Jun 16 2012
For those of us who can’t travel to Dublin every June 16th for the annual celebration of Bloomsday, a new biography of James Joyce has been released in time for your local celebration of the genius behind Ulysses. Gordon Bowker’s James Joyce introduces us to the life models that inspired Joyce’s most famous characters, including Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom.
On June 16, 1904 James Joyce asked his to-be wife Nora on their first romantic outing. He chose to set the entire work of Ulysses on that day, a decision which has been commemorated every year since 1954 on the streets of Dublin with public readings in the squares and re-enactments of the novel’s most famous scenes. Because Ulysses is so geographically placed in the city, it is possible to follow the characters around each chapter, and many fans take guided tours through Dublin, tracing the route of Joyce’s infamous Leopold Bloom. For the brave and die-hard Joyce fans, a breakfast of organs starts off the celebrations. (Joyce’s character, Bloom, for whom the day is named, begins his June 16th with a tasty fried organ.)
I am one of those readers for whom a description of place, even a place name, is not enough. Once a work of literature has captured my imagination, I must travel to its source, to see the houses, streets, and landscapes that inspired my favorite scenes. So in 2008 I flew to Dublin to participate in my first Bloomday celebration, and I’ve been marking the day ever since.
This year I had a quieter acknowledgement of Bloomsday. I didn’t even have it in me to walk to my local JP butcher, Meatland, to see if they had any organs on hand. Instead, I cooked up a “trinity” of three fried eggs, the breakfast Joyce’s other famous character, Stephen Dedalus, enjoys in the opening pages of Ulysses. (I have had a long-standing fictional character-crush on Stephen for several years, and fried eggs are easier to stomach than fried kidney.) Then, after breakfast, as I do every year, I returned to the book itself for a private reading, and found myself suddenly transported without guidebook, map, ticket, or suitcase, onto the streets of Dublin.Read more: Bloomsday, Book Reviews, Dublin, General, Gordon Bowker, Ireland, James Joyce, June 16, Travel, Travel