the "art of living." T ...more
OK. I admit that I have read Ulysses, but I also admit that there was so much there that I did not understand. This book helped with that problem. While I did not agree with everything that Professor Kiberd stated, I did like the way he organized the book. He broke it down into motifs: waking, learning, thinking, walking, praying, dying, reporting, eating, reading, wandering, singing, drinking, ogling, birthing, dreaming, parenting, teaching ,loving, and then he showed connections with Homer's U ...more
When you thought you had read everything that was to be written about James Joyce along comes another tome written by an academic and you discover there is more to learn about that book of books Ulysses!
This unique addition to the thousands of academic views of the novel except in this case the professor is saying "Don't get hung up by all the academic tripe written about Joyce and his work and just look for yourself in there and realise its very accessible after all...its the academics who have
Good intro to the book -- much better than most, and a good teaching tool: I cannot agree with every one of Kiberd's claims, but his insistence upon the social and political contexts and concerns of Joyce's text are a welcome antidote to the rarified formalit accounts of the past.
A nice analysis of Ulysses as wisdom literature, but stalls rather abruptly near the end as it tries to locate Joyce's novel within the context of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and his other literary models.
As far as Joyce commentary goes, I think this is the most readable I've found. It dives into Ulysses and clarifies some of its less coherent parts, while giving a broad picture of the general plot and important references. Kiberd elaborates on much of the historical context, such as the recurring theme of Irish anti-colonialism in the streets and in the arts (and Joyce's quest for an Irish literature). He does, however, tend to dig a little too deep for my tastes, and I suspect that Joyce would ...more
I read this alongside Ulysses and it was quite a big help in figuring out what the heck was going on in the book. His premise is about bringing back Joyce's connection to the "common man" and everyday life rather than just all the academic theory connected with Ulysses. It's pretty readable as far as literary criticism goes, but that's not to say that I understood all his discussion about Joyce's meaning in his work.
I started this waaaaay back in 2011, if my journal is to be believed. It helps to finish books. when your cats don't lose books down behind the bed.

This is a very readable guide to Joyce's Ulysses (note: I have not actually read Ulysses bc I read too fast and the language goes boink at that point. I read this in the hopes that by understanding some of the themes I can work on the language)
Andrew Kubasek
Good analysis at points. A bit over-thought at points. More of a collection of essays on "Ulysses" than a linear text with a cohesive argument. I don't agree with every point, and I feel like he glossed over a lot (any book on "Ulysses" must) but over all it was a decent read.
I am reading this along with Ulysses, going back and forth. I'd heard a good review of this book and thought maybe I could give Ulysses one more try.

Update: I gave up on Ulysses around page 200. So I am giving up on this book as well.

Vivian Valvano
This book is brilliant. I've never been disappointed with Kiberd's criticism. With this concentrated look at Joyce's novel, he surpasses himself once again. Students should be greatly helped by Kiberd's lucid and perceptive commentary.
A fantastic companion to Ulysses. It gave me greater insight into the chapters as well as into Joyce's life and motivations, and the historical context of the work. And despite all that, it was fun and easy to read.
Some great insights, but also a fairly high proportion of flaky lit-crit. Although the writing is quite accessible, Kiberd's logic can be a bit loose at times. Still, worthwhile to read alongside Ulysses.
Ann Cefola
Explains Joyce's intentions and deliberate use of the Bible, Hamlet, the Odyssey and Dante. Fascinating literary connections, gender reflections and great insight into Irish culture and history.
Kevin Holohan
Indispensable book for anyone who would like help blowing away all the self-indulgent joyless academicism that has accreted onto this book over the decades.
It offered some interesting insights to Ulysses but I still think James Joyce is a hack. As heavy as a Billy shelving unit from Ikea.
James G.
Exquisite literary criticism that works independently as a guidepost to life, as much as to Joyce's Ullyses.
How can I not pick this up....with MM on the cover reading Ulysses!

Good ......insights and tales
Christopher Stevenson
I thought I was going to hate this book, but it was pretty alright.
Feb 07, 2011 Ed is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Just dipping into it. More serious read in due course.
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Declan Kiberd is a professor of Anglo-Irish literature at the University College Dublin and the author of Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation, which won the Irish Times Prize, and of Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce's Masterpiece. He lives in Dublin.
More about Declan Kiberd...
Inventing Ireland Irish Classics The Irish Writer and the World Synge And The Irish Language Men and Feminism in Modern Literature

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“A man [Joyce] whose earliest stories appeared next to the manure prices in the Irish Homestead knew that columns of prose, like columns of shit, could both recultivate the earth.” 2 likes
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