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June 14, 2004

Bloomsday in Brooklyn

Due to a spirited discussion with a friend about James Joyce's dirty letters to Nora, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I should finally read Ulysses.

I have successfully avoided reading Ulysses for at least 12 years; however, now seems to be the moment. Twelve years ago, I had a partner who loved Joyce. Unfortunately, he also had a peculiar characteristic: uninfectious enthusiasm. He was singularly unable to share his interests, and also had a way of making one feel poorly read and inadequate to the task of appreciating (in this case) Joyce. (I say this as someone who went to graduate school in Renaissance Studies at Yale.)

Today, though, I'm 32, not 20. And he's my ex, not my partner. I re-read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man last week, and I loved it. When I read it in college, I liked the most straightforward narrative bits the most, and felt uncomfortable with the more lyrical passages. Upon rereading, I felt almost exactly the opposite -- the wordplay and experimentation and Joyce's obvious lust to describe all were thrilling, and I was a little disappointed when the prose was more, well, prosaic.

That's a fine state of mind for beginning Ulysses, I say! I'm armed with Don Gifford's Ulysses Annotated, and I happen to have just reread Hamlet, and I've got shelves full of Dante, so I think I'm about ready to go. I couldn't have chosen a more auspicious month: this Wednesday is the 100th anniversary of June 16, 1904, the date chronicled in Ulysses. I can barely open a magazine or a web page without reading something more about Joyce, about Dublin, about Jews in Ireland.

Here's another bit of serendipity: I made a new friend at Church of Craft fiber study last week. Her name is Amber, and she lives about eight blocks away from me in Windsor Terrace. How cool is that? Very. But it gets cooler still! She and her husband celebrate Bloomsday every year with a party. However, she's never read Ulysses, and has been thinking that really, she ought to. We're planning to read it together and discuss it as we go along -- and having a reading companion will clearly make this even more fun. I'm so pleased!

I'll post on how I'm doing, and I'd love to hear from any other Joyce fans in my small reading audience. Speak up!

Posted by Rose at June 14, 2004 10:54 PM


I LOVE both your URL and your blog name!

I am so envious of the Bloomsday party. I'd have thought I could find some Hot Joyce Action today, what with the University and all; no such luck (although they are hosting an open eight week minicourse, but that starts 6/24). If I were in Brooklyn or you were in Madison, we would have Guinness tonight and gossip about Joyce and yarn.

Did you see the movie trailer? (http://www.ulysses.ie) I don't like their casting of Buck Mulligan; it's too cartoonish. I see him looking more like Richard Burton or Matt Cook.

Posted by: Miriam at June 16, 2004 01:55 PM

I read Ulysses in my college Anglo-Irish Literature course. It was taught by my BA advisor whom I adored. He had infectious enthusiasm for Joyce and a way of pointing out all the silly and dirty parts that took all the stuffiness out of it. Enjoy. I find I've picked up and reread the first few chapters several times over the years. I always enjoy it but am never braced enough to make it all the way back through.

Posted by: Jessica at June 16, 2004 07:47 PM