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Joyce in 100 Objects: How to Enjoy Ulysses

In 1920, Ulysses was effectively banned from publication in the United States when a New York court held that the serialized version then appearing in The Little Review was obscene.  For the next thirteen years, the book remained in limbo, until another New York court finally ruled it a piece of literature that was unlikely to corrupt the nation’s moral standards.  The plaintiff in that case was Bennett Cerf, the founder of Random House books.  He rushed from the courthouse to the printshop in order to produce what became the first legally published edition of Ulysses in the U.S.

The book already enjoyed the caché of scandal, but Cerf was nevertheless worried that despite all the fuss, readers would find it obscure or confusing–especially those who knew little of 1904 Dublin.  He thus prepared a variety of supplements and guides as part of an ambitious advertising plan.  These materials included How to Enjoy James Joyce’s Great Novel Ulysses, which included an overview and summary of the episodes, a map of Joyce’s beloved city, a handy list of main characters, and a few choice quotes from critics to assure dubious readers of the book’s merits.  This was one of the first guides to a novel that has now elicited hundreds of books aiming to teach us how to better enjoy Joyce’s masterpiece.

Front Cover of "How to Enjoy James Joyce's Ulysses"