New York on the Liffey

Today is Bloomsday.

What is today’s date?

June 16th, or Bloomsday: a celebration of James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses,” which follows Leopold Bloom as he walks around Dublin all day on June 16th, 1904. Joyce got close to 1,000 pages out of that.

Wasn’t I assigned that book in school?


Are views toward the book divergent?

Some say “Ulysses” is dull and unreadable. But one argument for the book is that while modern life might appear boring, individuals can be heroic as they move through the world, not unlike Odysseus, or Ulysses. And though there are plenty of logical puzzles and literary allusions to hammer out if you wish, much of it is more readable and enjoyable than you’d think.

What happens on June 16?

People gather to toast the Leopold Blooms of the world: regular folks who act heroically in the face of the mundane.

What else?

People make themselves look smart, humble-bragging about reading what’s billed as one of the 20th century’s most difficult books.

Why the weird question-and-answer format?

This is the format of an entire chapter of Ulysses (17, to be specific). Other chapters are modeled after a song; a descent into the underworld; a play; a newspaper with way too many headlines (see below); lunchtime; and a recapitulation of the history of the English language. The final chapter is a lightly punctuated soliloquy by Leopold Bloom’s wife Molly about how wonderful it is to cheat on him but how she still loves him.

What is this?

This is called modernism.
New York City shows up in Ulysses most prominently as the site of the General Slocum Disaster of 1904, when a steamship caught fire and sunk in the East River, killing more than 1,000 on board.

But NYC is a center of Bloomsday celebrations, given the diaspora of Irish writers and Irish immigrants to the city.

One of those transplants is Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author and Hunter College professor, and general all-star New Yorker who once intervened when he saw a man shoving a woman and got sucker punched for his efforts. McCann, along with writer Frank McCourt, began a Bloomsday reading of “Ulysses” at the Ulysses Folk House on Stone Street in Manhattan that is now in its 13th year of free and loosely structured outdoor literary celebration.

“We get a couple hundred people to come down to Stone Street in various states of Victorian dress and in fact undress and redress,” says McCann, who reads from the opening pages and a section of the 12th chapter (which takes place in a pub), before turning it over to other writers and actors.

“It’s the greatest novel of the 20th Century,” says McCann, who is from Dublin and says he has an “intimate relationship” with the book. As for Bloomsday: “It’s kind of like a thinking man’s St. Paddy’s Day.”

Woman’s, too — McCann says the showstopper every year is Irish actress Aedin Moloney’s version of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

Yes and for those looking for a later more formal bloomsday theres symphony space’s 35th annual tribute bloomsday on broadway at 7 pm or alternately a morning endeavor 7:30 am breakfast at bloom’s tavern hosted by origin theatre company with free breakfast inspired by leopold blooms table plus drinks mimosas that sort of thing and readings and performances

though if none of those appeal to you you might consider simply walking around new york city like all areas of the city the parks the streets the stadiums the rivers the bridges past bars and brothels and highrises and parking lots and celebrate the preciousness and bravery of simply living and also the fact that no ones trying to get you to celebrate the novel

finnegans wake which james joyce wrote after ulysses and is about a thousand times more confusing and concerning the reading of which no one but a graduate student has ever said yes I said yes I will Yes.

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