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Global Bloomsday
June 16, 2013 8:55 PM   Subscribe

For the first time, James Joyce's Ulysses will be read around the world in one day. Today. Which is Bloomsday. The reading, organized by the James Joyce Centre, draws upon volunteers from 25 countries. Previous readings of the book include the excellent RTE (Irish public radio) version from 1982, now made freely available. And a short excerpt read by Joyce himself.
posted by storybored (29 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
...and for those wanting to follow along: How to Read James Joyce's Ulysses (and why you should avoid guides like this one).
posted by storybored at 9:00 PM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're going to read Joyce and sync it with one revolution of the planet then Finnegans Wake would be a better choice because you could have one part of the planet saying "A way a lone a last a loved a long the..." just in time for the next part of the planet to say "leading us back to 'riverrun, past Eve and Adam's...". And the whole thing would keep going around and around.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:18 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't quite understand how this one book falls into the list of weird 21st century obsessions. Of course, I've never finished it, and have never undertaken a tertiary level english lit class, and I do understand its general importance in the canon, but why all the special hullabaloo? there are many other works of similar importance that remain far more obscure outside the literary world.
posted by wilful at 10:04 PM on June 16, 2013


poor dog's body (I am not shamed)
posted by coolxcool=rad at 10:43 PM on June 16, 2013


If you are ever in Victoria, Ulysseys fans, the university has recently discovered their archive includes a rare copy of the work that was pirated in a US magazine Two Worlds Monthly. There are other copies but they are usually microfilm or similar.
posted by chapps at 10:45 PM on June 16, 2013


In the reading he didn't have an irish accent at all to my ears. Was that common in the early 1900's?
posted by macrael at 10:50 PM on June 16, 2013


The head coach really wants no sissies.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:55 PM on June 16, 2013



I don't quite understand how this one book falls into the list of weird 21st century obsessions. Of course, I've never finished it, and have never undertaken a tertiary level english lit class, and I do understand its general importance in the canon, but why all the special hullabaloo? there are many other works of similar importance that remain far more obscure outside the literary world.


read it
its like this vast treasure chest of perfect sentences and ideas
read it in a class, like i did
read it alone
carry it around on Bloomsday and mark down where you are as the day goes on
go to a Bloomsday reading. my local one is great. there's Irish music, and in the surreal Night Town chapter they assign roles to everyone in the pub and we all read our parts and its just joyous

everyone has their favorite bit, but i'm young and i can't get past Proteus, and there's one sentence that i'm obsessed with:

"Beauty is not there. Nor in the stagnant bay of Marsh's
library where you read the fading prophecies of Joachim Abbas. "

its almost a magickal ritual, matching the words with the time they are set
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:03 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


No mate you've missed my point. Your statements could apply to a number of major works (and I'm certainly not denying it's a major work). But why this one particularly? Is it truly the greatest, the paragon, the perfect novel?
posted by wilful at 11:46 PM on June 16, 2013


Don't call me 'mate', and yes, yes it is. It contains pretty much everything, and diagrams the 20th century through the lens of two people, but isn't tied down to those two people. it roams across time and space and layers of metaphorical meaning, and turns a man helping a drunk into his house into astronomical speculations
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:48 PM on June 16, 2013


Mate, you're providing fuel for my idea that this is just one of modern life's little jokes, and that tribalism and identity are what is important here, more than the art itself.
posted by wilful at 12:02 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why this one?

Lots of reasons. First of all, there's the book itself. As noted by others above, it's ground-breaking, brilliant, funny, challenging.

It was also a turning point in the literature/pornography debate. Initially banned in the US, the court case allowing publication made the US therefore became the first English-speaking country where the book was freely available, and paved the way for Lady Chatterly's Love and other books that included sexuality.

Additionally, the fact that all the action takes place on a single day, makes it somewhat unique, and encourages that particular day to be appropriated for its celebration.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:09 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]



Mate, you're providing fuel for my idea that this is just one of modern life's little jokes, and that tribalism and identity are what is important here, more than the art itself.


Well, 'maaaayyytteee', you're just upholding the stereotype of anti-intellectuals who Just Don't Get It.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:15 AM on June 17, 2013


I suspect it works better aloud. Thank you for the heads up I shall have a listen as part of my ongoing quest to understand books that those with subject specific education rave about but which leave me unmoved.
posted by BenPens at 12:59 AM on June 17, 2013


tribalism and identity are what is important here, more than the art itself

This is a complicated sentence! Sometimes art is supported by tribalism and identity, and I don't really have any problem with that. Music is the big example of this. As an Irish person living in Dublin, the book is, for me, massively immersive in its local identity. It is a great exposition of the ordinary man and woman, but the ordinary man and woman living here, most specifically. It is deeply exciting to read something that is, at the one time, so broad and so local. In this case, the tribalism is not so much invoked by slapping one another's backs as we exchange quotes in the pub, but more the simple act of taking a walk on Sandymount, and the common frame of reference that arises from that common experience. It's a lot easier to feel the story of the everyman when you share streets with that everyman.

I don't mean to suggest Dubs have any ownership over the work. Just that, you know, it's not surprising we celebrate its plotday. But don't go reading it on our account or anything. I'll leave it to others to defend it academically. I just think that identity is a perfectly respectable component of my larger appreciation for the book.
posted by distorte at 1:05 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the reading he didn't have an irish accent at all to my ears. Was that common in the early 1900's?

To me he has a very discernible Irish accent, but I understand what you mean. It is true that the accent has changed a lot in the last 100 years, and his accent would be typical of an educated Irish person of that time, albeit with a Dublin undercurrent to it. A bit more Anglo, which is something that's changed slowly over the years. If you listen to Irish newscasters from the '40s, '50s, '60s: the "well-spoken" Irish accent had a distinct English quality to it. This had just about disappeared by the '80s, to my ears. Since then the privately-educated Irish accent has morphed into something else entirely.
posted by distorte at 2:55 AM on June 17, 2013


Mate, you're providing fuel for my idea that this is just one of modern life's little jokes, and that tribalism and identity are what is important here, more than the art itself.

Well, I have a group reading Borges, but our library is too big to find our meeting room, half our members are fictional and I suspect the rest are me.
posted by ersatz at 3:11 AM on June 17, 2013 [18 favorites]


I don't quite understand how this one book falls into the list of weird 21st century obsessions. Of course, I've never finished it, and have never undertaken a tertiary level english lit class, and I do understand its general importance in the canon, but why all the special hullabaloo? there are many other works of similar importance that remain far more obscure outside the literary world.

1. Because it's not a "21st-Century obsession". People have been celebrating this since 1954, when an artist and a novelist organized a re-enactment/pub crawl for themselves and some friends. It snowballed from there.

2. Because the book itself is a recreation of the events of this same day, June 16th in 1904, in the lives of Joyce's characters - and also in the life of Dublin. It's the same impulse that is leading people to start weblogs where they repost entries from Samuel Pepys' diary in succession or twitter feeds that report on the events of World War II in "real time". The events of the book are very much tied to time and place, and that often inspires people to "recreation".

3. Because - when you finish it - you'll find that it's damn good in a pleasantly head-blowy way.

---

Speaking of finishing it, though - I know I've told this story once, but. I went to the James Joyce center last time I was in Dublin; it was the middle of January, so I pretty much had the place to myself, and the owner - an older man I learned later who was one of Joyce's nephews - pretty much left me to myself. But at some point he found me outside in a courtyard, taking a picture of a mural depicting some of the scenes from the novel. He asked if I was a student. No, I said I was just a tourist. He asked if I was a fan of the book itself.

"I...I've tried reading it, but haven't actually finished," I confessed. He reassured me that well, no worries, it is a dense book and most people have a hard time getting all the way through it the first time. "Yeah, but," I said, "I've tried four times now and haven't been able to get through."

He burst out laughing. "Ah, darlin,'" he finally said, "it took me TWELVE tries!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:08 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Argh. WE keep meaning to organize one of these readings and then we forget until the next Bloomsday. We've been to two and they were great experiences on their own. I think we could do it better, with food and music and stuff.
posted by Miko at 7:13 AM on June 17, 2013


No mate you've missed my point. Your statements could apply to a number of major works (and I'm certainly not denying it's a major work). But why this one particularly? Is it truly the greatest, the paragon, the perfect novel?

I've read the whole damn thing, and I felt that its excesses were tiresome. Many of them are grounded in humor and even educational concepts of the time for which we no longer have the proper context (and I'd argue that guides are no substitute; we're meant to be grounded in the same culture as Joyce). There are some very good bits, some lines and chapters that sing like poetry, but there are also very bad bits. Of course, I read it in a grad school class, taught by a Joyce scholar who talked about how Joyce loved to put in stuff to keep the scholars guessing. And I think that's a lot of it. It feels like a puzzle to be solved, and when and if you untangle it--or even read it--you feel very clever. But I'm not sure that it's great as a cohesive work, though I know it's sacrilegious, or whatever, to say so.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does it have to be the Best Novel Ever to be worth celebrating?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:41 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


But why this one particularly? Is it truly the greatest, the paragon, the perfect novel?

It's not a zero-sum game, you know. If you think you could have more fun organizing a ten-day romp through the Tuscan hills to pay homage to The Decameron, you're welcome to do so, and I bet the tourism board of Florence would be very happy if you did.

People don't do Bloomsday because The World Has Empirically Declared that It Is The World's Best Novel, people organize Bloomsday events because there is a critical mass of Ulysses fans that have gotten off their ass and done something about it. Similarly, Towel Day exists not because The World Has Declared That Hitchhiker's Guide Is The Best Book Ever, it exists because of a critical mass of fans that decided to do something about it.

If you like another book better, nothing's stopping you from getting off your ass and organizing your own thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the link to Joyce himself reading, which I had never heard before.

Anthony Burgess, possibly Joyce's most ardent fan, only ever read Ulysses straight through one time, but carried on reading it for the rest of his life - as I have done.
posted by Major Tom at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2013


But I'm not sure that it's great as a cohesive work, though I know it's sacrilegious, or whatever, to say so.

I agree, and I've attempted to read it once, and finished reading it once. Maybe some day I'll do it again. I enjoy lines from it, but I don't think of it as a book that's greater than the sum of its parts.
posted by ChuckRamone at 10:53 AM on June 17, 2013


People don't do Bloomsday because The World Has Empirically Declared that It Is The World's Best Novel, people organize Bloomsday events because there is a critical mass of Ulysses fans that have gotten off their ass and done something about it.

We're not even massive Ulysses fans. It's possible to do Bloomsday because you like literature and language and the language is just fantastic to listen to. It really doesn't have to be the great World Novel to merit that. It's just delightful amazing fun to read aloud and to hear.
posted by Miko at 11:12 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Its also possible to love that book, and to resolutely not do Bloomsday, especially if you live in Dublin. Recommended.
posted by stonepharisee at 11:23 AM on June 17, 2013


Disclosure: I was part of the five-member reading team representing Ottawa. Woo! Like Miko, I'm not in it for World's Greatest Literature, more at having fun. Perhaps I'm overstepping but maybe Joyce would have appreciated people having gobs of fun with his book rather than getting into the ponderous wood thickets of symbolism and Top 100 lists.

I agree with PhoBwan about cohesion. Ulysses is not the perfect onion. It's more like a wacky bento box - in one compartment a perfectly delicious creme caramel, in another a squeaky lasagna, next to a tidy regiment of cinammon pita chips, behind a WTF-is-that-no way-I'm-putting-that-in-my-mouth.
posted by storybored at 11:42 AM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]



We're not even massive Ulysses fans. It's possible to do Bloomsday because you like literature and language and the language is just fantastic to listen to. It really doesn't have to be the great World Novel to merit that. It's just delightful amazing fun to read aloud and to hear.


To be honest, its also possible to love Bloomsday because you want to get drunk in an Irish pub with a room full of strangers and listen to fiddle music and be around people who are just purely charged up on literature. And hey, you'll get to hear people reading it, which will help you understand what's so great about it.

There are also so few works that are so strongly tied to one time and place, so by recreating that day you can take part in the ritual, somehow.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:54 PM on June 17, 2013


The pub part goes without sayin'!
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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