James Joyce’s “Ulysses” begins with a large S that fills the whole page and ends with a small s, “yes.” The book opens, “Stately, Plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” And meanwhile, four chapters in, “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.” It’s morning in Dublin, June 16, 1904. The entire book takes place on that day. This coming Saturday, June 16, readers worldwide will celebrate “Bloomsday,” the 108th fictional birthday of “Ulysses,” that is, of the day the story takes place. The last page of “Ulysses” says “Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914-1921,” suggesting Joyce worked on his novel for seven years. It would be December, 1933, when Judge Woolsey freed the book from censure, before US citizens would be able to access “Ulysses” unmolested by itching assessors scandalized by what they see in a looking glass. In his historic opinion, Woolsey said, “‘Ulysses is not an easy book to read or to understand. But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become its satellites. The study of ‘Ulysses’ is, therefore, a heavy task.” And readers with a purely, solely, soily, prurient interest will be sorely disappointed.
Guessing from the number of Joyce books on my shelves one might conclude that Joyce is my favorite writer. In some ways, yes, but a general interest reader needs and wants so much, and while Joyce is a good friend, the point of a library ought to be, to quote Joyce from another of his books, “Finnegans Wake,” “Here Comes Everybody.” But yes, I love Joyce essentially.
Readers wanting to start Joyce might want to begin with his book of short stories, “Dubliners,” for it is engaging, accessible, entertaining, and a good introduction to Joyce’s characters. Joyce’s characters include everyone: “…happinest childher everwere.”
But on to Bloomsday, 2012. I received in yesterday’s electronic mail an invitation to celebrate Bloomsday with the celebrated writer, Frank Delaney. I can think of no one I’d rather spend Bloomsday with, and I’m extending the invitation below to you, too, to have some fun with Delaney and Joyce on Bloomsday. If you are new to “Ulysses,” I suggest you try some of Delaney’s podcasts, for hearing the book read, following Delaney’s clear introductions, is sometimes easier than going it alone with the text. In any case, here’s the invitation I received, quoted verbatim, with a few editorial comments and added information I’ve inserted in brackets:
Celebrate Bloomsday with Frank Delaney
June 16th, 2012 marks the first Bloomsday in which James Joyce’s mighty novel Ulysses is free from copyright and from the restrictions of the famously difficult Joyce estate [see “The Injustice Collector” and “Has James Joyce Been Set Free?“]. Celebrate in a series of projects and events conducted across land and Internet by Frank Delaney:
Re:Joyce Podcast, two years old
Dip into Ulysses by reading along with Frank Delaney in his spirited weekly podcast, Re:Joyce, launched on Bloomsday 2010.
Each segment [Joyce’s “Ulysses” is famously divided into chapters or segments, though the book itself isn’t obviously marked so. The easiest chapters are the first three, but for sound and language, the chapters following are my favorites, as well as the last chapter, the so-called soliloquy of Molly Bloom] features Delaney taking a short passage from Ulysses and exploring its multitude of references with insight, eloquence, passion, vast expertise—and a good dose of fun. As of Bloomsday 2012, Delaney will be in the midst of Chapter Three, and have reached podcast episode #105. Followed by academics, library groups, Joycean societies, scholars across the world, as well as ordinary folk, Delaney’s goal in deciphering and decoding the dense and rich text of the book is to allow greater enjoyment, by far more readers, of the book he holds most dear [and there really isn’t any other book about which this much fanfare is possible, which helps explain Bloomsday]. The podcasts have been downloaded nearly 500,000 times and have been covered in The Economist, NPR, The New York Times to name but a few. They are available for download on iTunes and www.FrankDelaney.com.
Rosenbach Bloomsday Festival
Frank Delaney is speaker and Guest of Honor at the annual Bloomsday celebrations of Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum & Library, whose collection includes the papers of James Joyce, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis Carroll, Marianne Moore, Maurice Sendak, Dylan Thomas and Cervantes. Event information for the Rosenbach Bloomsday Festival (one of the largest in the world) is available here. Tickets for The Rosenbacchanal are available here.
“Ulysses” Live: Additional Joycean projects of Mr. Delaney’s include:
Joyce Ways: Frank Delaney is the voice of “Joyce Ways”, an app with audio-visual guidance designed to lead and delight literary pilgrims through the streets of Dublin, on the trail and itinerary of Ulysses. “Joyce Ways” was created by the students of Boston College, under the direction of Joseph Nugent, and will launch 6.9.12.
Occupy Ulysses: an event at Madison Park, New York, staged on the day Ulysses was released from copyright (February 2, 2012).
The James Joyce Rap, Delaney’s witty, engaging, tongue-in-cheek portrait of the artist. As off-center and provocative as Joyce himself, this giddy homage serves up Joyce as Delaney’s hero, within a Pythonesque environment. Funny, irreverent and surprisingly touching, we’re given more than a hint as to why Delaney has chosen Joyce as a major part of his life’s work.