Making the Wrong Joyce

Ulysses: A Reader's Edition

edited by Danis Rose
Picador, 739 pp., £20.00/Canadian $39.99

Homer’s Ulysses returned home from twenty years of misadventure, slew the suitors besetting his palace, and embraced faithful Penelope in a bed constructed of a still-living olive tree. Before he slept, Ulysses summed up for his wife the battles, shipwrecks, and years of slavery to the nymph Calypso and the sorceress Circe. In truth, he was a willing lover to both temptresses. In James Joyce’s version of the same legend, his Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, returns home in the early hours of June 17, 1904, and recalls in staggering detail his wanderings across Dublin. When James Joyce compiles in tabular form Bloom’s budget, he accounts for every penny earned, borrowed, lent, and spent, with three exceptions.

Bloom hops a train during his Nighttown rescue of young, drunken Stephen Dedalus, but the penny fare is missing from the book’s budget. Ten shillings for Stephen’s entertainment in Bella Cohen’s kip and a shil-ling for a shattered lamp are unlisted as well. Ulysses at least mentioned Circe to Penelope but Bloom’s budget ignores his travels to Circe altogether. Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition, edited by Danis Rose, for the first time fleshes out Bloom’s budget. Forging ahead where Joyce held back, Mr. Rose details the expenses incurred in the “Circe” chapter. The penny train fare and eleven shillings for “Mrs Cohen” now join the costs of a lunch, a dinner, and a midnight “Coffee and bun.” These are not footnotes, but new lines incorporated into Joyce’s book by Mr. Rose.

Mr. Rose mentions no new-found manuscripts of Ulysses. Instead, his Introduction explains that “extensive and invasive surgery” was necessary to make the “Ithaca” chapter accurate. Leopold Bloom’s account books have been opened for public scrutiny by a daring editor, one willing to revise Joyce’s Ulysses in spots where others were content merely to annotate it for the past seventy-five years. Not since editors demoted two “petty officers” to “sailors” in Herman Melville’s Billy Budd to match naval history has such a bold, confident, and controversial editorial policy been announced. What Melville’s editors did twice or thrice, Mr. Rose has executed a hundred times over.

What exactly is a Reader’s Edition? An early advertisement in The Bookseller (London) addressed to retailers, not readers, quotes the new editor himself: “This is a people’s Ulysses…a text smuggled out of the ivory tower of the academics and put squarely in the marketplace.” Danis Rose, who in fact is not an academic but a Joyce enthusiast and freelance editor living in leafy Chapelizod outside Dublin, relishes his new role as entrepreneur.

The Spring marketing sheet from Picador quotes Mr. Rose: “The Reader’s Edition liberates the text…and makes it possible for the first time for the general reader to relish every nuance and beauty of Joyce’s masterpiece.” How is this achieved? The editor, to use his own word, has engaged in “copyreading” what Joyce wrote.

Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition is not Danis Rose’s first ill-starred project. He once worked with Hans Walter Gabler, the editor of Ulysses: A Critical and…

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