James Joyce: Ulysses
It’s the greatest novel of the twentieth century and that’s pretty much all I have to say about it. Though the ardent Communist Karl Radek described yas a heap of dung, crawling with worms, photographed by a cinema apparatus through a microscope. You probably know the plot and, if you do not, read the book or check one of the links below. As to what it means, what it is about, how Joyce came to write it, thousands of Ph.D. students and academics have written thousand of papers and articles and books on the subject and none of them agrees. You might want to read some of them (Stuart Gilbert’s book is an excellent introduction). What Joyce has done, very simply, is, by using a massive variety of styles, linguistic games, literary innovations and an assortment of characters, transposed the journey of the Odyssey to Dublin of 1904 – 16 June 1904 to be precise for the whole action takes place within one day. In doing so he has created a portrait of (a) man from birth to death, from beginning to end, from one side of the world to the other, all the time leaving him in a relatively provincial city. If Leopold Bloom is partially the hero, so is the city of Dublin.
You should know that there is much controversy over what is the correct text. This site explains some of this controversy. As an average reader, do you care? No, you probably do not. Minor errors or variations of dates or street names will not detract from your enjoyment (or make you enjoy the book if you do not) but it is as well to know a little about what is going on.
First published 1922 by Shakespeare and Co