Loosen your talktapes
Joyce Reading

James Joyce Reads

Read by James Joyce & Cyril Cusack

1. Caedmon (of Harper Audio, of HarperCollins Publishers), 1992, ISBN 1-55994-565-6; One cassette, $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Caedmon, 2002, ISBN 0-06-050179-0; Four CDs, $29.95. [Browse/Purchase]

SIDE ONE:
1. Ulysses, passage from the Aeolus episode, read by James Joyce (4:06)
2. Chamber Music, I through XXXVI, read by Cyril Cusack (23:19)

SIDE TWO:
1. Finnegans Wake, Anna Livia Plurabelle, Read by James Joyce (8:32)
2. Pomes Penyeach, read by Cyril Cusack (8:53)
3. “Ecce Puer,” read by Cyril Cusack (0:41)

This is an essential recording to own! Although Joyce only reads for twelve and a half minutes, that’s a mere dollar per moment of hearing his voice read from his works. The Ulysses reading is taken from “Aeolus” episode – Joyce reads the second half of “IMPROMPTU” and all of “FROM THE FATHERS,” the scene where Professor MacHugh recites Gerald Fitzgibbon’s speech comparing the Irish to the Israelis under the rule of Egypt. Sadly, the recording quality (being from a 1924 album) is poor, and Joyce’s voice is muffled under an unfortunate amount of hiss and static. The reading from Finnegans Wake is of a much higher quality, however, and it is absolutely delightful to hear Joyce lilting his way cheerfully across the first part of the “Anna Livia Plurabelle” section.
The poems are read by Cyril Cusack, who does a good job in bringing forth their lyricism and elusive tension, although his tone is a bit too somber at times. Admittedly, they are just filler for the tape, framing the Joyce readings, but they do provide an extra bit of pleasure when listening to the tape.

Liner notes (by Sylvia Beach, from the earlier 1924 album)

In 1924 I went to the office of His Master’s Voice in Paris to ask them if they would record a reading by James Joyce from ULYSSES. But they would agree only if it were done at my expense. The record would not have their label on it, nor would it be listed in their catalogue. I accepted the terms: thirty copies of the recording to be paid for on delivery.

Joyce himself was anxious to have this recording made. He had made up his mind, he told me, that this would be his only reading from ULYSSES. Recording was done in a rather primitive manner in those days. All the same, I think the ULYSSES recording is a wonderful performance. I never hear it without being deeply moved.

Again, I highly recommend this recording. (Though I would suggest purchasing the 4-CD set rather than the cassette. See below.) Joyce vibrantly brings the text to life, his voice lilting and whispering, quickening and slowing, lingering on the musical words with a loving joy. Hearing him read Finnegans Wake demonstrates how beautiful and lyrical it can be when read out loud.

The James Joyce Audio Collection

Read by James Joyce, Cyril Cusack, Siobhan McKenna, E. G. Marshall, Colm Meaney and Jim Norton.

1. Dove Book Audio, 1996, ISBN 0787105104; Four cassettes, $19.95. Out of Print; slightly different version.

2. Caedmon, 2002, ISBN 0-06-050179-0; Four CDs, $29.95. [Browse/Purchase]

A collection of various Joyce readings, this set has gone through several editions – from Caedmon to Dove and finally back to Caedmon, who have rounded it out with selections from their audio Dubliners and packaged the entire works in a handsome 4-CD set. The core of the set is the material from James Joyce Reads, as reviewed above.

CD 1:
1. James Joyce reads from Ulysses – passage from the Aeolus episode...circa 1921
2. Chamber Music, I-XXXVI, read by Cyril Cusack
3. James Joyce reads from Finnegans Wake – passage from Anna Livia Plurabelle...circa 1932
4. Pomes Penyeach, read by Cyril Cusack
5. “Ecce Puer,” read by Cyril Cusack
6. Dubliners – “Counterparts,” read by Jim Norton

CD 2:
1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Chapter I: The Beginning, read by Cyril Cusack
2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Chapter I: The Christmas Dinner, read by Cyril Cusack
3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Chapter IV, part 2, read by Cyril Cusack
4. Dubliners – “Araby,” read by Colm Meaney

CD 3:
1. Ulysses: Soliloquie[sic] of Leopold Bloom, read by E.G. Marshall
2. Ulysses: Soliloquie[sic] of Molly Bloom, read by Siobhan McKenna

CD 4:
1. Finnegans Wake – Shem the Penman, read by Cyril Cusack
2. Finnegans Wake – Anna Livia Plurabelle, read by Siobhan McKenna

In a word, this collection is splendid. Not only does it contain both recordings of Joyce himself, but it collects numerous “out of print” readings by Cyril Cusack and Siobhan McKenna, as well as two strong selections from the Caedmon Dubliners. The CD set itself is quite handsomely packaged, with all four discs fitting snug in a booklet, itself designed to slip in a tidy little case. Although there is precious little in the way of “liner notes,” and Finnegans Wake is granted an apostrophe, how can you pass this up at $7 per disc? Highly recommended!

James Joyce: The Complete Recordings

Read by James Joyce

Sub Rosa, 2004; 1 CD, $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Part of Sub Rosa’s line of audio recordings, this CD contains both of Joyce’s readings – the by-now famous excerpts from “Aeolus” and “Anna Livia Plurabelle.” No other audio files are included, making the disc only thirteen minutes long; but it is handsomely packaged, and comes with a booklet containing a remembrance of James Joyce written by Eugene Jolas, founder and editor of transition magazine. (Recently discovered and translated, its appearance here marks its debut in English.) The booklet also includes “Jolas-Joyce, A Friendship in the Tower of Babel,” a commentary written by Marc Dachy, founder of Luna-Park and “editor” of the Sub Rosa CD.

Go To:

Joyce Audio Main PageBack to the main audio page, where you will find the standard Brazen Head menu.

DublinersJoyce’s great collection of stories.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManJoyce’s first novel.

Ulysses – Readings and productions of Joyce’s masterpiece.

Finnegans Wake – It’s even better when spoken aloud...!

Miscellaneous – Biographies, lectures, and essays about Joyce and his work.


The sissymusses and the zossymusses in their robenhauses quailed to hear his tardeynois at all – Send email to the Great Quail. Comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions – all are welcome!


–Allen B. Ruch
6 August 2004