A 100-year old book lives on as a reason to celebrate Irish culture. Out loud. ‘Bloomsday’ events happen all over the world June 16th each year, as people revive the hard-to-read book in public oration. But ‘Bloomsday’ has also become a general celebration of Ireland’s cultural contributions to the world.
By Mark Duggan
James Joyce’s book Ulysses is a notoriously difficult read. The book chronicles a single day in the life of fictional character Leopold Bloom on June 16th, 1904 in Dublin, Ireland. But instead of just narrating Bloom’s experiences, Joyce takes us into his character’s head, transcribing the thoughts of one man as he goes through the day.
Joyce attempted, in his book, to re-create the jarring, jumbled torrents of speech that might result from a person’s thoughts being transcribed, word for word. The pages of Ulysses are filled with sentence fragments, run-on paragraphs and strange flights of grammatical fancy. It’s legendary for testing the patience of even the most astute readers. Millions have literally read the first one hundred pages of the book, and gotten no further…
But Ulysses has taken on a second life as an oration piece. Joyce fans realized that the book is actually easy to understand, when it’s read out loud.
Open Range producer Mark Duggan visited Tucson’s 2011 Bloomsday Celebration. It’s the local version of an event that takes place all over the world, each year, on June 16th, or Bloomsday. Joyce fans gather share public readings from the book.
But Bloomsday is really a celebration of being Irish, and of Ireland’s contribution to the world of literature.
There’s a group of young Irish dancers, a harpist, even a Joyce impersonator in period garb. Several kinds of Irish whiskey line the bar, and a modest crowd of mostly older people buy each other drinks and encourage each others’ turns reading from the book. And they all seem to know the words to the old songs.