Stately, plump Buck Mulligan and crew find themselves well-served in a new app that blends Joyce’s text with its Greek inspiration.
A classic of literary modernism, Ulysses is now over 100 years old. It benefits nicely from the new-tech treatment of the modern app, though the developers might have done even more with it; the annotations, for instance, are numerous but light and sometimes too glancing. Generally, though, they’re helpful, especially for readers without a suitably Joycean cultural background: In case the point is missed in the text itself, it doesn’t take much in the way of those annotations to see that Joyce is parodying the Catholic Mass in the opening paragraphs, and the editors even connect the “white corpuscles” of the first page to the holy proceedings. The app contains an abridged recording of the text, as well as period recordings of some of the music (“A Nation Once Again,” “In Old Madrid” and so forth) that Joyce’s characters enjoy during the course of that storied June day in 1904. A particularly welcome lagniappe is the text of Homer’s Odyssey, the ur-epic underlying Joyce’s own book. Getting around the Greek text, broken into its constituent books, is easy enough, but less so the English: The navigation leads to the headers of the three parts but not to the chapters within them, which, of course, are keyed to the Greek, while the bookmarking feature is sufficient but approximate in a text that is continuous and without pagination. Useful, again, to readers who haven’t explored the ground is a set of photographs providing visual annotations of such things as Martello towers and the exact appearance of 7 Eccles St. before it was bulldozed in the 1960s. One hopes that in future editions these extras might be better hyperlinked to the main text so that readers don’t have to skip around so much, though the serendipity involved leads to some pleasant discoveries among the phantasmal mirth and ghostly light of Joyce’s brilliant words. A search function would be nice, too.
We suspect Joyce himself would be pleased with this production, a boon for scholars and general readers alike. (Requires iOS 6 and above.)