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PostBloomsday 2021 (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 06/16/21 5:48 am)
I sent this text to a group of people I correspond with, one of whom is a born and bred Dubliner who lives "just down the street" from Paddy Moloney of the Irish traditional music group, the Dubliners. I thought I would pass it on in case you want to mark the day today--June 16th, "Bloomsday."
Here is the text:
Unfortunately, most of the Bloomsday celebrations today in Dublin are being performed virtually and not live.
Fortunately, however, the Irish government and others have released some wonderful videos on YouTube, of which two I thought were special enough to pass on to you.
The first one is highly creative and features people throughout the world reciting the first line of the novel. Kind of fun to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNU-RnBU0UU .
The second one begins with an introduction by the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, followed by seven other presentations. My favorites were (i) Brenda McSweeney reciting the last section of Joyce's "The Dead," which takes place in a hotel room in Dublin's Gresham Hotel, (ii) Eavan Gaffneys reciting Molly Bloom's monologue from Episode 18 of the novel, and (iii) a performance of the Irish folk song, "Siúil a Run." Eavan Gaffney gives a spirited and convincing performance, capturing the essence of Molly's character, I think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtbZfLmChZE .
Finally, although this BBC Special on the Irish Trad group, "The Chieftains," was released in February of this year, it certainly is worth a watch, especially since one of our own here, Joe Glynn, had the ultimate pleasure of spending time with Paddy Moloney and Matt Malloy in the DC Airport while waiting for their planes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVknWi9Li7E&t=152s .
Ar aghaidh, Pádraig
JE comments: Thank you for marking this landmark date in literary history, Pádraig! Now for the confessional: I have tried to read, but could not finish, Ulysses. Too wordy? Not enough attention-grabbing action? Call me hostile towards prolix, or perhaps I am hopelessly lowbrow.
So here's your Bloomsday assignment: have you actually read Ulysses, or just read about it? After we tackle this one, we'll raise the bar a few notches to Finnegans Wake.
Yes, I've Read "Ulysses"
(Patrick Mears, -Germany
06/18/21 7:58 AM)
Concerning John's question posed to WAISdom, viz., have you read Ulysses by James Joyce, my answer is "yes, twice."
My first read-through took place in in the early-2000s, when I was still living and practicing law in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Having read much about the novel before taking it on, I had enough sense to purchase two "guides" to assist me in my upcoming journey through a literary Hades.
These books were as follows: (i) The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses by Harry Blamires, and (ii) Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's Ulysses by Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman. At that time, my knowledge of Irish history and the geography of Dublin was larger that most other readers, but certainly not enough to have an idea of the identities and backgrounds of the people, places and things circa 1904, as described by Joyce. In fact, Joyce famously remarked that if Dublin "suddenly disappeared from the Earth, it could be reconstructed out of my book" (i.e., Ulysses). For more and better thoughts on the geography of Dublin on the historical Bloomsday (June 16, 1904), take a gander at this article from the Irish Times authored by a Senior Lecturer at University College Dublin published just before the Bloomsday celebrations in Dublin six years ago:
In any event, I found these two sources to be extremely helpful in obtaining a better understanding of the life and times of Dubliners during the waning days of British rule in the south of the island, although the use of these reference books extended my reading time significantly. Specifically, while consulting my copy of Ulysses Annotated during this first reading, I was amazed by Joyce's extensive knowledge of Irish music, which should have come as no surprise since he was during his time in Dublin before emigrating an accomplished tenor. My second time around with Ulysses was much better, which read happened about two years ago. By then, I had traipsed through almost all of Dublin twice over, and while doing so, I was on the lookout for places that had been mentioned by Joyce in the novel, e.g., Davy Byrnes Pub, 7 Eccles Street, and Glasnevin Cemetery.
One hint: if you are a Ulysses neophyte and plan to be in Dublin, you should consider making a deep dive into this knowledge (and not necessarily into the "Forty-foot" in Sandymount), by visiting the city on Bloomsday itself. If a Bloomsday visit can't be arranged, visit the James Joyce Centre at 35 North Great George's Street in Dublin and check out the various activities, lectures, programs and tours that you may avail yourself of. You won't be sorry that you took such a plunge.
JE comments: Pat, you're a scholar's scholar, and an embodiment of the twin WAIS ideals of worldly curiosity and lifelong learning. In the depths of my memory there's a famous cartoon (in the New Yorker?) of a woman at Shakespeare and Company, Paris, asking for a copy of Joyce's novel, then banned in the English-speaking world: Avez-vous Ulysses? I couldn't find the cartoon, but the search yielded a different one from the Guardian, which I like better: