Having enjoyed The Dubliners, I approached A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man with some enthusiasm, only to be disappointed. Even with heavy reliance on copious endnotes, only the beginning and ending of the novel was cohesive and comprehensible.
I concede that a reader thoroughly acquainted with the geography, history, politics and theology of Dublin may have achieved understanding, but for me the novel was a two-dimensional patchwork of meaning. Events and conversations at high school and university remind me of a radio play frequently overwhelmed with static interference. No character other than Stephen comes alive.
In reading Virginia Woolf, Arundati Roy and most of Henry James, I've encountered nothing so cryptic, although James's The Awkward Age comes closest. Ulysses was a 'must read', but is no longer.