In Ulysses, Joyce employs stream of consciousness, parody, jokes, and virtually every other literary technique to present his characters. The action of the novel, which takes place in a single day, 16 June 1904, sets the characters and incidents of the Odyssey of Homer in modern Dublin and represents Odysseus (Ulysses), Penelope and Telemachus in the characters of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, parodically contrasted with their lofty models. The book explores various areas of Dublin life, dwelling on its squalor and monotony. Nevertheless, the book is also an affectionately detailed study of the city, and Joyce claimed that if Dublin were to be destroyed in some catastrophe it could be rebuilt, brick by brick, using his work as a model. In order to achieve this level of accuracy, Joyce used the 1904 edition of Thom’s Directory – a work that listed the owners and/or tenants of every residential and commercial property in the city. He also bombarded friends still living there with requests for information and clarification.
There’s a copy of Ulysses that’s been sitting on my bookshelf since I moved to San Francisco. I think I was nurturing some kind of hip-intellectual bookgroup fantasy, where I would read and discuss this canonical work in wood paneled rooms that smell like whiskey and pipe smoke. Not-so-surprisingly, that has since failed to come to fruition. Therefore, in the spirit of the occasion, I’ve decided to start reading it today…then hopefully get drunk at some pub readings tonight.