New York Times
‘In Bed With Ulysses,’ Film Celebrating James Joyce Novel

by Andy Webster   June 10, 2012

Bloomsday — June 16, the day of the events in James Joyce’s masterpiece “Ulysses” — approaches and with it the release of Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna’s documentary “In Bed With Ulysses,” a film that strips away the academic clutter surrounding that kaleidoscopic novel to reveal the vital human pulse between its lines. It does so with staged readings of the livelier passages (not, I emphasize, re-creations of them), period footage and insightful commentators (including the Irish novelists Colum McCann and Edna O’Brien), not to mention humor and a palpable enthusiasm.

The book’s origins are familiar but merit re-examination: Joyce’s union with the former Nora Barnacle, the earthy, skeptical Irishwoman who was a model for the character Molly Bloom; the itinerant existence the couple led across Europe; the women (among them Joyce’s publisher Sylvia Beach and his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver) who helped midwife the novel’s release; and the obscenity battle attending its arrival in the United States. The movie also examines John Creagh, the firebrand priest whose anti-Semitic rants in Limerick prompted a rash of assaults against Jews in 1904. The film suggests that Leopold Bloom, the Jewish character whose perambulations form the narrative’s central arc, was partly inspired by the attacks, as was the time the story takes place. (The year 1904 was also when Joyce had his first sexual encounter with Barnacle.)

Let the professors map the structural architecture of “Ulysses”; the documentary prefers to celebrate the view from the Joyce Tower, south of Dublin, at Sandycove, site of the novel’s opening. The movie lets fresh air into “Ulysses” like a gust from the Irish Sea.

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LA Times
Getting ‘In Bed with Ulysses’ to celebrate Bloomsday June 16
By Carolyn Kellogg   June 14, 2013

James Joyce fans know that June 16 is Bloomsday, the single day in which all of his seminal novel “Ulysses” takes place. But as the video above reveals in its first seconds, not everyone is a James Joyce fan.

It’s the trailer for the documentary “Get in Bed with Ulysses,” which is screening this Bloomsday at several Southern California locations. The film — made by Joyce fans Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna — is a fascinating, human look at the author and “Ulysses,” his most famous novel.

Adelson knows the text in a way that’s visceral, not too heavy on the academic. He staged a New York performance in which in which a number of talented actors — including Kathleen Chalfant doing Molly Bloom — brought “Ulysses” to life on stage. Not an interpretation of the novel as a play — a reading of the text itself.

The movie starts by framing Joyce, who can be simultaneously Ireland’s most famous author, literature’s most significant modernist, and a guy who your average Dubliner doesn’t know.

After what threatens to be too significant a detour into the stage performance, the movie opens up into a vital telling of Joyce’s life, focusing on “Ulysses,” filled with archival photos, discussions of its censorship controversy and visits to the places in the text. There’s even a film clip of Joyce and his wife Nora walking together on a city street.

Like many biographies, this one connects Joyce’s work and life, but in this case it’s an extremely valid and rich comparison. Joyce’s wife, Nora Barnacle, was the real-life model for Molly Bloom — at least, much of her earthiness and difficulty was.

Their romance and relationship, financial troubles and periods of profligacy, inform the very intellectual “Ulysses.” Adelson often returns to passages in the text to contrast with events in Joyce’s life, or illuminate the distance between his intellectual leaps and concerns of the everyday — including the difficulties getting the book published in America, which had strict censorship laws.

While many contemporary authors and thinkers appear in the film, the most consistent and welcome presence is Colum McCann. The Irish-born writer, who won America’s 2009 National Book Award for “Let the Great World Spin,” ties together the art of “Ulysses” with Joyce’s unequaled legacy and imperfect life.

People who are curious about “Ulysses” but know nothing at all about it should be warned that this film does include the final lines of the book. Not that it’s much of a spoiler — many who haven’t finished the book already know Molly Bloom’s speech at its end.

The film screens at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Laemmle Theaters: The Royal in Westwood, the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, the Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, the NoHo 7 and the Claremont 5.

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James Joyce Quarterly
In Bed with “Ulysses,” (review)

by Elizabeth Foley O’Connor  Vol. 49.2, Winter 2012,  pp. 386-90

Part performance video and part documentary, In Bed With “Ulysses” intersperses readings from James Joyce’s most famous novel with an in-depth exploration of both the author’s life and the tumultuous history of the work’s composition, publication, and reception. Beginning with a young Irish woman’s admission in a Dublin pub that she’s “never heard of” Ulysses, the eighty-minute film travels from Dublin to Pula, Trieste, Paris, Philadelphia, and New York, interviewing Christopher Cerf, Michael Groden, Colum McCann, and Edna O’Brien among many others in order to uncover why so many people are still in love with Joyce’s 1922 masterpiece.1 Throughout this odyssey, the film stresses that the novel should not be dismissed as “difficult” and relegated to scholars but instead has a wide appeal. Helen Monaghan, the former director of the James Joyce Centre, gives voice to this sentiment, stating, “Ulysses can be readby anyone even though it’s a difficult book. It’s not the type of book you’d lie down and read in bed.” Kathleen Chalfant, who portrays Molly Bloom in the staged readings, disagrees, avowing that “reading Joyce in bed is the best place.” Regardless of the optimal location, In Bed With “Ulysses” exudes a deep appreciation of Joyce’s insight into the human condition, especially the myriad complexities of love. The film’s evident affection for the novel and effortless charm make it worth watching both for those new to the novel and those who can recite passages by heart….
(full review)

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Hollywood Reporter
In Bed With Ulysses: Film Review

by Frank Scheck   June 20, 2013

The Bottom Line:  This documentary about Joyce’s classic is fascinating even for those who haven’t plunged into the depths of the notoriously difficult work.

Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna’s documentary recounts the history behind James Joyce’s classic, controversial novel.

“Why would I bother to read Ulysses?” once asked Nora Joyce, the wife of its famed author James Joyce. Sadly, that sentiment has been echoed by others countless times, as is made clear in the opening moments of In Bed With Ulysses, the new documentary by Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna currently receiving a limited theatrical release timed in conjunction with Bloomsday, the annual celebration of the novel.

“I just couldn’t get into it,” says a typical interview subject about the famously challenging work. Fortunately, this incisive documentary serves as a handy primer for the uninitiated, both to the book’s literary richness and the backstory behind its writing and controversy-laden publication.

Interweaving fascinating archival footage of Dublin in the early part of the twentieth century with interviews with scholars and authors as well as footage of a staged reading of selections from the work by several performers including acclaimed actress Kathleen Chalfant, the film details the history of the book inspired by its author’s tortured relationship with his wife, who once wrote a letter to him addressed “Dear Cuckold.”

Co-director Adelson, who also narrates, is the host for this cinematic journey that includes stops at Joyce Tower in Sandycove, the locale of the book’s opening section, and Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum, where he breathlessly examines pages from the original manuscript.

The film is most fascinating in its account of the book’s troubled publication history, which included the editors of the literary magazine that first published excerpts from it being charged with obscenity. The attempts to ban the book led to one of the most celebrated censorship cases in American legal history, with Random House eventually winning the case and publishing the book in 1934.

While the segments from the staged reading are unlikely to induce casual readers to suddenly immerse themselves in the massive tome, it does provide a sterling showcase for Chalfant, seen reciting portions of the famous Molly Bloom soliloquy while appropriately lounging in bed.

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Chicago Tribune
by Michael Phillips   January 18, 2013

“My husband wants me to go with other men so he’ll have something to write about,” the former Nora Barnacle said of her partner in life, James Joyce.

She didn’t go, as far as we know. But Joyce did, in fact, have much to write about: The reedy Irishman’s gnawing paranoia regarding his wife, among other factors, fed the seven-year creation of the novel “Ulysses,” whose protagonist, Leopold Bloom, is celebrated annually on “Bloomsday” with staged readings and other events worldwide, along with countless renewed vows to actually read the damned book — the most musical novel in existence — in its daunting entirety.

Consider the documentary “In Bed With Ulysses” a friendly nudge in that direction. It’s playing this week as part of the Siskel Film Center’s “Stranger Than Fiction” series. In a trim 80 minutes, directors Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna survey the whirling circumstances of Joyce’s creation, as the author dragged his family from country to country, mooching, making do, imagining Nora’s infidelities at every turn. Molly Bloom of the novel came straight out of Joyce’s conception of Nora — a fictional character based on a pre-fictionalized, taunting specter.

The novel, with so many obscenity charges and censorship battles ahead of it, was published in Paris by Shakespeare and Company bookstore owner Sylvia Beach in 1922. Random House won a key court battle in 1934 and suddenly Joyce, the disreputable smut-peddler, was on American bookshelves. “In Bed With Ulysses” does a brisk job of tracing the literary history. Rehearsals and a performance of a “Ulysses” staged reading, featuring actress Kathleen Chalfant (who originated “Wit” off-Broadway), provide the through-line here. And Bloom may well prove to be what “In Bed With Ulysses” says he is: as “eternal a character as Falstaff.”

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Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

“In Bed With Ulysses”
by Philip Hallman, University of Michigan  April 17, 2014

First published in serialized form in the American journal The Little Review beginning in 1918, James Joyce’s Ulysses was recognized immediately by artists and literati of the era as an important work and a major contribution to English language literature. Depicting the life of its main protagonist Leopold Bloom in a single day, June 16, the novel’s fragmented structure and use of the narrative convention coined stream of consciousness revolutionized world literature and solidified Joyce’s place in the canon of modernist literature. But for many, reading Ulysses is akin to scaling Mt. Everest or joining the mile high club—it’s something one hopes to do in a lifetime but few actually accomplish. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, the lengthy novel, which is said to contain a lexicon of some 30,000 words, is a difficult read. Filled with allusions, puns, side stories and lots of bawdy humor, the novel epitomizes the definition of modernism and has been called the greatest novel of the twentieth century, but reading it from cover to cover and understanding it can challenge even the most erudite reader.

Thankfully, In Bed with Ulysses, a clever and well-constructed new film by co-directors Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna, provides an intelligent visual primer for contemporary audiences and helps make accessible something that often can seem impenetrable. The film is constructed in two primary parts that continually intersect and overlap and feed off one another in clarifying who Joyce was and how his novel is constructed. The film vacillates between an inspired and spirited telling of Joyce’s life and marriage to his wife Nora with a staged reading of the novel in celebration of Bloomsday, the day the novel takes place. The filmmakers have mined rich archival sources in telling the narrative of Joyce’s life prior to the publication of the novel. The filmmaking is anything but conventional, with the camera moving and panning and images edited at a pace that keeps the viewer engaged as if this were a mystery tale. Traversing across Joyce’s native Dublin as well as continental Europe, the film documents locations that inspired Joyce and makes real for readers what Joyce himself lived. According to the film, Joyce poured his private life into Ulysses and this ability to see locations, such as the room Joyce lived in while writing, make the book come to life. It also tells the controversy surrounding the novel’s publication which lasted years and included numerous stops and starts, heroic publishers and battles with censorship boards. As a character in his own life, Joyce comes across as a troubled soul—a man who is at once a nomad, poor, tortured, alcoholic, nearly blind, continuously jealous and paranoid; he hardly seems “the genius” who wrote the greatest book of the past century. Throughout the legal troubles and personal battles and wars with Nora, what emerges most clearly is the human side of the man, warts and all. Works of great literature are written by real people, not machines, the film makes clear and the revelation of how various personal anecdotes found their way into the finished novel is further indication of the connection between art and life.

The second component of the film is a series of staged readings of the novel by a first-rate cast of seven performers lead by award-winning actress Kathleen Chalfant. Several recording of Ulysses have been produced over the years including one featuring Joyce himself, but the juxtaposition of Joyce’s life story with marvelous interpretations of the words from the novel by superb actors provides an opportunity for a richer appreciation of Joyce’s intent. Suddenly, one gets it. Hearing the words read aloud, the jokes are actually funny and make sense in a way they rarely did before. The film’s title is a reference to the long passage that concludes the novel—the main female character Molly Bloom’s thoughts while lying in bed next to her husband. In the novel, this section is notorious because it is written without punctuation, yet actress Chalfant’s performance manages to bring out the poetry and erotic tension and humor inherent in the writing. Her performance makes the words melodious and rich and gets under your skin in a way very few literary passages can. Together, the historical story of the novel along with the staged reading combine to give viewers confidence that they can tackle this giant ocean that seemed impossible to cross. In Bed with Ulysses inspires viewers to want to read the novel and finally understand for themselves what all the fuss is about. Highly recommended, particularly for academic libraries.

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Film Festival Traveler
Getting “In Bed with Ulysses”
by Laura Blum   31 May 2013

“Why would I bother to read Joyce?” is the cri de coeur from James Joyce’s wife that opens Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna’s engaging documentary In Bed with Ulysses. Free-thinking, uninhibited Nora Barnacle served as the model for Molly Bloom in Joyce’s masterwork Ulysses. Yet she would also come to feel that she was “in bed with a novel,” as we learn while the film reconstructs the seven-year saga behind the fiction and exposes how Joyce engineered marital drama for the sake of his art. Both muse and antagonist, the impassioned Irishwoman provided the love theme and the conflict of Joyce’s opus and, by extension, of this filmed annotation. Esteemed Joyceans including Ulysses publisher Syliva Beach, Irish novelist Colum McCann and actress Kathleen Chalfant advance the project through a mix of archival footage, sage commentary and staged readings. Along the way, we uncover such historical nuggets as Joyce’s decision to set his story in 1904, the year of the anti-Semitic riots that flared up in Limerick. Joyce chose protagonist Leopold Bloom because he wanted an outsider to enact his own role within Irish society, Adelson told at a screening at Manhattan’s Symphony Space in anticipation of Bloomsday, June 16. (Symphony Space will also show the film on June 2 and 9 at 8 pm.) “The theme and humanism of the novel are a scathing indictment of bigotry and intolerance,” Adelson explained.

Editor and co-director Taverna joined in for an exclusive conversation about the filmmaking duo’s creative affair with Ulysses.

Q: What made you want to bring Ulysses to today’s audiences?

AA: The drives that Joyce explores — male insecurity, the need to be relevant — foreshadow the enormous alienation which began in modern society in the 1960s and has lingered like a plague over our lives ever since. Bloom’s wanderings and his need to connect to human beings resonate eloquently. His humanity, his honesty, his compassion, his courtesy, his modesty, his flaws… make all other human beings’ lives easier.

Q: Including the lives of writers?

AA: Joyce set out to redefine to art form of fiction. He got his way, but at an enormous price.

Q: The price being…

AA: It took an enormous toll on his family and his health. He was going blind. He nearly went mad three times during the writing of the novel. His daughter was probably schizophrenic, if we apply contemporary diagnoses. His son became an alcoholic and had a very difficult time finding any place in the world as well. That tore the heart out out of James Joyce.

Q: How did the structure of the novel shape your filmmaking?

AA: We looked for points when the Joyces’ lives coincided with moments in the novel, because it is so autobiographical and because we wanted to follow parallel tracks with the novel and being at home with the Joyces.

Q: For example?

AA: On their first date, when they went down to Dublin Harbor, Nora put her hands into Joyce’s pants, which made a lasting impression. In the novel there’s a moment when Bloom is thinking of Molly’s hand on him the same way, and how wonderful it felt. We cut between narrating what happened on Jim and Nora’s first date with that passage in the novel. Those moments continued to provide us with the touchstones when the parallel tracks would intersect with
one another and speak to the way that Joyce built this novel out of his own love life.

Q: What else besides sex did Molly’s “yes” mean?

AA: I think she’s saying yes to life. She’s refusing alienation. She has lost a baby son. She’s had her husband at least half collapse; he’s no longer functional as much of a lover to her. And she has refused to, as she puts it, “get into the glooms” about that. Instead she has built a psychic life for herself that’s as fervent as any moment in modern literature with all of the associations that a sensual and intelligent woman can have.

Q: Nora’s intelligence has been a subject of some debate.

AA: She portrayed herself as highly anti-intellectual. Joyce more or less disdained her lack of intellectual interest. She was not much of a reader. It galled the piss out of Joyce that she never read Ulysses. She had heard that Molly Bloom is fat. She resented that. But she is passionately alive and an inspiration to all of us. “Yes indeed!”

Q: Which other women played critical roles in Joyce’s life?

AA: Wrapping around [the film’s the staged readings] like a double helix is the narrative about Joyce writing the novel, censorship and the seven women without whom that novel would be totally unknown today. He burned relationships, almost constantly, especially with men. The women hung on, and a number of them were quite wealthy, such as Harriet Shaw Weaver, who deplored her wealth and handed it on to a series of eye operations. Sylvia Beach was by no means wealthy, but she also basically opened up her finances. All four members of the Joyce family chronically stopped by [her Paris bookstore] Shakespeare & Company and took money out of the till. They were addicted to haute couture and Paris and living swell lives giving huge dinner parties. Jim was drinking like mad.

Q: What’s the drink of choice to take with your film?

AA: If you want to go the way Jim did, white wine.

Q: What’s the film’s big take-away?

KT: “Love loves to love love.”

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The Austin Chronicle
Bloomsday Confidential:  Under the covers with James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’
by Anne S. Lewis   June 7, 2013

In Bed With Ulysses is a quirky, 80-minute hosanna to the James Joyce novel (yes, that Ulysses), widely hailed as a game-changing 20th century Modernist masterpiece – though not a few have gone down trying to finish it. The book, written in a variety of allusive styles, including stream-of-consciousness, takes place in Dublin, on a single day – June 16, 1904 – in the life of one Leopold Bloom and his wife, Molly, each chapter loosely corresponding to the episodes of Homer’s Odyssey. Filmmaker Alan Adelson (1989’s Lodz Ghetto), who says he was “just a guy who loved the book” (one of those), was in the middle of producing a staged Ulysses reading for an annual Bloomsday celebration in New York, when his film editor wife, Kate Taverna, decided there was a film there that needed to be made and proceeded to make it happen.

The film kicks off with a cheeky quote from Joyce’s much-venerated wife, Nora Barnacle – “Why would I bother to read Ulysses?” – followed by the similarly dismissive, if less fraught, comments of a few Irish pubgoers as to the book’s readability and the size of its actual readership. From then on, we’re off on an Adelson-narrated exploration of the book seven tortuous years in the making, as its impecunious author pushed forward battling alcoholism, glaucoma, and the demands of his family of three. Also, there were the just-in-time, life-and-work-saving interventions of several female benefactors and finally the obscenity charges that led to the book being banned for years in the U.S. and UK. The tone and pacing of Adelson’s narration is a curiously mesmerizing blend of near-fawning reverence and factual exposition. Interspersed throughout the film are scenes from the staged Bloomsday reading he produced, with wonderful performances, including that of Kathleen Chalfant as Molly, as well as the talking-heads literary commentary offered by the likes of Edna O’Brien and various Joyce scholars. (The film’s title derives from Chalfant’s observation in the film that “Bed was the very best place to read Ulysses, especially Molly’s parts, because bed was where Molly spends her life.”)

The film will most certainly hit its stride with the population of Ulysses fans out there and – who knows? – might even galvanize those who’ve remained on the sidelines, lo these many years, to give it another go.

Austin Chronicle: OK, so why Ulysses?

Alan Adelson: In my capacity as the founder and executive director of Jewish Heritage, I was asked by the curator at the Center for Jewish History here in Manhattan to produce and direct readings related to Jewish literature. She said, “Do what you love.” I love Ulysses. I love it for Leopold Bloom. I love his compassion, his grace, his intelligence, his shortcomings, his loneliness, his need, his strength, compassion, generosity. I love his perception of the human condition. And I love the language with which Joyce presents all that.

AC: And what about your fascination with Joyce himself?

AA: A devilishly enticing character, especially when you can see him, and the movie uses so many photographer’s studies and snapshots of the man and his family. He was so conflicted, so idiosyncratic, such a user, and so attractive. It was great fun to follow how seven women, sometimes in tandem but usually seriatim, teamed up to make Ulysses possible. And I loved Joyce’s rebellious and innovative spirit. “He could not be contained, not by the mores of Ireland nor by the King’s English.” That’s from the narration.

AC: Why did you choose to structure the film the way you did, blending archival footage, dramatic readings, and talking heads? Did you consider other possibilities for telling the story you wanted to tell?

AA: We really followed our noses, like mice in a maze. We had the staged reading and a cake box full of script elements we formed and re-formed as we built the story. We wanted to use the readings from the novel to dramatize the actualities that seemed to work in building the Joyces’ characters and their story through the years he worked on the novel … and into its aftermath.

AC: What was your biggest challenge in making the film?

AA: Concision and story-shaping were our greatest challenges. There are libraries full of Joyce material. And the novel is a significant tome. We had a great deal to choose from. It took a lot of filtering and a lot of fiddling. I like that people are put at ease about reading the novel, and that they enjoy the film whether or not they’ve read it. I like that they are intrigued with the experience of being at home with the Joyces, and feel proud to have enjoyed the film … sometimes even relieved.

AC: I like the part at the beginning where people offer their candid feelings about the book Ulysses and the difficulties it presents to the reader. Do you worry that prospective viewers might avoid the film for the same reasons that some do the book?

AA: Yes, fear of flying with Joyce definitely looms over the fate of this film.  But it is getting a good play, audiences are loving it, and I think it’s going to have a lasting identity.

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by Joe Bendel   June 2011

In addition to its now universally acknowledged literary significance, the efforts to publish James Joyce’s Ulysses in the face of widespread censorship was the major publishing story of its day.  Actually, the novel’s publishing history is still unfolding.  Many scholars recently rejoiced when it along with most of Joyce’s early works went into the public domain, liberating them from what they considered an unreasonable and erratic estate executor.  It should make this year’s Bloomsday celebration quite lively.  Joyceans in Brooklyn will also be able to mark June 16th, that fateful day spent with protagonist Leopold Bloom, by attending the premiere theatrical engagement of Alan Adelson & Kate Taverna’s In Bed with Ulysses, which opens this Monday at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, irrespective of Stephen Joyce’s controversial stewardship.

Throughout Bed, Adelson and Taverna celebrate Joyce’s language, but not necessarily his personality.  Indeed, many leading Joyce scholars make no bones about the author’s self-centered neuroses.  They certainly do not make him sound like a particularly pleasant husband, plundering his relationship with wife Nora for his autobiographical novels, while bizarrely prodding her to justify his extreme jealousies.  Still, it provides good fodder for documentaries.

Fortunately, his work is something else entirely.  In staged readings of Ulysses, performed by established legit actors, including Kathleen Chalfant (known for the original New York production of Wit) reading in the Molly Bloom persona, the film luxuriates in the rhythms and ribald tartness of Joyce’s language.  While we do not hear anything to make the typical Brooklyner blush, there might be just enough to make a PBS broadcast, as is, a tad tricky.

All of the performers have a good feel for Joyce’s words and the archival images of 1904 Dublin that often accompany their readings give viewers a vivid sense of where the novel came from.  Adelson and Taverna also incorporate a fair amount of focused and on-point expert interviews, the most notable being novelist and Joyce biographer Edna O’Brien, an impressive literary figure in her own right.  Of course to nobody’s surprise, grandson-executor Stephen Joyce never makes an appearance.

In Bed with Ulysses is an easily digestible combination of Joyce biography and Ulysses crib notes, with fair servings of Irish history and theater arts mixed in.  Obviously, Irish cultural institutions should be very interested in the film, but its exploration of Bloom’s Jewish heritage and the extent to which Limerick’s 1904 anti-Jewish riots and boycotts informed the novel should expand the demographic audience considerably.  Yet, the Joyceans who continue to be intrigued by the literary icon’s revolutionary novels are the real target market.

Informative but never too heavy, In Bed with Ulysses is readily recommended for those who appreciate literary biography or looking for a way to ease into the somewhat intimidating novel.

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Library Journal
“In Bed with Ulysses”
by John Hiett, formerly with Iowa City P.L.  April 2014

Rendering James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) accessible to the common reader makes an ambitious task, so this film intercuts three approaches. First, as Joyce wrote about what he had lived, it offers a biography of Joyce (1882-1941) and wife Nora’s knotty relationship, often using vintage photos and footage. Second, we see both the rehearsal and the performance of a multi-character reading from the novel, stressing its humor and the flow of its language. Third, literary types discuss the book and the epic history of its composition, publication, censorship, and ultimate vindication. The filmmakers’ enthusiasm and beautiful montage are engaging. Kathleen Chalfant is a knockout reading Molly Bloom.
Those of us who have struggled with the novel need all the encouragement we can get.

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IAN Irish American News
“In Bed With Ulysses at Siskel in January”
by Frank West   January 23, 2013

The screenplay was written in 2012 by Alan Adelson, who co-directed the film, with Kate Taverna.

They produced an amazingly rich film that is accessible, understandable and entertaining. Its Chicago premiere will be at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

In the film, Irish novelist Colum McCann says of Joyce’s book that “Ulysses is one of the great marks of human history.”

In this interview, Alan Adelson will discuss why that is so. Other topics he will discuss are: how James Joyce changed literature; Joyce’s progressive views of society and women; and the relevance of the book for a happy life today.

Writer’s had always known that there was an unconscious aspect of the human mind. It wasn’t understood, but it was an accepted part of being human. It gave rise to parts of folklore, superstitions, religion and to unpredictable behavior of people. There were many attempts to explain this: the influence of gods, fate, etc.

About the unconscious Adelson says that Joyce’s great achievement was that “He gives his readers access to his characters’ unconscious thoughts.”He goes on to say “He gave voice to the unconscious.” Joyce accepted the unconscious but “didn’t try to explain it like Freud and Jung.”

Joyce’s giving voice to the unconscious fundamentally changed the form of literature. This was succinctly shown by Kathleen Chalfant who is an actor who takes a main part in the film. When she was asked why there are no clear ends to sentences in Ulysses, she replies “Joyce writes the way you think.” It seems simple, but it is very difficult to write like that. That is the profound change James Joyce brought to literature.

Joyce’s ideas about society were for advanced—even radical—for the time. (Ulysses was published in 1922.) He believed so strongly in them that he felt compelled to leave Ireland.

Some of the things he wanted are: Separation of church and state; social equality for men and women; and social respect for the difference between men and women. They are different, but equal. Joyce yearned for a society that encouraged kindness, understanding, and love—and discouraged animosity, hatred and hostility. In the film, novelist Edna O’Brien says of Joyce’s understanding of women: “Joyce’s tenderness with women and their feelings is uncanny.”

About this extraordinary understanding of women, the famous psychologist Carl Jung said: “The devil’s own grandmother may have known that much about the psychology of women. But I didn’t.”

The final topic discussed with Adelson is the relevance of the book for a full happy life today.

In a famous scene in a pub, the compassionate Bloom is confronted with hostility. He says “But it’s no use… Force, hatred… That’s not life for men and women, insult and hatred. It’s the very opposite of that is really life.” Later he is asked: “What is love?” He says “I mean the opposite of hatred…”

The great biographer, Richard Ellman says “If we consider the book as a whole, the theme of love will be seen to pervade it…

“IN BED WITH ULYSSES” will be shown at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. This is at Randolph and State, kitty corner from Macy’s.

It will be shown on January 18th at 6:15, January 19th at 3:15, January 23rd at 8:15 and January 24th at 6:00. For more information go to

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TimeOut Chicago
January   2013

Dirs. Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna. 2012. 80mins. Documentary. You’ve seen making-of docs on movies, but what about one on a novel? Adelson and Taverna explore the personal life and creative process of James Joyce, specifically during the time when he was writing Ulysses.

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My Eastern Shore MD
“Makers of ‘In Bed with Ulysses’ to screen film at WC

November 10,  2014

CHESTERTOWN — Filmmakers Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna will visit Washington College for a screening of their documentary, “In Bed with Ulysses,” at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, in Norman James Theater, William Smith Hall. Sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Lecture Series, the movie screening is free and open to the public. A Q&A session with the filmmakers will follow.

The book “Ulysses” is considered a great masterpiece by the author James Joyce. “In Bed with Ulysses” tells the personal story of Joyce as he battles marital insecurity, failing eyesight, alcoholism and other struggles to write a novel that would reinvent modern fiction.

Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, an assistant professor of English at Washington College and a Joyce scholar, reviewed the 2012 documentary for James Joyce Quarterly. “’In Bed With Ulysses’ exudes a deep appreciation of Joyce’s insight into the human condition, especially the myriad complexities of love,” she wrote. “The film’s evident affection for the novel and effortless charm make it worth watching both for those new to the novel and those who can recite passages by heart.” For more on the film, including a trailer, visit

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