June 16…
June 16, 2019 9:19 AM   Subscribe

is Bloomsday! Bloomsday is a celebration that takes place both in Dublin and around the world. It celebrates Thursday 16 June 1904, which is the day depicted in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning.

Ulysses full text from Project Gutenberg.

On Leopold Bloom, from the Ulysses Project.

Ulysses: Good or Bad? 21 Famous Writers and One Famous Psychoanalyst Weigh In

How are you celebrating Bloomsday today?
posted by Ahmad Khani (43 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
As much as Joyce is my favorite writer, I will not be starting my day by eating a kidney.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:21 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Where I live, it is unfortunately difficult to get anyone to take Boomsday seriously because there already is a Bloomsday which is something else entirely different.
posted by hippybear at 9:25 AM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

instead of celebrating bloomsday this year i've decided to just have elaborate and incomprehensible dreams about the cyclical structure of time and history, punctuated by the occasional hundred-letter word.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:06 AM on June 16, 2019 [12 favorites]

instead of celebrating bloomsday this year

Hey, remember that time a screaming came across the sky?
posted by hippybear at 10:09 AM on June 16, 2019 [10 favorites]

"yes i said yes i will yes" better get in here and comment
posted by French Fry at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2019 [9 favorites]

I'll be participating in the annual riverrun. You all know the route.
posted by pracowity at 10:14 AM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Was on the fence about whether I should read Ulysses until I read the Good or Bad link and saw Franzen was against.
I haven’t actually read any of Franzen’s work
D.H. Lawrence would be pleased that he is no longer spoken of in the same breath as Joyce. Had to look him up.
posted by rodlymight at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

"yes i said yes i will yes" better get in here and comment

Spoiler alert!
posted by chavenet at 10:22 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

My Bloomsday celebration begins and ends with Kate Bush.
posted by mykescipark at 10:23 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

My Bloomsday celebration begins and ends with Kate Bush yt .

Yes, but did you know about the Director's Cut of that song, which exists because Kate got permission from the Joyce estate to use the actual words from the novel?

(I prefer the original version of the song, personally.)
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

My family went to Dublin one year for Bloomsday, where we discovered that the Rosenbach Museum, near where we live in Philadelphia, also has a Bloomsday reading, AND actually has the manuscript of Ulysses in their collection. So my mom and brother and I made it a tradition to visit the Rosenbach every Bloomsday for a little while, but we haven't made it lately.

There's something I really love about the holiday and Joyce in general even though I've perpetually never finished reading Ulysses >_>
posted by elsilnora at 10:32 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

There are multiple audiobooks of Ulysses available for free on YouTube and possibly other sources, as well as many for purchases. Perhaps that's a better way to finish reading it.

(I had to use an audiobook to get me through Pynchon's Against The Day, which I'd started and failed on 4 times previously in book form. I will admit, I'm glad I finished it. I will also admit, I haven't listened to an audiobook since then. It sort of broke me.)
posted by hippybear at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

A recording of James Joyce reading from Aeolus.
posted by notyou at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Happy Bloomsday everyone. I took Ulysses as a course in college, didn't finish it and got virtually nothing that I can remember from the course. But years later, after I had become a better reader, I read it in its entirety with help from several companion books and I found it to be the rich and rewarding experience I had hoped it would be, I have since read it through a second time and it remains among my favorite books. I do hope to get to Dublin on the day some year.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:51 AM on June 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

I will thank Joyce for resolving Wilde's dialectic by showing how gutters are full of stars, how stars, when we look at them, are framed by gutters, and how this is a rich, complex, interesting way for things to be.
posted by ckridge at 11:04 AM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Happy Bloomsday!
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 11:06 AM on June 16, 2019

The little known Bloomsday celebration in Brooklyn is one of my favorite days of the year. It always takes place on the Saturday closest to Bloomsday and is basically a pub crawl with readings, some songs and a bagpiper, but I have learned a lot from the readings. I still have not finished the book.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:07 AM on June 16, 2019

I read it to show off how smart I was, when I was about 17. I don't really remember if I actually enjoyed reading it, or if the point was just to know that I had done it. But I had read Portrait and Dubliners, and I really loved those, so maybe I am being too hard on my youthful self.
posted by thelonius at 11:08 AM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

It’s a magnificent book, I think, but you are well within your rights to dislike it or ignore it. It’s still there.

Why are we supposed to decide if it is “good” or “bad?” What will that accomplish?
posted by argybarg at 11:29 AM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I second hippybear's recommendation that you should listen to it. Hearing the Irish accent really helped me. I got a lot out of Don Gifford's Ulysses Annotated. Some parts of it are impenetrable and frustrating, some parts rude or hilarious, and some parts glorious and beautiful, see above:
"and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again
yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and
first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could
feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and
yes I said yes I will Yes."
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:44 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Back in the days when I worked at a for a large company that dealt with housing loans, one June 16th the first loan appraisal package I received to work on was that of a "Molly Bloom". I was of course delighted and tried to share that pleasure with others only to find appreciation of Joyce didn't extend very far in the world of financing. After asking around, only one woman understood the reference, replying to my assertion of it being a wonderfully strange coincidence with Yes I agree yes it is yes.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:51 PM on June 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

For a long time, I used to go to bed early...to read Ulysses. I've read it one-and-a-half times and not in many years, but I still claim it as a favorite book because it is just so insanely hermetic and accessible at the same time (Finnegans Wake: hold my beer), and it turned upside-down my understanding of what a novel could be.

Decades ago, I used to go with my then-wife to McSorley's on Bloomsday and eat cheese and onions and drink their ale. It was an Irish establishment that wasn't twee about it or depressing like the old-man bars elsewhere in The City and, so, struck me as a good place to celebrate the day.

But, yeah, nthing those who think it's a worthwhile, rewarding read. For all the "intellectual" baggage with which it's been freighted over the century, it's still an exemplar of a great high-low art blend.
posted by the sobsister at 3:10 PM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

One day, I hope to go to Dublin on Bloomsday. I love Ulysses and my copy is worn and tired. I'd like to say to younger MeFites out there, that at this point in history we have read so much that is influenced by Ulysses, that what seemed radical once is just plain reading today. If you like Durrell or Miller you will be fine with Ulysses, if you like the Beat poets, you'll be fine. If you like Rushdie or Austen or Murakami you'll be fine.
After writing this I notice I have only mentioned male writers, which is weird because I probably read more female writers. I'll have to think about that. Actually, I know several Danish female authors who are influenced by Joyce, so maybe it's to do with international distribution.
posted by mumimor at 3:32 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I guess this is where I start to write a comment about my experience of reading Ulysses and then don’t because I am also reminded of how personal and private the experience of reading a novel can be for me.

The ineluctable modality of the read...
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 5:15 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Woolf wasn't influenced by Joyce, but they use a lot of the same technique. She, of course, is never squalid, vulgar, or sprawling, but throws her mind out into the world the same way. She also writes the key to his work: "An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me; the book of a self taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, and ultimately nauseating." Should you be a self-taught worker, there can be no higher recommendation. Virginia makes her world beautiful, but you can't go there. Joyce makes the available world interesting and intricate.
posted by ckridge at 5:24 PM on June 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

Since everyone keeps quoting the last words, here are the first:
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
-- Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:
--Come up, Kinch. Come up you fearful jesuit.

posted by dannyboybell at 5:25 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Woolf wasn't influenced by Joyce...
That's...not at all the consensus opinion, as far as I can tell.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:30 PM on June 16, 2019

I worked father's day in the kitchen which is like huffing whip cream.

So Leopold....He “ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

Yeah, hencods I had to google.
posted by clavdivs at 6:15 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Woolf's reflexive dislike of Ulysses was always annoying to me, but, ultimately, a question of taste. But I've seen that quote, and her class hatred is one reason why, though I've admired some of her work--Mrs Dalloway, Orlando--I find her insufferable in other ways: "It is underbred, not only in the obvious sense, but in the literary sense" Ugh.
posted by the sobsister at 6:26 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

It is not my place to speak badly of Woolf. She overcame things I could not have to do things I cannot. People are allowed to be finite, and that entails being wrong sometimes. She was a hero. That is enough.

Also, if she had a shred of wit and a tiny bit of ambition, Joyce must have given her a little shiver of dread. You are moving up through the pack, and then suddenly Jesus what even is that?
posted by ckridge at 6:50 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely

I once sat on those very stairs and read that passage aloud, although not on Bloomsday.
I must have been insufferable as a teenager.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:15 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

For some reason, rather than take Ulysses off the shelf and read some of it today, I read a good chunk of Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote, which I'm enjoying quite a bit, as well as a prose poem, if that's the right term for it, by João da Cruz e Sousa. I like to think Joyce would've appreciated my choices, but who knows.

I'll make it up to him by making a little more progress Finnegans Wake tonight before bed. It took Joyce 17 years to write it, and it's only taken me 17 years to get about halfway through it.
posted by heteronym at 7:20 PM on June 16, 2019

There's a passage in Virginia Woolf's Diary describing hanging out at the offices of Hogarth Press with one of her literary pals (Katherine Mansfield(?)), and pulling a manuscript out of a drawer, taking turns reading aloud from it and laughing at it, until Mansfield turned suddenly thoughtful and said something like 'you know, there's really something to this'.

The manuscript was Joyce's Ulysses, and Hogarth rejected it.
posted by jamjam at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is my favorite piece of writing ever done about Ulysses, and the act of reading Ulysses, and so fort.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:30 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think one of the better outcomes of the internet is having an html-mouseover-annotated version at hand.

I am still not gonna read it tyvm.
posted by not_on_display at 10:12 PM on June 16, 2019

She, of course, is never squalid, vulgar, or sprawling [...] Virginia makes her world beautiful, but you can't go there

YMMV but while she's definitely not vulgar I absolutely find Woolf capable of writing sprawling, accessible worlds. Like the way she describes Clarissa Dalloway walking around the city on a fresh morning and being overcome with an expansive joyfulness towards her fellow Londoners is stuck in my head forever:

“For having lived in Westminster—how many years now? over twenty—one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can't be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”

Touches a nerve just as much as Molly Bloom's soliloquy for me, anyway.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:46 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Declan Kiberd's Ulysses and Us (Irish Times, Guardian) went a long way towards making the book more accessible for me.
posted by kersplunk at 10:52 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Likeing Ulysses or not is a kind of litmus test - I tend to think if you didn’t like it you’re a moron but to really get at what -exactly- ‘didn’t like it’ means is the real question. If you didn’t like anything about it at all then you likely are a moron (whether or not I’d point that out, I’ll assume that) but if you just find the fluctuating style the thing you hate or the ‘impenetrable’ language a problem... then we’re on reasonable footing. Or if you appreciate it, (style language etc) but just don’t like it, I can work with that as well.

I was in Dublin not that long ago and wanted to go once around Nelson’s pillar only to find it had been replaced by a pin. Which was kind of great, and apt. The whole novel was written in exile and in a way the Dublin therein was no longer ‘real’ Dublin but a thoroughly recreated Dublin - a conceptual Dublin. So I walked around the pin, pretending to be in a carriage - I would have felt like an ass but no one knew what the hell I was doing so it didn’t matter, but it was a hilarious moment (for me) of being in the locus of this momentous book’s but at the same time I could have been anywhere. I felt like a cosplayer without the costume or the convention to display my costume to... almost perfectly, completely ridiculous.

Don’t know if they still do it but for years there was a live reading at Paula Cooper gallery. The whole book, I think everybody got a chapter. Took all day and into the night

Happy Bloomsday!
posted by From Bklyn at 12:08 AM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

In one of Douglas Hofstadter's writings, he shows a Lisp function which returns the first and last two words of a string of text. He uses, as input, the text of Ulysses and the function returns "stately, plump will yes". He leaves the creation of the inverse function as an exercise for the reader.
posted by JimDe at 4:38 AM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

He leaves the creation of the inverse function as an exercise for the reader.

It's trivial: "slovenly, lean won't no"
posted by thelonius at 5:12 AM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bloom! My man. I like it when Bloomsday and Fathers Day meet. Also when there is a midday t-storm like we had by me yesterday. One of my favorite parts, elided:

"A black crack of noise in the street here, alack, bawled back. Loud on left Thor thundered: in anger awful the hammerhurler....

....and Master Bloom, at the braggart's side, spoke to him calming words to slumber his great fear, advertising how it was no other thing but a hubbub noise that he heard, the discharge of fluid from the thunderhead"

heh heh, advertising.
posted by pilot pirx at 7:35 AM on June 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's just a compilation of Poetry, best experienced when heard recited aloud.
If reading silently to oneself, it's better if limited to reading one page per day.

If you try to plow through it, like with a conventional novel, then you're just barking up the wrong tree.
posted by ovvl at 6:09 PM on June 18, 2019

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