Sunday, June 14, 2009


Tuesday, June 16, is BLOOMSDAY celebrated in Dublin, Ireland, and throughout the world. It relives the events of Leopold Bloom---the protagonist in James Joyce's masterpiece novel ULYSSES. The novel's story line takes place in one day on June 16, 1904, in Dublin.

This was the only novel that rendered me completely awe-struck. I was first wholly introduced to ULYSSES in the 60's, and have carried a flaming torch for it since then. I own three copies of this book---one is an older hardcover copy, and my wonderful son when on a trip through Ireland stopped by at the Joyce museum and bookstore, and sent me all kinds of books, pamphlets, pictures, AND a T-shirt. Good boy.

I remember way back when a friend of mine had a copy of ULYSSES before I did. He showed me the end of the novel, being Molly's stream of consciousness soliloquy, and its complete lack of any punctuation. I took the book from him and read it in amazement---all day! I was ducking him all day long between classes, and during lunch, but he cornered me at the end of day and I had to hand it over. Yes, I did, Yes, Yes, Yes.

ULYSSES is probably the most important, as well as the best novel ever written; yet not many people have actually read it---or actually read through it. It's a difficult book to follow and understand. I get hopelessly lost in some areas of the novel where I'm not that sure to what he's referring. However, there are great guides now outlining in detail the chapters. And the writing is beyond wondrous, they say Joyce uses several styles of writing in this novel.
I love the opening chapter in Martello Tower with Buck Mulligan. There's a really funny banter going on between the characters.
The scene where Stephen Dedalus teaches the boys in school, a very sad and boring day in school(I could identify).
Stephen's walk along the beach thinking about his now dead mother and other matters.
Blooms appears buying some kidney. his breath having a tinge of urine on it.
This is excellent stuff. But then you get to the NIGHTTOWN scene where things change to a hallucinatory stage, and the writing gets creative and exciting.
I love the question and answer scene near the end of the novel where the narration is pulled back to examine both Bloom and Stephen in their drunken antics. The end is Molly(Penelope)in her stream of consciousness. Yes.

I love this book. It's sheer genius.

Joyce's DUBLINERS is a collection of 15 stories centering around the characters of Dublin. They are excellent stories which makes for quite an enjoyable reading experience. One story THE DEAD was made into a great movie by John Huston. I remember when it first came out, the producers of this movie wanted John to change the title because they thought the American people would think it was a zombie movie. John Huston refused, good man.

Joyce wrote FINNEGAN'S WAKE after ULYSSES. FINNEGAN'S WAKE is unreadable, it really is. No matter how much you study the themes, check the guides, read the scholarly reviews, you can't follow this novel---I can't anyway. Joyce was into avant-gard techniques that drastically limit readership. But it's still considered a major novel in English literature.

So, on Tuesday, lift a pint to Bloom and his day; lift a pint to Joyce too.

Next: TV vrs Books

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bernie, I'm happy to find out you are a fellow Joycean. I have 16 copies of Ulysses but only because I'm bit obsessive. I hosted a little Bloomsday evening at St. Pat's Church Museum in Sydney on the 16th and if i had known you were such a fan I would have issued a special invitation. Anyway, consider this your invitation for next year's celebration; maybe you can even read a favorite selection. Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blogs. Ken Chisholm