Ulysses Too Hard? Read the Comic Instead!

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It’s Bloomsday evening and if you’re one of those people marking the occasion by reading (or re-reading) Ulysses, you may have noticed something by now: It is a very difficult book to get through.

To admit this fact is to take nothing away from the beautiful cacophony of James Joyce’s prose. However, wouldn’t the whole thing be a lot easier with pictures? Especially passages like this:

Young shouts of moneyed voices in Clive Kempthorpe’s rooms. Palefaces: they hold their ribs with laughter, one clasping another. O, I shall expire! Break the news to her gently, Aubrey! I shall die! With slit ribbons of his shirt whipping the air he hops and hobbles round the table, with trousers down at heels, chased by Ades of Magdalen with the tailor’s shears. A scared calf’s face gilded with marmalade. I don’t want to be debagged! Don’t you play the giddy ox with me!

Fortunately, thanks to the genius of the Internet a remedy exists in Ulysses “Seen,” a free webcomic drawn by that aims to illustrate the entirety of Joyce’s tale. So far the comic only goes through the first chapter of the book — but let’s be honest, that’s about as far as you would have gone today anyways.

The project is the brainchild of Rob Berry, Josh Levitas, Mike Barsanti and Chad Rutkowski. Together the four make up Throwaway Horse LLC, a band of literary nerds who hope to “[foster] understanding of public domain literary masterworks by joining the visual aid of the graphic novel with the explicatory aid of the internet.” In honor of Bloomsday, they have made Ulysses “Seen” available in iPad form, though some drawings of a stately, plump and naked Buck Mulligan had to be altered to fit the family-friendly policies of the App store.

The group insists that their comics are meant to be “mere companion pieces to the works themselves,” but don’t let them make you feel guilty if you skip ahead in the picture version.