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Pre-Bloomsday News and Notes

Pre-Bloomsday News and Notes

Great website for festivities this week. From the James Joyce Centre in Dublin.
Shows a listing for events all over the world. If you’re lucky enough to be in Ireland this week for the celebration, and would like your photography displayed on the web, please drop us a line, or two, or three.

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On a somewhat related note . . .

The Celtic Twilight
Was more than a dark ruse
More than a way
To craft an independence of mind
And spirit
Free from English dominance
And Big Houses
And colonial rule
It was a way to remind the British
That their land had once been
A Celtic Twilight too
And that another imperial power
Had once done what it could to crush
The life out of druid and muse
In the land of Stonehenge
Eternal Rome!
It was a way to remind
All imperial powers
That they once were
On the other end of the whip
And the sword and the gun
The Celtic Twilight was a time
For all times to come
And for that elusive
Allusive ladder
At the center of the Republic
Of Letters
For all of us
East West North and South

Happy Bloomsday 2011!!

Happy Bloomsday 2011!!

 It’s that time of the year again. Toast one or two or three for old Jimmy and Nora. Toast one or two or three for the streets of Dublin he saw with uncanny focus from Trieste. And toast one or two or three for Blind Homer, who inspired him and gave the world of fiction its great and everlasting journey.

“As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies, Stephen said, from day to day, their molecules shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image.”

— Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis

“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Bloomsday 2009

Bloomsday 2009

Another year past, and we’re here again. June 16th. Bloomsday. The day to celebrate James Joyce’s book about a day in the life in 1904 that was kinda important to him.

It points back in time to Homer, back in time to various modes of English, back in time to that day in 1904, and ahead in time for thousands of scholars who have labored to understand it and its myriad sources.

Ulysses was meant to be read aloud, so we can chew on each word. It was meant to be heard, so we can sing with each paragraph. Listen to each sentence, carefully, so we can dance inside our ears. May your celebration be cerebral, merry, filled with joy and song, and may it involve a little reading, here and there, too.

(A great site for Bloomsday activities, and Joyce in general, can be found by clicking here)

Here’s an excerpt from Episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis:


— And we have, have we not, those priceless pages of Wilhelm Meister? A great poet on a great brother poet. A hesitating soul taking arms against a sea of troubles, torn by conflicting doubts, as one sees in real life.

He came a step a sinkapace forward on neatsleather creaking and a step backward a sinkapace on the solemn floor.

A noiseless attendant, setting open the door but slightly, made him a noiseless beck.

— Directly, said he, creaking to go, albeit lingering. The beautiful ineffectual dreamer who comes to grief against hard facts. One always feels that Goethe’s judgments are so true. True in the larger analysis.

Twicreakingly analysis he corantoed off. Bald, most zealous by the door he gave his large ear all to the attendant’s words: heard them: and was gone.

Two left.

— Monsieur de la Palisse, Stephen sneered, was alive fifteen minutes before his death.

— Have you found those six brave medicals, John Eglinton asked with elder’s gall, to write Paradise Lost at your dictation? The Sorrows of Satan he calls it.

Smile. Smile Cranly’s smile.

First he tickled her
Then he patted her
Then he passed the female catheter.
For he was a medical
jolly old medi.

— I feel you would need one more for Hamlet. Seven is dear to the mystic mind. The shining seven W. B. calls them.

Glittereyed, his rufous skull close to his greencapped desklamp sought the face, bearded amid darkgreener shadow, an ollav, holyeyed. He laughed low: a sizar’s laugh of Trinity: unanswered.

Orchestral Satan, weeping many a rood
Tears such as angels weep.
Ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta.

He holds my follies hostage.

Cranly’s eleven true Wicklowmen to free their sireland. Gaptoothed Kathleen, her four beautiful green fields, the stranger in her house. And one more to hail him: ave, rabbi. The Tinahely twelve. In the shadow of the glen he cooees for them. My soul’s youth I gave him, night by night. Godspeed. Good hunting.

Mulligan has my telegram.

Folly. Persist.

— Our young Irish bards, John Eglinton censured, have yet to create a figure which the world will set beside Saxon Shakespeare’s Hamlet though I admire him, as old Ben did, on this side idolatry.

— All these questions are purely academic, Russell oracled out of his shadow. I mean, whether Hamlet is Shakespeare or James I or Essex. Clergymen’s discussions of the historicity of Jesus. Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences. The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring. The painting of Gustave Moreau is the painting of ideas. The deepest poetry of Shelley, the words of Hamlet bring our mind into contact with the eternal wisdom, Plato’s world of ideas. All the rest is the speculation of schoolboys for schoolboys.

A. E. has been telling some yankee interviewer. Wall, tarnation strike me!

— The schoolmen were schoolboys first, Stephen said superpolitely. Aristotle was once Plato’s schoolboy.

— And has remained so, one should hope, John Eglinton sedately said. One can see him, a model schoolboy with his diploma under his arm.

He laughed again at the now smiling bearded face.

Formless spiritual. Father, Word and Holy Breath. Allfather, the heavenly man. Hiesos Kristos, magician of the beautiful, the Logos who suffers in us at every moment. This verily is that. I am the fire upon the altar. I am the sacrificial butter.


The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man

Trinity College, Dublin


One of my favorite novels of all time or any time is The Ginger Man, by J. P. Donleavy. It’s the story of Sebastian Dangerfield and his wild days and ways in Dublin, taking classes at Trinity, whoring and drinking and pawning everything in sight to afford the drink and the whoring, avoiding his tenacious landlord and the authorities in general, in general putting the g in rogue and fighting all that is holy and stiflingly good. It’s easily one of the most unforgettable novels in the English language, with Dangerfield being one of its most memorable characters. The protagonist was based in part on a good friend of Donleavy’s, Gainor Stephen Crist, though it’s tempting to read into that character a bit of the author and his own biography as well.

The prose is magnificent. Almost immediately the reader senses he or she is in the presence of greatness. It is quite near the level of James Joyce, as far as the pure beauty and quality of the writing, and it’s more fun to read than Ulysses. Less work. More accessible. It was Donleavy’s first novel and he was able to finally publish it in 1955, after being turned down as often as Joyce was. The Ginger Man, like Ulysses, immediately ran afoul of the authorities and was thought of as pornography and published as such, much to the chagrin of its author. When I first read this masterpiece in the 1980s, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. Pornography? They have got to be kidding. Have read it three more times since then and still can’t believe it. As the young kids used to say, “Get a life!” That’s what those authorities back then needed to do.

Now, while we have grown up quite a bit since then when it comes to our handling of sex, “blasphemy” and “heretical” views in literature, we have lost our patience for other aspects of the past. Often rightfully so. Dangerfield will come across as a bit of a beast toward women, and that can’t be excused, but it should also be put into context. It’s a story, a fiction, and no endorsement by the author of Dangerfield’s boorish behavior. Donleavy presents a vivid tableau and allows the reader to be critical of the behavior — as they should — or ignore it. The world of the book is presented with high contrast, and that allows joy, pain, sorry, empathy and scorn to emerge. But it begins and ends with Dangerfield, with his larger than life presence, his legendary exploits, his Wildean wit. We can forgive much when we see the world through the eyes of the characters involved. The joy of reading the book is to take that wild ride with them.

Happy Bloomsday!!

Happy Bloomsday!!

The Poolbeg Lighthouse, Ringsend, Dublin.

 It’s June 16th, 1904. James Joyce walks with Nora Barnacle, his future wife, out on their first date. They walk together in Dublin, Ireland. More specifically, to Ringsend. He would later immortalize this day in the book, Ulysses, perhaps the greatest novel in the English language. As he celebrated his first date by writing that book, we celebrate him every year on June 16th.

In the novel, Molly Bloom is married to Leopold Bloom, the everyman of Ulysses. The Odysseus of the book. Molly was based on Nora. And Penelope. Leopold was also based on Italo Svevo, the author of The Confessions of Zeno. At least to a degree. Joyce, of course, is in all of his characters. Inside and outside. Joyce is also Stephen Dedalus, the Telamachus of the novel. All of this might be a bit confusing, if not for the fact that there are literally thousands of books about the book. And, perhaps, thousands about those books about the book.

I’ve been to Dublin, but went in September of 2003. It’s a grand wish of mine to be there on some June 16th of the future. To walk where they walked, to hear similar sounds and see similar sights. There are many guides that map the route of that walk. I’ll go with me own Molly, to be sure.

(Will post more about Bloomsday later this evening . . . )

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