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posted on 06.16.09

One hundred four years ago, Leopold Bloom woke up and ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.  And thus has the annual June 16 breakfast diet followed suit for many the world’s Joyceans in the decades since; and those like myself who find themselves incapable of stomaching such demanding fare suffice their commemorations through variously mimicked perambulations of the Ulysses protagonist: whether through urban odysseys of one's own or tracing Bloom’s precise footsteps through Dublin or listening to his day’s travails upon barroom- or stage-set, the means of celebrating this poignant day are as personal, unbounded and inviting as the novel itself.

That said, much of the joy to be experienced on Bloomsday comes in a communal setting.  I live in New York, which offers no shortage of opportunities, formal and improvised, for celebration of this day, a day so valuable that Joyce went so far as to start it over as soon as Bloom entered its account.  Certainly bars and bookstores will chime with Joyce’s melodies throughout the day’s hours, but the most visible single event this year, as to now be expected, is Symphony Space’s annual celebration; the focus this year, promisingly, will be food.  I attended the Symphony Space event last year and found it strangely enervating, and another unrelated event tonight prevents me from attending this year’s readings, but I hold no doubts that it will, at the very least, provide a platform for many wonderful excerpted recitations of the tome; I would love to hear the impressions of anyone who does attend any of this year’s events.

Instead I plan, in ostensible solitude, on rereading my favorite chapters at home; these frequently change, but I have, since my first reading of the work, been particularly drawn toward “Hades” and “Ithaca,” which never cease to break my heart.  Through a certain unrestrained, saccharine sentimentality I maintain for little else, I anticipate it as anything but a lonely event, my room echoing with the company – warm, brash, raging, contemptible, adoring, avuncular – of the work's immensity of lively voices.  I will nonetheless miss the community afforded public readings, the laughter and yeses, the nodding heads and hearts touched upon hearing their most cherished passages read aloud; it would give me great pleasure to hear how others are celebrating or have celebrated the day.  I hope that the space below may become a kind of fleeting, contemporary index to our observance of our dear Poldy’s June 16.

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James Joyce


Modernist Literature