Bloomsday, celebrated annually on June 16th, is a huge act of devotion to James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, as well as the Dublin peregrinations of its main character, Leopold Bloom. The date corresponds with the events in that most classic of modern novels, a day chosen by Joyce to commemorate his first date with his future wife.
It originated in Dublin, 1954 (the 50th anniversary of the books’ internal calendar) as a pilgrimage by some local literati. They took on characters from the novel and followed Leopold’s route around the city. It resulted in a suitably Epic Fail of excellent proportions as, halfway through, they stumbled under the weight of inebriation, holing up at the Bailey Pub where they devoted the rest of the day to doing such things as are done in pubs.
Since then Bloomsday has spread dramatically, capturing the hearts of Ulysses devotees everywhere. Iterations of the journey have sprouted in towns and cities around the world, their form varying from scattered urban readings, re-creations of Ulyssian events, to day long pub crawls punctuated with quotations and bad accents. All seem infused with a sense of merriment and pluck that unites the high and low in a natural and easy way.
The celebration has gone online as well: a twitter group (@11ysses) will attempt to recast the novel in 24 hours of literary re-imagining, through the fragmentary prose of tweets. You can see their blog, here – it’s pretty cool. You can also follow the Ulyssian twittersphere with #bloomsday. Go ahead, geek out.
As well as events in Genoa, Trieste, Baltimore, London, Sydney, Lisbon and Brazil (there are legions more) there are NZ options. There’s a relaxed event at Auckland Central Library (they have light refreshments), or a more raucous offering at the Thirsty Dog on Karangahape Rd, where there’ll be readings, alcohol, music and Irish people. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an event in Wellington – nothing at the Irish (themed) pubs, and the Irish Embassy isn’t aware of anything (I actually did research), which is a great shame. But don’t let that stop you joining with friends, putting on an Irish brogue, necking some Guinness and reciting quotes from Ulysses.
“Me. And me now.”
“Love loves to love love.”
“The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.”
(If curious, see our follow up – Bloomsday: reprise)