Bloomsday is June 16. That is the day, in 1904, that James Joyce went out with the love of his life, Nora Barnacle. That is the day Joyce immortalized in Ulysses, the odyssey of an ordinary man’s daily round in Dublin.
In 1954, certain Irish publicists decided to have a 50th anniversary celebration and Bloomsday, as an event, was born. For many years there have been attempts to celebrate this day but many were thwarted by Stephen Joyce, grandson and legal representative of James Joyce’s copyrights.
Stephen was a twat. I use the past tense because he may have reformed, oh, yesterday, or an hour ago, or something, and I don’t want to imply that the man is forever damned because he was, for years, a twat. This is Catholic country and forgiveness for all, including child molesters and twats, is possible.
At one point Stephen used his control of copyright to bar public readings from his grand-dad’s work — unless he was paid a hefty fee — but now Joyce’s work is in the public domain and Dublin rejoices (so to speak).
This Bloomsday began yesterday (by my time) with an internationally broadcast reading of Ulysses and will continue until all participants are so thoroughly soused that they cannot perform any longer. Stephen must be shitting bricks thinking of the lost revenues.
Well, but that is now and next year may be different — who knows what crap the copyrighters will throw at us. Why, I might be forced to delete this post.
Meanwhile, for those who are interested, I recommend the comic Ulysses Seen by Throwaway Horse, a publisher that specializes in comic versions of important stuff — like Eliot’s “The Wasteland” or an account of the Trojan War. Throwaway Horse has recently teamed with Dublin’s Joyce Centre to reproduce Ulysses Seen.
This comic reproduces Joyce’s words and illustrates them. It is an excellent introduction to Ulysses for those who want to know how to read the book. I found the illustrations for Part One very illuminating — I did not know of a Martello Tower before, much less that it was the location where stately, plump Buck Mulligan invoked divinity, just as Homer had invoked the Goddess. There are copious notes and explantions for every page. The Tower in question is the site of other Bloomsday activities.
There is another entire section, “Calypso”, Part Four of Ulysses that is illustrated on the site and includes interesting interpretations of Bloom’s visit to the privy (with a copy of a paper that prints a rejected Joyce manuscript to wipe his ass) and the painting over Molly’s bed. More is said to follow, though don’t hold your breath: this is a long term project. (part of Section Two, “Nestor” and Section Five, “Lotus [sic] Eaters” are available.)