Boozing for Joyce
A couple of weeks ago I posted about James Joyce and his infuriatingly brilliant novel Ulysses. Joyce's magnum opus runs to something like seven hundred pages (Richard Taylor or some similarly scurrillous Joycean pinched my copy a long time ago, so I can't give you a precise number), but the story it tells covers a single day - June 16th, 1904. Joyce, who was very keen on numbers and anniversaries, wanted to honour the date of his first romantic outing with Nora Barnacle, the young Dublin chambermaid who became his wife and muse.
Joyce has become so influential, and so intertwined with those boozily sentimental celebrations of nationalism at which the Irish diaspora excels, that June the 16th has become known as 'Bloomsday', after one of the key characters in Ulysses, and is commonly marked by readings from the novel, most of which seem to take place in pubs. Arihi has let us know about a shindig in Auckland:
Nga mihi nunui ki a Maps koutou ko Richard maa. He reka eenei koorero!
Celebrate Joyce for all the reasons that Maps, Richard et anon. have submitted here, and for your own myriad reasons:
Bloomsday at the Dog's Bollix:
Monday June 16, 8pm
Linn Lorkin and the Jews Bros;
Molly, Leopold, Blazes, The Citizen, Bella Cohen... and more..
There will be a cover charge but I don't yet know how much.
I have heard one or two very solemn literary types objecting to Bloomsday, on the grounds that it 'trivialises' Ulysses. These chaps point out that Ulysses is so long that only very small parts of the novel can ever be read aloud on Bloomsday; they also suggest that booze and literature do not always mix well. I disagree with both arguments.
Ulysses is such an intimidatingly large book that many people refuse ever to begin reading it, on the grounds that they cannot imagine ever finishing. The book's status as a consecrated 'classic' only makes matters worse: many would-be readers must feel that if they do not grasp all the intricacies of the book's themes or symbolism or relation to Irish nationalism then they will have failed some sort of test set by literary canon-builders. Opening the book at random and reading a page or two for sheer enjoyment can be very liberating, and is probably truer to the exuberant spirit of Joyce's prose than all the skeleton keys and collections of critical essays churned out by the academy (Richard Taylor will want to hit me by now).
The argument against reading Ulysses in a pub seems rather threadbare, as well. Wasn't Joyce a notorious boozer? Didn't the frail, short-sighted Irishman once have to be picked up by his mate Ernest Hemingway and carried away from a stoush he'd started in a seedy Paris tavern after a few too many?
And didn't Joyce's cries of 'can you see them Hemingway? Well get them! Get them, my good man!' give way to 'Let's find another tavern!' as soon as the pair were back in the street? That's the legend, anyway...
All in all, I think that Bloomsday is a worthy way of remembering Joyce.