dive right the fuck in. I read Ulysses before i read portrait and dubliners, and I don't feel I missed anything i would have noticed had i read them first, If anything, it will blow you away when you go back and read his other work to see how drastically conventional he can be. Ulysses is incredible and you will not regret it. Just dive in and drown and don't go worrying about not understanding it. Bask in the beauty and let your mind wander. Joyce can guide you in and out of your thoughts so well that you might think he was writing you all along.
>I'm on a roll with my hot argumentation
>mowin' 'em down
>makin' way for discussion
>havin' a point
>findin' images with palm trees
2. portrait of the artist as a young man
4. finnegans wake
This is the proper way to do it. His four great novels all exist in the same setting, and there is a lot of intertextuality between them; they are pretty much sequels which should be read in order.