The Great Ulysses Journal Project

I am going to be reading the James Joyce book Ulysses for a few months. As well as a used edition of Ulysses itself, I bought a secondary explanatory reference called The New Bloomsday Book to help with Joyce’s allusions and word games that he was so fond of, and I decided that I would probably be making a lot of notes, so made myself a small notebook. I cannot stand it when people write or use a highlighter in books, as it ruins the readability of the text, so I prefer to make notes on paper.

I used white photocopy paper in legal 8.5 x 14-inch size, cut it down the middle, and then folded the folios lengthwise so I got a finished page size of 4.25 x 7 inches. The signatures were then sewn and a cheesecloth hinge put on the block of paper. I decided to use Canson Colorline paper for the cover and endpapers in heather and violet colours, with scraps of a nice scrapbooking paper to reinforce the spine and corners.

After searching through a book on illuminated manuscripts from my collection, I came across a reproduction showing some scenes and symbolism from The Odyssey by Homer, upon which the Joyce book is based, so I printed part of the manuscript and used it to illustrate the cover.

On the left is the scene where Odysseus gets Polyphemus the cyclops drunk and then blinds him. On the right, Odysseus then escapes the cave of the now blind Polyphemus by hiding himself on the body of the bellwether, and in the centre, Odysseus plugs the crew’s ears with wax and lashes himself to the mast of their ship so that the song of the sirens cannot lure them to their deaths.

The manuscript is in Greek, and was created in Italy before the year 1500. I like the calligraphy snippet in the centre of the page.




I’m having fun fiddling around waiting for my used books to arrive.

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14 Responses to The Great Ulysses Journal Project

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    Richard Ellmann’s peerless biography of Joyce was invaluable to my preparations prior to reading ULYSSES. It’s a tough read…but surprisingly funny (and bawdy). Reading ODYSSEY will also be helpful but much of the academic writing about Joyce is even more daunting than the book itself…

    • JJ ColourArt says:

      I have been trying to get the Ellmann biography–I’ve got the Richard Ellmann biography of Oscar Wilde which is good, but the Joyce bio seems to be OOP in Canada. The book price plus shipping from the States is too expensive. I’ll keep an eye out for it though, thanks.

      It’s a shame that Joyce has been lost in academese, I get the impression he was a bit tongue-in-cheek with his writing. I call it his “look-up games”–like he was saying “Okay, look THIS up!” He liked to put puzzles and labyrinths in there, because he was having fun.

  2. Cliff Burns says:

    I agree, critical analyses of Joyce often soft pedal the humour and earthiness of his prose. Try BetterWorld books for the Ellmann bio, they cap their shipping costs at $3.97, even to Canada (I’m a Canuck too so I empathize). Plus sales from that company go toward the cause of literary in America. I actually preferred Ellmann’s book on Wilde to the Joyce but that may be because Wilde was a much more engaging and lovable man. With Joyce, everything centred around his art, all other considerations, including his family and friends, were secondary.

    Good reading to you…

    • JJ ColourArt says:

      Oh Cliff I love Better World Books–just got The New Bloomsday Book from there. Interesting–the shipping when you buy from Better World through ABE is $5.97 but the Better World site charges $3.97 like you say.

      It’s still out of my budget, but I’ll try again when funds allow. Thanks.

  3. jerrygrit says:

    Hey JJ…I’m not sure where you’re at on your Ulysses project. However, if you’re interested, we’re putting together an online reading collective to read that bad boy starting on June 16th (b-day). We’d like to get some involvement/perspectives from outside our group. Check us out…

    • JJ ColourArt says:

      Ah, thank you Jerry, but my group joining days are over. I’m hovering around page 300 in Ulysses and have a post on my blog about margarine related to something Poldy said.

      I must forge on!

      p.s. I don’t like Ayn Rand personally, she was a creep and not rational concerning environmental issues, but Atlas Shrugged is one of my favourite books. I even named one of my cars after Hank Reardon because it was a blue/green colour just like Reardon Metal. It doesn’t get any better than that fella. Think of it, you could name a car “Roark.”

      • jerrygrit says:

        Well, if we ever catch up to you, you are more than welcomed aboard. And we’d appreciate you checking in to give us any helpful contributions.

        We’re hardly a group, but a loose knit collective sharing an interest in finishing the book. And we’re all aware how kind of ridiculous that is.

  4. mallowblossom says:

    Hi JJ,

    Hope all is well and that your pain is somewhat controllable these days.

    I have been wanting to ask you for a long time which of the above books you used to illustrate your notebook on Joyce’s Ulysses? I love the picture you used and I would love to look it up.

    Thanks and I am stll reading just about everything you write about with utter fascination.

    Oh, and guess who’s about to start reading Ulysses? Moi. I have been trying since 2006 to get started reading this book and I think I am finally going to start as soon as the darn shipment arrives!


    • JJ ColourArt says:

      Well, I am hopeful about a new vitamin regimen for pain. I have to give it a few weeks chance and see if there is an improvement. I keep trying, one of these days the right switch will trip in the brain.

      I might join you and pick up Ulysses where I left off just before page 300 or so. I keep meaning to get back to it, so you can give me a nudge.

      The picture is from an illuminated manuscript. The photograph I used is on page 407 of the book Masterpieces of Illumination (Codices illustres) by Ingo F. Walther and Norbert Wolf published by Taschen in 2005.

      The actual manuscript is “Aristoteles: Nikomachische Ethik / Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics,”and was made in Italy some time before 1500. There are ten books to the complete volume, and each book has a full-page miniature painting at the beginning. The language is Greek. The full page of this illustration from Book 6 has something above Polyphemus and Odysseus: a girl holding a sphinx which is an allegory about rational and irrational elements governing the human soul. Maybe.

      The tie-in with Ulysses is that these “Allegories of understanding, shrewdness, ruse, and craftiness are used to present the capacity of human intelligence that enables us to act with determination.” Presumably as Aristotle would ideally wish us to act, using reason.

      The manuscript is held in Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex Phil. Gr. 4 I couldn’t find it doing a Search at their English web site, but you might have better luck.

  5. mallowblossom says:

    Well, not only have you given me the name of the book, but the information as it relates to Ulysses! Wonderful stuff. Where did the quote come from, if I may ask?

    I am glad you are optimistic about getting your pain under control. Pain has a way, often times, of making the victim depressed. That is obviously not the case for you. You seek to overcome. Very admirable quality.

    I am glad I can be the “nudge” to get you back to Ulysses. I was hoping my book would have arrived yesterday, but alas, no. So I am hoping today will be the day. I have, however, a few books about the book, such as ReJoyce by Augustus Burrows. It’s quite interesting and I am sure will be very helpful. I am also trying to get the Gilbert one from the library. If not, I will probably purchase it. Have you heard the podcasts of Frank Delaney on his website. I think I really struck gold finding that one. He has been doing weekly podcasts on the book since 2009 and will continue until the book is finished. He’s an Irishman with a wonderful, lyrical voice who reads parts of the book and makes commentary for further clarification. I have been listening to him all week. You can find the very first podcast here…

    I hope this proved useful to you if you don’t already have it, which knowing you, you do!


  6. mallowblossom says:


    Sorry, I have to correct my last comment. Frank Delaney has been doing the podcasts on Ulysses since 2010, not 2009.


  7. mallowblossom says:

    And yet another error on my part. The author of ReJoyce is Anthony Burgess, not Augustus Burrows…I really need to drink my coffee before I start typing!


    • JJ ColourArt says:

      The quote comes from the Masterpieces of Illumination book.

      I haven’t heard the podcasts by Frank Delaney.

      I am reading Ulysses because I am trying to understand the fascination people have with Joyce. He is not my favourite author but interesting nonetheless.

      I balked at reading Joyce for years but it’s pretty lame to say you don’t like an author when you haven’t read his books, so I started exploring with Dubliners and wrote short essays on each story, then I decided to try Ulysses, just to see.

      For me, he is a great writer of marvelous sentences and paragraphs, but rather charmless when it comes to a full narrative. The character of Leopold Bloom is the only thing that makes me want to finish the book!

  8. mallowblossom says:

    Thank you for the reference. I shall have to see if my library can get it for me.

    As for Frank Delaney, you must listen to the podcasts. I believe the first 28 of them are devoted just to chapter one. Of course, you don’t have to go to the beginning at all. Each and every podcast is an eye opener and will help in your understanding of Joyce. Delaney is a pleasure to listen to. I must say I already have an understanding of where Joyce is coming from and I have only listened to about 25 of the podcasts so far. And I agree with you. Joyce was a gifted writer. His sentences just packed with meaning and most of them double or triple meanings! I just can’t wait to get my book and start reading this. I just know I am going to have fun with it!



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