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Read Aeolus

Set in the newspaper offices of the Weekly Freeman and National Press and Freeman’s Journal and National Press, this chapter finds Bloom attempting to close a deal to run an advertisement for Alexander Keyes. Bloom rushes to and fro to get all parties to agree, leaving the offices for most of the chapter, phoning near its end, and reappearing only to be given the brush-off by the editor, Myles Crawford. The remainder of the chapter deals with the windy conversation of Crawford’s friends and co-workers. Bloom and Stephen cross paths briefly in the newspaper offices, but do not exchange any words. First timers: see if you can spot where Joyce blurs the line between news and advertising—and asks us if there really is much of a difference after all. 

Read “Aeolus” now.

Read Hades

“Hades” is the underworld episode of Ulysses, the one that takes us with Bloom to Paddy Dignam’s funeral. It raises ghosts from Bloom’s past, including his father (dead by his own hand) and his son (dead at 11 days, 11 years ago). It’s not all gloom, though; Joyce intersperses humour in some unlikely places and links the Odyssean journey to the underworld with issues of anti-Semitism, colonialism, and venality all while letting us follow Bloom’s often-startling thoughts. First timers: watch for the sleek fat rat and its overt parallels with both Stephen’s vision of his corpse-chewing mother’s ghost and the dogs on the beach in “Proteus” and still to come in “Nausicaa.”

Read “Hades” now.

Read Lotus Eaters

The fifth episode, “Lotus Eaters,” takes us out into the street of Dublin for good this time—we won’t return to 7 Eccles Street until the penultimate “Ithaca” chapter now—with Mr. Leopold Bloom. The episode features multiple images of drugs, soporific compounds, and opiates galore (including religion). It introduces us to Bloom’s chaste epistolary affair with Martha, and much punning as well on his name—Bloom, flower, and so forth. First timers, watch for the role Bloom plays as a latter-day prophet, casting bread upon the waters and emulating a profane infant Moses in the final paragraphs.

Read “Lotus Eaters” now.

Read Calypso

“Calypso” is the fourth chapter in Ulysses, and introduces us to the character who will take up the vast bulk of the rest of the novel: Leopold Bloom. It also introduces us to his wife, Molly, whose adulterous tryst with her music manager Blazes Boylan is scheduled for later in the afternoon. The tension around this assignation and the reasons for the dysfunction in the Blooms’ marriage drive much of the psychological drama in the ensuing chapters. First-timers note Bloom’s tenderness towards the cat, his efforts to comprehend her, and his comical error when he thinks he has. Cats, dogs, rats: all will feature prominently from here on out.

Read “Calypso” now.

Read the Telemachiad

The “Telemachiad” comprises the first three chapters of Ulysses: “Telemachus,” “Nestor,” and “Proteus.” The chapters were named by Joyce to correspond roughly with episodes in the ancient Greek epic poem Odyssey, by Homer. The first three chapters of Ulysses are collectively called the “Telemachiad” because they focus on Stephen Dedalus who corresponds loosely with Odysseus’ son Telemachus in the Odyssey. First timers, be warned: the third chapter, “Proteus,” is difficult and tedious — feel free to laugh along with Joyce at Stephen Dedalus’s pretentiousness and self-seriousness! Just keep going and you’ll be rewarded with the rest of the book.

Read the Telemachiad now.