It’s that day again. And there have been so many since 1904. Well, that makes it, what? One hundred and eight years now? Molly and Leopold Bloom. Molly, Bloom and Stephen. Molly and Blazes Boylan. James and Nora. Sam and Diane.
Ulysses, the greatest novel in the English language, and perhaps the greatest novel of obsession ever written. The obsession was with the novel itself, with its possibilities, with the haunting, nagging, agonizing sense that Joyce could be at all places at one time, cubist, in his head and on the page. He could be back in the Ireland of 1904, with Nora Barnacle, and also all the days that led up to its publication in 1922, a year that saw one of the most amazing outpourings of literature, philosophy and Comparative Myth in the 20th century. Aside from Ulysses, that year brought us The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot; Jacob’s Room, by Virginia Woolf; Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha; Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis; César Vallejo’s Trilce; The Golden Bough, by James Fraser; Wittgenstein’s Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus; and T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
A bit before my time, but it must have been hell being a judge on the awards circuit that year.
Of course, the real obsession of Ulysses is with Molly, as in Nora. Did she or didn’t she? Was her endless Yes!! a final release and redemption for Joyce, or just an immortal yawp following in the footsteps of Whitman, setting up the drums of Ginsberg?
(I use too many names and not enough immortal yawps, to be sure. But there is a method to my name-dropping. A madness, too.)
Walking is key. And systems of difference. Language. Past and present. Dialects. Old and new tongues. Slang. Jargon. Lyric. Bodily functions and organs of the body. Types of food. Circulation within systems and their connections to other systems. Pubs. Everything must connect via pubs. And that, ultimately, brings us round and round.
Buy one for your friends, your lovers, and if you’ve been cuckholded, wear your horns with pride.
Happy Bloomsday, folks!!