diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Bloomsday 100

If you want to write a successful book these days, one of the bandwagons you might want to jump on is the 'book of the year'. Pick a year, write about it. There's a book called 1979 (in which Rhona Cameron relates life growing up in a small Scottish fishing village). There's a book called 1968 (in which the world comes to terms with sex, drugs and social upheaval). There's a book called London 1945 (in which the capital struggles into peacetime austerity). Then there are books called 1812, 1759, 1603, 1421 and 1215. Not forgetting 1984 and 2001 of course. If you ever plan on becoming a top-selling author it sounds like you'd better pick your year now and start writing before the whole millennium gets snapped up.

However, one of the greatest works of modern fiction wasn't a 'book of the year' but a 'book of the day'. James Joyce's famous novel Ulysses was played out on the streets of Dublin exactly 100 years ago today on 16 June 1904. The story, such as it is, follows two upstanding citizens as they wander the streets of the city doing nothing much. Nevertheless an awful lot of nothing much happens. Not that you care, because this is one of the most impenetrable books ever written, combining erudite vocabulary with Greek myth and a frightening lack of punctuation. Admit it, it's one of those worthy books you have no plans ever to read. Never mind, now you can hold your own in scholarly conversation by using this handy bluffer's guide to one of the world's toughest novels.

1) Joyce's main characters in Ulysses are teacher Stephen Dedalus and salesman Leopold Bloom. Their paths cross infrequently during the novel, and they end up urinating together in Bloom's back garden.
2) The plot, such as it is, mirrors Homer's epic Odyssey. Which you've never read either.
3) You can read a brief summary of the plot of Ulysses here. However, knowing my readership, you'll prefer the cartoon version with stick men. You can also try reading the whole unabridged book here, but I bet you don't make it even a quarter of the way to the end of the first chapter.
4) Joyce set his book on 16 June 1904 because that was the day he went on his first date with Nora Barnacle, the hotel chambermaid who later became his wife.
5) The people of Dublin have celebrated Bloomsday every year since 16 June 1954. Any excuse for a drink. There are especially big celebrations this year. Further details about 16 June 2004 in a special one-day-only Bloomsday blog.
6) In Chapter 4 Bloom buys fresh offal for breakfast, dining on "grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine." Unfortunately this is the section of the story that tends to be recreated every Bloomsday. This and the drinking.
7) Chapter 10 is the only chapter not based on the Odyssey, containing 19 stories of Dubliners out walking after lunch. Joyce once said "I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book."
8) The final chapter is a 63-page punctuation-free monologue delivered by Bloom's wife Molly. It contains a few rude bits which helped to get the book censored in 1922 for "unmitigated filth and obscenity".
9) The book ends on page 933 with a famous 'Yes'. Like this... "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."
10) The novel Ulysses has nothing at all to do with Ulysses 31, a shallow Japanese cartoon series from your childhood featuring a blue alien girl called Yumi and a red robot called No-No. No.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream