This novel has a story, after all. The date is June 16, 1904. The setting is Dublin. And the hero is Leopold Bloom—a devoted husband to his wife Molly, with whom he has one daughter. Jewish by race, Christian by baptism, and atheist by inclination, Bloom is really a believer in reason and science: he is the everyman of the democratic twentieth century. He works in the newspaper world as an advertising salesman. Calmly he goes about his business on this sunny day in June—cooking breakfast, attending a funeral, having lunch, negotiating with a client, sitting on the beach—wandering in Dublin, just as Ulysses once wandered in the Mediterranean during his long journey home.
The difference is that this Ulysses is avoiding his home: for he knows that Molly has an appointment that afternoon with the dapper Blazes Boylan—ostensibly to discuss a singing tour, but probably to consummate their flirtation. And so he pauses in pubs and bars, encountering a cast of kibitzers and schlemiels that includes, in particular, Stephen Dedalus, student of philosophy, with dreams of literary glory, whom the avant-garde reader would remember from A Portrait of the Artist, just as that reader would recognize many characters from Dubliners, Joyce’s collection of short stories.
"It's Still a Scandal!," by Adam Thirlwell, NYRB (4/23/15)
You CAN summarize Joyce's Ulysses. This is the best one I've seen, and now I want to reread the book.