by James Joyce (read by Jim Norton, Marcella Riordan)
Naxos Audiobooks (audiobook)
Apologies: this review arrives one day late for Bloomsday, the date (June 16) on which James Joyce's Ulysses took place in 1904. As Stephen Dedalus, Leopold and Molly Bloom know only too well, a day is a long time in literature (and literary Dublin). A confession: despite many attempts, I have never finished Joyce's novel to end all novels (I usually trip up during the 'Oxen of the Sun' episode). This year I decided to get some help and listen as well as read. Having dipped into the excellent but edited 'dramatisation' by Stephen Rea and Sinead Cusack I went for this unabridged, 27-hour reading by Irish actor Jim Norton. The effect is not unlike seeing Shakespeare on stage. Some sections pass you by entirely: I found Dedalus' famous entrance ('Ineluctable modality of the visible...') utterly baffling. But hearing Joyce's prose brought other parts to life. The celebrated pub scene, in which Bloom is mistaken for a victorious gambler, becomes a glorious torrent of sounds and voices. The real test is Molly Bloom's concluding soliloquy, gloriously read by Marcella Riordan. Is this a masterpiece, on audiobook as well as visual? Yes (to quote Molly herself), yes, yes, yes.