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Old 10-04-2016, 05:52 PM
bonzer bonzer is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: NW5
Posts: 3,047
Larry's advice to read both Dubliners and the Portrait first should not be ignored. Ulysses is, after all, technically a sequel to the latter (and it foreshadows some of the techniques).
I've never actually read the novel with Ulysses Annotated to hand, but it's a superb reference that factually nails all the explicit allusions: the people, places and quotations, etc. It's really rather comprehensive on that score. Better than trying to Google that stuff.
A good map of Dublin helps. While there are multiple books reconstructing the geographical details of Joyce's city (Gunn and Hart's James Joyce's Dublin being perhaps the most extreme), a modern street map probably suffices for most purposes, provided you realise that some of the street names have changed (usually post-Independence).

Of all the reading guides/explications of the novel, the one I've found most useful to read in parallel is Harry Blamires's Bloomsday Book (multiple editions and revisions).

My standard observation for people starting out is that it's chapter 3 - "Proteus" - that really trips everyone up early on. Get past that and Bloom's stream-of-consciousness is then immediately much more down-to-earth than Stephen's.
I personally find chapter 14, "The Oxen of the Sun", unreadable in any conventional sense. It's a brilliant Joycean stunt having the chapter imitate the evolution of English over the centuries, but I find that the continually shifting style blocks any attempt to get up any "head of steam" in just reading it. But once you're over that, you are on the home straight and the rest is comparatively easy.