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James Joyce's Ulysses

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  2,091 ratings  ·  97 reviews
With the passing of each year, Ulysses receives wider recognition and greater acclaim as a modern literary classic. To comprehend Joyce's masterpiece fully, to gain insight into its significance and structure, the serious reader will find this analytical and systematic guide invaluable. In this exegesis, written under Joyce's supervision, Stuart Gilbert presents a work tha ...more
Paperback, 405 pages
Published January 12th 1955 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1932)
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Sarah (Presto agitato)
It’s hard to resist the idea of a guide to Ulysses endorsed by Joyce himself, but at times I wondered if Joyce’s approval of this book may have been a joke in itself. I’m almost certain that he parodied Gilbert’s pedantic and tiresome style somewhere in Ulysses. This book seems to be mostly a series of long quotations from the novel, which I’m sure were worth including initially since this book was published before Ulysses was available to most readers due to censorship, but it’s repetitive, and ...more
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers of Ulysses
Written in collaboration with James Joyce, this book is an excellent guide to Ulysses. Gilbert was intimately familiar with the text and his direct access to Joyce make this a unique contribution to Ulysses-related works.

Highly recommended!
Mar 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: tutsi-fruitsi
Gilbert got his tips straight from the Joyce's mouth while contributing to a French translation of Ulysses, so it’s really fun to speculate about how long the world would have had to wait for that extremely enlightening Odyssey-episode title/Organ/Art/Symbol/Technic schema if Joyce hadn’t just told him. Some of the opening essays are similarly useful (like "Met-him-pike-hoses." Read it!), and during Gilbert’s analysis of the episodes, he would periodically fling out a nugget of interpretation th ...more
Ulysses is one of those few iconic books that is discussed far more than read [see Tristram Shandy, Fairie Queene, Finnegans Wake, In Search of Time Lost, and a few others]. This is the tragedy of James Joyce's classic work, Finnegans Wake is in a class all its own, of experimental/analytical literary fiction.

Nothing new may be said of this book here, this anti-novel. What may be said is that it is NOT impenetrable; the book is not beyond the average reader; the book IS enjoyable, and Ulysses i
Paul Bryant
Oct 31, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: joyce, litcrit
Joyce was so cheeky - first he writes a difficult novel, then he gets his mate Gilbert to write an explanation of it and gives him so much information he may as well have written it himself. So this is kind of the official interpretation. Which hasn't stopped the serried ranks of Joyce scholars coming up with different theories. After all, what does the artist know about his own stuff? Nothing!
Michael Finocchiaro
Stuart Gilbert made the first official translation of Ulysses into French for James Joyce (which Joyce personally edited and is still the version published by Folio here in France) and was a close collaborator and friend to Joyce. I found this book full of insights into what Joyce's intentions and inspirations were. Ulysses is quite a beast to conquer for the first time (I have read it 4 or 5 times), and this book as well as a few others is a great companion. I am not one for play-by-play Cliff ...more
Nathan Jerpe
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1930s, 1940s, criticism
Worth it for the discussion of The Saponiad: an account of the deeds and misadventures of the bar of soap that Bloom carries around in his pocket.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I can't help but put up a review of this guide. This book has its helpful moments, but you have to wade through Stuart Gilbert's chauvinistic, priggish snobbery to get to it. The book, from 1930, is incredibly dated in its cultural outlook and in terms of literary analysis and criticism. Full of bizarre asides (directed mostly at women and leftists) it ultimately reads like something Joyce himself would've lampooned: turgid, filled with untranslated references in Greek, Latin, and French. One is ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Ed
Shelves: read2011
A great help when reading Ulysses. In the first half of the book, Gilbert has several essays about the themes and style in Ulysses. In the second half, there is a chapter devoted to each section of the novel. Gilbert does the best job at making the connections to The Odyssey, explaining what parts of the chapter harken back to the original epic poem.

I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 because sometimes the formatting and length of quotations makes it harder to read. Especially when I have just rea
Allison Zink-McCormack
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modernist-works
An insightful (and at times, much needed!) companion to Ulysses. Gilbert gives a thorough and articulate overview of the meandering plot and alluding references throughout the novel, pointing out parallels, symbols, and allegories that inspire contemplation.
Bryan "They call me the Doge"
Read this concurrently with my first reading of Ulysses. Gilbert published this when the actual text he was commenting on was not widely available, and so half or better of this book is excerpts from Ulysses. While there were some points to his commentary that I felt were helpful to me, overall I didn't think it provided the depth I needed for this first reading. I'm sure there are better, more up-to-date guides, and if I ever pick up Ulysses again, there's a good chance I'll seek them out.
Barnaby Thieme
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
It's difficult to assess Giblert's classic study of James Joyce's novel. On the one hand, one can't help but value its key role in the history of Joyce scholarship. For decades, this was universally praised as the best-available work on Joyce's enigmatic masterpiece. It allowed two generations of readers to get enough of a foothold into its structure and method that they could derive pleasure from this mighty work. And some of its less-fortunate tendencies, such as Gilbert's proclivity for strin ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
I think there are better and more contemporary companion books to Ulysses than Gilbert's treatment, which I found somewhat helpful but also somewhat "too much" across the board. The scholarly tone tends to take much of the fun out of Joyce's work, and some of the more recent companion books openly acknowledge the great humor in Ulysses, where Gilbert is looking for the academic gem. Still, I would not have understood certain Irish historical references or Catholic jargon without his help, and fo ...more
Bob R Bogle
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: all-things-joyce
Obviously essential for every Joycean. Has its share of gems. Of course it's troubling when a writer tells you what his book means, or in this instance assists another writer in telling you what his book means, episode by episode, page by page, symbol by symbol, incident by incident. Certainly emphasizes the depth of the Homeric references, which I now appreciate more than I did before. Easily readable (except when it sometimes slips into Greek, Latin, French, Italian, or German) and no doubt of ...more
Mar 20, 2014 rated it liked it
At times overblown and fusty, and prone to flights of fancy that come out of nowhere, piles metaphor on top of metaphor, while sticking quite close to a literalist mapping of every single parallel between Ulysses and the Odyssey. Still, I thought this was quite a nice thing to read alongside Ulysses and it saved me the trouble of feeling like I constantly had to Google references. GIlbert's use of French, Latin, and German with the expectation that readers would not need it to be translated into ...more
Nov 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
This may have been a literary classic, but when the story is so difficult to comprehend even in consideration of the supporting analytical commentary, it is an indication that the book has past its time. Having read this book, I now have a good insight into what my novel would subsist of, should I write it entirely under the influence of a heavy narcotic. A day's account of two people could not have been told more cryptically, for this alone, it could not be a classic in my eyes.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Word was that Joyce spoon fed this stuff to Gilbert, but what the heck. How else can you figure out who Bella Cohen is supposed to be in the Odyssey? And if Joyce was merely pulling our legs, it's all good craic.
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2001
One of the three valued books I had with me to decipher Joyce's puzzle.
James C
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Joyce was 40 yrs old when Ulysses was published, it is a day in the life of a husband and father of Joyce's age (at publication). Joyce loved Dublin and Ireland and though the book was written on the European continent - he wanted to memorialize his birth home (Ireland). The framework of Ulysses is Homer's Odyssey - The Roman Ulysses: 1 Telemachus, 2 Nestor, 3 Proteus, 4 Calypso, 5 Lotus Eaters, 6 Hades, 7 Aeolus, 8 Lestrygonians, 9 Scylla And Charybdis, 10 Wandering Rocks, 11 Sirens, 12 Cyclops ...more
James Schlichter
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Gilbert was a friend of Joyce's, and so was able to sit down with him and get a first hand account of Ulysses. That in itself gives this book a weight other writers may not carry. That said, I found much of Gilbert's text almost as difficult to follow as Ulysses itself! Gilbert's book was one of 4 sources I used while reading Ulysses. I only turned to the others when I really couldn't comprehend Gilbert himself. It almost seemed as though he sometimes took on the persona of the Ulysses chapter h ...more
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Finally finished this study of Ulysses. Took awhile because the print was so small that it was best read outside in shaded daylight... but it has been over 100°F all week, thus uncomfortable to read outside for very long.
Anyway, I enjoyed this detailed analysis and explication of the book, which was made even better in that it had been prepared with the full cooperation and input of Joyce, himself. I was also glad that I had recently read Portrait of a Young Artist and Dubliners, as Gilbert freq
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The oldest of the commentarys on Ulysses, written with the support of Joyce himself. I am sure there are now 'better' books available, which give a fuller overview of Joyce's work and its impact, but this was the one I picked up second hand.
I couldn't have got through Ulysses without it. Yes, there are too many long quotes, but it was written whenUlysses was still banned, so it allowed people to get a taste of what they were missing. However, it did explain a lot that I missed or simply couldn'
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, biography
It must be something, to be a writer who writes books so deviously clever and obscure that they take another academic (writer) to explain them in simple terms to those "not in on the joke." As a prankster, Joyce seems to have been rather inimitable, and Irish patriot run riot though the English dictionary with allusion, metaphor, dual meaning, pun, and again, cleverly diabolical turns of phrase and reference.
One begins to wish Joyce had bothered with not one but TWO books of great length both i
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well-written helpful adjunct/explication of Ulysses. Correlations with Homer's odyssey were helpful; at some points, Gilbert may have gone too far afield into other myths. As the first edition of this book was published in the 1930's, one can understand Mr. Gilbert being circumspect about some of the bawdier scenes. My big beef with this book is the lack of translation of all of the many quotes in other languages: Latin, German, French, Italian. A critical essay written in French may take up alm ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Stuart Gilbert is, without a doubt, a huge Joyceophile. A number of times in the introduction, he likens Joyce to God and Ulysses to a gift from God. This colors the rest of the study as it seems rather a defense of Joyce and Ulysses than an actual study. Nevertheless, it does shed some light into one possible way to interpret the inaccessible labyrinth that is Ulysses.
Cynthia  Glissadevil
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.8 stars!
Sparknotes on steroids. Gilbert actually talked to James Joyce. Thanks to this guide book, I was able to finish Ulysses three times. I learned so much.

Highly recommended, if you decide to read Ulysses.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an invaluable companion to Joyce's opus. I read this on the heels of my first reading of Ulysses, but, rather unfortunately, have not read it since. Stuart Gilbert is an enthusiastic disciple of Joyce's work and it makes for as exciting a reading as the primary text itself.
Scott Marciszewski
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, extraordinary, phenomal - the only way to describe the number one book of all time.
A limited perspective, kind of a bore, though the schema is obviously pretty nifty. The Joyce Project was far more useful to me.
Priti Sonar
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just love this book .
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