Today, I read everything before page 1 in my copy of Ulysses. This is the edition I've got:
I chose this edition for no other reason than it was the cheapest edition in stock at Barnes and Noble the day I checked. It contains page references to the 1934 edition, which I'm guessing is the one most frequently referenced, so I'll use those page numbers referring to parts of the book in the future.
John M. Woolsey's court decision, printed in the front, is intimidating. It contained the first clear description of what Ulysses contains that I've come across in my life, near the start of section IV:
He takes persons of the lower middle class living in Dublin in 1904 and seeks not only to describe what they did on a certain day early in June of that year as they went about the City bent on their usual occupations, but also to tell what many of them thought about the while.
That description on its own, of a book this size, is imposing. But Woolsey says outright several times in his decision that the book is difficult. His clearest statement is the whole of section II, quoted in its entirety here:
II. I have read "Ulysses" once in its entirety and I have read those passages of which the government particularly complains several times. In fact, for many weeks, my spare time has been devoted to the consideration of the decision which my duty would require me to make in this matter.
"Ulysses" is not an easy book to read or to understand. But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become its satellites. The study of "Ulysses" is, therefore, a heavy task.
The text then moves on to "A Letter From Mr. Joyce to the Publisher, Reprinted in 1934 Edition By Permission of the Author".
The letter contained a few bits of gratuitous Latin in the first two paragraphs, which I had to google. I wonder whether I'll have to do that a lot in the coming pages. The letter detailed the events associated with the controversy which Woolsey's court case addressed.
From this point forward, I'll be blogging my thoughts regularly -- aiming for at least 10 pages and 1 post a day. Knowing the reputation of this book, I don't expect to come to a deep understanding of it by the end of my first time through, but I feel nonetheless that the experience will be enriching and productive.
I'll try not to write bland summaries of the events in the book, but to stick to commentary and personal impressions.