Written by James Joyce
- Audio book performed by Jim Norton with Marcella Riordan - Unabridged Fiction - 22 COMPACT DISCS with 68-page booklet containing biographical information, photographs and more - CD22 is a CD-ROM
- 27 hours
Publisher, Naxos Audiobooks (May 2004)
'Ulysses' is A Perfect Companion with Dubliners to Celebrate Bloomsday.
"The performance by Jim Norton with Marcella Riordan is a revelation. Norton brilliantly dramatises the inner musings of Leopold Bloom... brings tears to the eyes." --Financial Times London
Listen to audio clip 1
‘Stately plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed….’ The day begins with a mock mass, as Mulligan offers his shaving bowl to the deity. Holding centre stage, he taunts Dedalus about his name, and rebukes him for refusing to pray at his dying mother’s bedside. This brings to Stephen’s mind a ghostly vision of his mother – a vision which will return to haunt him throughout the day.
Listen to audio clip 2
‘Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.’ The setting is Sandymount Strand, the beach near the mouth of the river Liffey. It is 11am. The chapter takes the form of an internal monologue, in which Stephen, killing time on his way to meet Mulligan at the Ship, philosophises on matters of the soul and on the power of language.
Listen to audio clip 3
‘Mr. Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.’ The kitchen of 7 Eccles St, Dublin, the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom. 8am. Mr. Bloom prepares Molly’s breakfast.
Listen to audio clip 4
‘Windy night that was I went to fetch her…’ A nostalgic moment of recollection is interrupted by the greetings of Mrs. Breen, an old flame. Her somewhat eccentric husband has been sent a mischievous postcard, bearing simply the letters U.P. and intends to take out a libel action. Mrs. Breen informs Bloom that Mina Purefoy has been lying in at the maternity hospital for three days.
Listen to audio clip 5
‘As they trod across the thick carpet Buck Mulligan whispered behind his panama to Haines. – Parnell’s brother. There in the corner.’ Mulligan and Haines meet up for tea in the D.B.C. (Damn Bad Cakes). In Clare Street, outside the dental surgery of another Mr. Bloom. A blind stripling has his cane swept aside by the coat-tails of the eccentric Cashel Boyle O’Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell. Paddy Dignam’s young son, returning from an errand to the butchers, reflects on his father’s interment.
Listen to audio clip 6
Bloom: ‘Gentlemen of the jury, let me explain.’ Bloom finds himself on trial. He protests his innocence, calling on pillars of society to speak up for him. His former maid (Mary Driscoll) makes further accusations of impropriety.
Listen to audio clip 7
Private Carr: ‘Here. What are you saying about my king?’ Despite the interventions of Bloom and the Private’s girl (Cissy Caffrey) the argument is going one way only.
Listen to audio clip 8
‘Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs…’ This is the internal, unpunctuated monologue of Molly Bloom, which takes her through to the early hours of morning. Her opening remark is the result of mis-hearing Bloom’s final sleepy thoughts about the ‘roc’s auk’s egg’ and ‘Darkinbad’. She can tell that ‘he came somewhere’. She suspects him of having another woman and remembers his improprieties with their maid in Ontario Terrace.
Released to coincide with the June 16, 1904 centenary
Ulysses is one of the greatest literary works in the English language. In his remarkable tour de force, Joyce catalogues one day – June 16, 1904 – in immense detail as Leopold Bloom wanders through Dublin, talking, observing, musing with the young Stephen Dedalus – and always remembering Molly, his passionate, wayward wife. At evenings end, Leopold returns home.
So, with this simple outline, why is Ulysses a novel known by many but read (or finished) by few? The new literary style – stream of consciousness – employed by Joyce offers a challenge. But in the hands of Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan, experienced and stimulating Joycean readers, and with the expert direction of Roger Marsh, Ulysses becomes accessible as never before. It is entertaining, immediate, funny, rich in classical and philosophical allusion.
Set in the shadow of Homer’s Odyssey, internal thoughts – Joyce’s famous stream of consciousness – give physical reality extra colour and perspective.
This long-awaited unabridged recording of James Joyce’s Ulysses is released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday.
Regarded by many as the single most important novel of the 20th century, the abridged recording by Norton and Riordan released in the first year of Naxos AudioBooks (1994) is a proven bestseller. Now the two return – having recorded most of Joyce’s other work – in a newly recorded unabridged production, directed by Joyce expert Roger Marsh.
An interview with Jim Norton: Jim Norton is a Dubliner through and through. He was born in Dublin, his father had a grocer’s shop on Grafton Street, and he was educated by the Christian Brothers from a young age to the time he started work at 18. Like Stephen Dedalus, he roamed the streets of Dublin and, as a nascent actor, listened to the sounds and voices of the characters around him, the high and low. And it is this enormously rich tapestry of sound that he has mined for the seemingly endless characters in his remarkable recording of the unabridged Ulysses, with Marcella Riordan as Molly, for Naxos AudioBooks.
‘James Joyce said he wrote Ulysses to keep the academic community active for generations,’ smiles Norton. ‘It is for others to intellectualise and decide what it is all about. Of course I studied it and read books about it. But when I came to record it, I had to trust my instincts. The most important thing is the narrative. You have to keep your audience with you as you tell the story. Joyce may be changing literary styles, showing off how he can go from one writer to another. But my job is to tell the story so that people listening are keen to know what happens next. I am fascinated by all those references, but it is no help to me when I am reading it.’
For a natural actor this is what performance is all about, and Jim Norton admits that he has ‘always found acting easy.’ He first made his mark on Dublin as a boy soprano, singing for the radio station RTE from the age of 10. He knew then that performance was his vocation, though the Christian Fathers took a different view. They tried to ensure that he would follow a more conventional path of bank manager or civil servant, and they used the methods of the time to instill a sense of humility amidst all that success – it was an education that Norton will never forget. ‘It was dreadful and hateful. From an early age I learned to defend myself against all kinds of abuse,’ he recalls.
Coming from a working-class family he won a scholarship to senior school, learnt to survive, and continued, with the support of his family, to sing until his voice broke at the age of 17. He was also helped by the supportive fraternity of the actors and singers he worked with. ‘They would say quietly to me that it wasn’t pronounced CenerenTOLa but CenerENtola, that a Shakespearean word was spoken like this, not like that.’
He sang. He played a leading role in a radio soap called The Foley Family. Finding that accents came easily to him, he played a wide range of boys and youths including the title role in a dramatisation of Tom Sawyer – the Mississippian twang not proving a problem. ‘I was like a sponge,’ he recalls. ‘One day I woke up sounding like Paul Robeson and that part of my life was over.’
He learned the piano from Gerard Shanahan, who used to accompany John McCormack. When it was clear that he wouldn’t become a pianist, he switched to singing lessons, learning the songs of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolff. Shanahan told him how McCormack worked. The Irish tenor would stand on the concert stage where he was due to perform that evening, and recite the songs he was to sing. Shanahan would sit in the auditorium and listen. Only when McCormack had finished reciting the words would they turn to the music. Jim never forgot this story, for it emphasized the importance of the words, even for a singer like McCormack.
Jim Norton left school at 18. His other great interest was athletics and he thought about becoming a sports reporter. He worked as a copy runner for the Irish News Agency, but by 19 he was on the RTE radio repertory company, doing 15 parts a week. It was everything, from drama, to the morning story, to a news or sports bulletin, to a drop-in quote in a feature. And always, the experienced actors helped him with scripts, with pronunciation, and recommended works he should read. Brendan Behan wrote radio plays which Norton performed. It was all live – and a hugely stimulating time.
Sometimes I would be in early and not leave until 11pm. I would walk home through the empty, dark streets of Dublin. So that I knew what it was like for Stephen Dedalus!’ He read Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck. He sat and read Catullus at the back of Dun Laoghaire pier. And James Joyce: Ulysses. To Jim, it wasn’t unapproachable or difficult because the voices he read on the page were the voices he met every day as he walked in Dublin.
After six years on the Rep, Jim branched out to theatre and television. He performed in the two famous Dublin theatres, The Abbey Theatre and the Gate Theatre on numerous occasions in classics and new plays. His father, now running the company that owned his old grocer shop, came to see him only rarely – or so Jim thought. Fairly recently, Jim met an old friend of his father’s who told him that in fact his father came to see most of the plays he was in – but he was so worried that something would go wrong he came secretly, with a few friends. Jim never knew.
Jim Norton’s extensive performing career has now taken him around the world, in film, on stage, in radio and voice-overs. For years he divided his time between the West Coast of the US and London. Despite his ability to assume any accent, he has found himself playing Irishmen time and again. He is a well-recognised figure in the streets of Dublin for his characterisation of Bishop Len Brennan in the television sit-com Father Ted.
In the 1990s Jim developed a close working relationship with the young Irish playwright Conor McPherson, who wrote a series of parts for him. For nearly two years Jim appeared in The Weir, in London, on Broadway, and elsewhere, to widespread acclaim. He was in the complete recording of Beckett plays on DVD. After completing the unabridged recording of Ulysses, he went to Australia to make a film.
Having recorded almost all James Joyce’s published work – much of it for Naxos AudioBooks –, Jim regards the unabridged Ulysses as one of the most important events of his career. An actor who prepares carefully whatever the job, he admits that his first impressions almost always find their way into the final performance. ‘I get a feeling of a character when I read a script for the first time, and it tends to stay with me no matter how much work we do in rehearsals.’ This was true of his preparation of Ulysses. ‘I am very intuitive. If I try to analyse the character too much it disappears – it is like trying to pick up a piece of mercury.’ And he knows that when the curtain goes up something special occurs. ‘You just do it. You can prepare but you have to leave room for things that just happen.’
This is true also in a recording studio, when it is just the reader and the microphone. ‘I always imagine someone to whom I am reading. In the case of Ulysses, I was reading for Jez, the engineer. He was very keen and responsive and said he had always intended to read Ulysses but had never done it. So, he was the person I read it to. I wanted to make sure that I took him with me, that he understood everything. At the end of every evening I would ask him whether he had. It was my way of making sure that I was still telling the story.’
Despite the numerous personalities who appear in Ulysses, Jim was never stumped for characterisation. ‘I felt I knew all those people – some who were not very nice. I remembered teachers, people I knew. This was my revenge,’ he smiled.
This new recording of Ulysses unabridged is the second time he has approached the work. The abridged recording of just 5 hours, made nearly a decade ago, was much easier. But a second recording meant that Jim could rethink individuals. ‘Leopold Bloom really benefits from the unabridged version. I have an enormous affection for him – he is such a fully rounded character – Everyman, of course. He has the fallibility, the sexual insecurity, the wish for a full and happy life. He is a thrusting male but sensitive as well – in a way, Joyce was creating the new man here. Doing Ulysses unabridged meant I could get to know him better. Stephen Dedalus, by contrast, is more prissy, spiky, closer to Joyce himself.’
One of the great challenges in reading Ulysses is the constant change of the narrator: the person speaking in the foreground. It required constant vigilance to stay with the shifting sands – who is telling the story, who is watching or being watched. At no point could Jim relax and go on automatic pilot.
Jim Norton has lived with Ulysses for 40 years, returning to his old hard-back copy of the Bodley Head edition time and time again. Having spent so much of his working life in radio, or recording for cassette and CD, it was the completion of a dream to record the unabridged Ulysses for the centenary year of Bloomsday. It brings to full circle his Dublin heritage after so many peripatetic years.
Yet even now he can’t quite draw a double bar-line to signify closure. ‘When I left the studio to come home I didn’t bring my script – which I had marked up and spent so many hours working on – back with me. I left it there. But when I walked through the door the first thing I did was to go back to that Bodley Head volume and look at it again. Could I have done this section better, or differently? Should I go back and do that line again? And what about that bit? It took me a long time to just let it go.’ --Nicolas Soames