For readers weary of the more tedious notes for and companions to James Joyce’s Ulysses, Julian Rios’s The House of Ulysses presents a new and exciting option. Rios, one of Spain’s foremost post-modernist writers, has approached Joyce’s work with insight, elegance and a very necessary sense of humor.
The book takes place in The Ulysses Museum, where the visitors/readers are guided through eighteen rooms that correspond with the eighteen chapters of Ulysses. A Cicerone (an old term for guide) is joined by Professor Ludwig Jones (a seasoned Joyce scholar) and three critics called A, B and C, each of whom have differing opinions concerning the text. In a clever reinterpretation of Joyce’s “man in the macintosh,” a mysterious man with a Mac computer lurks in the background and presents the traditional break-down of each chapter’s title, setting, time, and symbol, etc. As they enter each room, the members of the group first discuss and then re-tell the events and meanings of each chapter.
Though the book is not explicitly intended to serve as a guide to Ulysses, it seems unlikely that anyone unacquainted with Dublin on June 16th, 1904 would have the patience for following the meandering tour, which frequently draws from and sometimes parodies the various styles Joyce employed. But for anyone trying to work their way through or revisit Joyce’s work, The House of Ulysses is an engaging resource and a brilliant testament to the wonderful confusion and debate Ulysses so frequently inspires. – Sheila Langan (280 pages / Dalkey Archive Press)