Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For those who haven't read Ulysses and don't get Bloomsday

So today is Bloomsday.

And the city is infested with half drunk toffs in ancient clothes. I tend to wholeheartedly dis the event but must declare my ignorance too, as I haven't invested the necessary time in reading that famous book.

If you're wondering whether the book is worth the effort, here's a few words from someone who has actually read it.

'ULYSSES is the greatest book ever written - plain and simple. I've read it from cover to cover twice, and I will read it again a few times more before I shuffle off this mortal coil (hopefully).

The key to its brilliance for me is that it manages to capture an (almost) ordinary day in the life of three fully realised characters as they make their way through the streets of Dublin in June, 1904.

It is a novel with comedy, intelligence and tragedy; and it works on so many levels, in a myriad of styles, that you really have to just step back and admire the literary genius of its creator. In fact, I have often argued (over pints in pubs) that James Joyce is the greatest Irish man who ever lived.

However, although I think that ULYSSES is the greatest book ever written, it is not necessarily my favourite book. For example, I would probably get more immediate pleasure from reading CATCH 22 or THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.

The truth is that ULYSSES is a difficult and demanding book to read. It requires a lot of background reading and footnotes. It is a challenge to get through the whole thing. However, like climbing a mountain, it's worth the effort when you get to the end.

I have celebrated June 16th every year since I was 18. For me it is like St. Patrick's Day or Christmas Day, i.e., no way am I going into work in an office that day. I usually try to avoid the whole Bloomsday gang, and normally keep to myself.

I'm not into the whole costume thing, although I don't mind if other people are. On June 16th, every year, I head out in the early morning to the Forty Foot for a swim, sort of an annual baptism, and then spend the rest of my day following the locations in the book. Fortunately these locations include a public house, or three.'

So said Stephen Kennedy, fellow Nighthawks organiser and streaker.

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Niamh B said...

For those who have a long commute to work, I'd recommend cheating and getting it out on cd from their local library, still takes 2 weeks to listen to but it's a good way of getting a good overview, getting a sense of the book.

Beats the radio anyway.

Declan Shalvey said...

Hey man, not to get off-topic but gimme an e-mail about the next monday (was awol last monday) and the drawing you'd like. E-mail is on the blog.

I also have never read Ulysses and don't get Bloosday. Good post.