Bloomsday

Happy June 16th, Baboons!  It is Bloomsday, the day that Ulysses was set. I have to admit I read that book several decades ago and couldn’t  make sense of it. I am tempted to reread it now, as I think I have some added maturity to “get” what Joyce was trying to say.  We will have to see about that. It may be as incomprehensible as it was the first time I tried to read it in my 20’s. I have really enjoyed hearing recitations of Ulysses on Bloomsday, as it seems to be more accessible when it is read aloud.

What are your experiences with James Joyce’s works? What do you reread?

52 thoughts on “Bloomsday”

  1. one of kurt vonnegut’s later works has a reference to st blooms day and his mother the former nuns celebration and special relationship to it,
    i did a little research found out it was ulysses related and even looked into reading but but upon turning the first few pages remembered this was the same guy who wrote portrait of an artist as a young man which caused my brain to hurt when i read it.
    i like to think i have a good brain but it’s better at some things than at others.
    i have a friend who as we were growing up would regularly walk into a room see a book and sit down and read in two and a half hours. if i sit down with joyce i’m in love with the lyrical song his words roll into my brain as but after 2 1/2 hours in on page 8 rereading what i got distracted from as i was letting his poetry lead me off to never never land
    somehow books on tape feels like cheating for ulysses where the listening to the words feels so different from settling into the womb of joyce’s written path.
    i listening to bill bryson’s book on england right now and it’s delightful but i don’t feel like the narrator is flavoring the direction of the relationship with his influx, with joyce a narrator would mess up my whole deal

    i’ll have to look up joyce again renee. i may be ready too

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    James Joyce leaves me mystified, and that is as far as I have ever gotten with him. But then I can be too concrete. Or maybe Joyce was just a bit off the mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dad always read a lot, but he lost his ability to read when his MS took his eyesight (blurry and unfocused). One of my jobs as a teen/young adult in the late 60’s early 70’s was to order “talking books and magazines” for him from an organization for blind people. They were delivered on LP records.

      I ordered “Lord of the Rings” for him because I liked it. He was mystified when I put it on for him to listen to, asking me, “What IS this?” It made no sense to him. So I ordered the records for myself and listened while I did my own things. It was my first experience with audiobooks. Now there are such skills narrators that I suspect those old versions would be un-listenable.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Our children were lulled to sleep every night by audio books. Daughter continues the tradition with her cats. She told me that after supper and vigorous play, she puts the new kitten in the bathroom (his temporary bedroom) puts on his nightlight, and sits with him while she plays a recording of crickets and other nature sounds. She says he is asleep in less than 3 minutes.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. The three books I’ve read over and over are all novels. One is a strange and moving little book called Housekeeping, by Marilynn Robinson. One is The Great Gatsby, which I reread for its voluptuous prose.

    The third novel is a seriously flawed bestseller written in 1957, By Love Possessed, by James Gould Cozzens. I’ve always been enthralled by its use of the voice of the inner monologue. As a young person, I was almost obsessed by my own inner voice, not knowing that other people had such a thing, too. The novel draws its power from the highly articulate voice of its protagonist and from his inner monologue, the two voices deviating, clashing and combining in ways that still astonish me. The voice of the protagonist represents the way he intends others to see him. The voice of his inner monologue is who he actually is, and that person is stunningly different from the public persona.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “The voice of his inner monologue is who he actually is, and that person is stunningly different from the public persona.” To a large extent, I think that’s true for most people. But, I also think, that any conflict between that inner monologue and the public persona reflects our individual struggles to bring our moral compass to bear on our behavior.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s an interesting thought. I probably don’t agree. The voice of my inner monologue can be brutally candid, but otherwise it is the person my friends know, the person I am. In the novel that captivated me so much, the real person is probably a hybrid of the person he presents to the world and the inner voice. He is boringly “proper” in speech and far from proper in his thoughts. But your suggestion is interesting. I’ll give it some thought.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Discussions, tim, not arguments. I’ve had the benefit of a seminar on Joyce with one of the nation’s foremost Joyce scholars. Had Steve, Bill, and Clyde had that same benefit, I’m pretty sure they’d think differently about Joyce. As it is, their loss. 🙂

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  4. You baboons insist on forcing me deeper into nostalgia than I already was on my own. And I was pretty deep on my own. Cast iron stuff you kicked off yesterday! Called my sister last night. She has some of the cast iron stuff. The flat skillet, cupcake pan, frying pan, dutch oven. But Cannot be used now.
    Now you bring up Joyce. I did a graduate school seminar on James Joyce. Yes, afraid I have a pretty good grasp of Ulysses. But am unimpressed. It has layers of literary, linguistic, poetic gaming going on. Mostly about references to the original Ulysses (why the title) but rather hidden. The reader is supposed to play the game with Joyce and find these things. Each chapter references some event in Homer and has a motif and central theme. The more you know classical rhetoric the easier to play his game. I was steeped in rhetoric when I took the seminar. I appreciate his skill but don’t much like such literary games, 700 pages of stream of consciousness, well my canoe sunk a few times. I wrote a 25 page paper on one chapter. A good piece of analysis and writing. The theme of social isolation of a socially awkward Jew appealed to me. But not the underlying story of Molly Bloom, and Bloom (Leopold?)
    But if you want to know Joyce read Dubliners. One of the greatest collection of short stories in English. The last story, The Snow, is just exquisite, delicate almost. Gave it to my AP kids to read, thinking they would not get it, but they did and loved it. John Houston always wanted to make a movie of it and did at the end of his life. Stars Angelica.
    Clyde

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Ha, ha. Was thinking about The Snow and realized that what triggers the epiphany in the Story (epiphanies are big in Joyce) is a wave of nostalgia in one character.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I have three very nice pieces of cast iron.

        I was an English major at Carlton and at the time, maybe still, there was a short reading list and a long reading list. It was expected that you would read everything on the shortlist before you graduated and it was recommended to be a really literate person you would eventually read everything on the long list as well. You know how I am about lists. So the summer before my senior year I bought myself a copy of Ulysses from the long list and made it about four pages. At various other times in my life I have thought to myself I really should read Ulysses. And about five years ago when I started cleaning out things I discovered that I actually had three copies. So I must’ve purchased a copy every single time I thought I should read it. Clyde, thank you for pointing out that there are layers and games and references and hints but I think it my age I’m not going to play.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. We have more cast iron things to cook in than I care to think about. Husband loves having skillets of different sizes, as well as cast two iron corn stick pans and a large cast iron Dutch oven he uses with his grill.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I had friends who were so fond of cooking on cast iron that they packed an extremely heavy cast iron skillet on a BWCAW trip. When you pack a four-pound skillet instead of a thin Teflon skillet, you are making a statement.

          Liked by 4 people

    2. thanks clyde
      im on the dubliners
      i didn’t know ulysses was a spin off of homer. makes sense now that you mention it. i just dove in and flailed about the free association floating prose.
      good to hear from you

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      1. Good for you, tim. I have a hunch that you just might get Joyce’s stream of consciousness writing. If you decide to tackle Finnegan’s Wake, Epstein has written a wonderful guide to help you through it. It’s a daunting work, but it took Joyce seventeen years of his life to write it, so if he was just trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, the joke was on him.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I read a fair amount of material I consider difficult but I have not and likely will not read Joyce. The reward (for me) is unequal to the effort. Much of the reading I do is for the sake of information. I am a fiend for new information. I revel in rich and graceful language but it has to deliver something. Writers like Joyce and Pynchon just seem to me to be self indulgent in their, as Clyde says, games and to require an indulgence on the part of the reader I am not willing to bestow. Their language is rich and nuanced, rife with obscure references but at its core is there any there there?
    There is just so much out there to read, so much that offers the rewards I seek and appreciate, and really so little time that I’m not much concerned with what English professors might regard as the canons of literature.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree, of course. But The Snow is none of that. And besides, he gets to use the term gutta percha. Who does not want to integrate gutta percha into their prose?

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Two Italian brothers come in from a day of fishing. The wife of one meets them at the door and says “Did you have a good day?” Mario says “It was a OK. Giorgio gutta sunfish but I gutta percha.”

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Well, what can I say? I love Joyce! In the course of my English major pursuits, I read “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and some of Joyce’s poetry, not as part of a class, just for my own edification.

    Then, my Senior year in college, I was lucky enough to be accepted into a graduate level seminar on “Finnegan’s Wake,” the most challenging and fun course I took during my college years. The teacher, Eddie Epstein, was one of the original “Quiz Kids” a popular radio show during l940s, and a Joyce scholar. Just a phenomenal teacher.

    The following, from an obituary published in the James Joyce Quarterly, will give you some idea of the man. “The quality that impressed me the most was his love of music. So many of his other characteristics—his perfect memory, his encyclopedic knowledge, his kindness—seemed to flow from that particular source. His graduate seminars on Joyce were famous for his singing. He would perform music-hall numbers and popular songs appearing in Joyce’s work, such as “The Rose of Tralee.” Or he would bring in recordings, often rare and transferred from obsolete media such as wax cylinders, which were usually enhanced by his own vocal accompaniment. These ad hoc performances always ended in uproarious applause. But it was his reading of the end of Finnegans Wake that moved us to tears and a standing ovation. Eddie had a marvelous talent for expressing the musicality of Joyce’s work, though in his usual modesty he insisted it was Joyce who affected us so much.” The writer, Jeffrey Drouin, was a graduate student of Dr. Epstein’s.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I must say, I’m enjoying Clyde’s reappearance on the trail. I find it intriguing how differently we all interact with and perceive the world around us.

    I’m fascinated by Bill’s comment above about why he reads: “Much of the reading I do is for the sake of information. I am a fiend for new information.” At this moment in time, that’s true for me as well, though this was never why I read fiction. As my aging brain has increasing difficulty retaining new information, it takes a concerted effort to stay focused.

    At the moment I’m immersed in learning more about American history, race relations, politics, and the changing vocabulary and strategies that have been used over time to divide us along racial, economic, and political lines. I’d much rather be doing something else, but it feels as if it’s my civic duty to be as informed as I can be so I can better understand what’s going on all around us.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. OT – TV commercials were mentioned on the trail a few days ago. I just came across this one when a friend tagged me on Facebook. This is a great one, I love it!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. There are books I remember liking a lot when I was young, but the details have been lost to memory over the decades, so every now and then I reread one. Recently I sent away for a copy of The Shawl With the Silver Bells, by Helen Coates Crew. I’m sure I read it at least a couple of times when I was a kid. I’ve just started it, and it’s like a completely new book to me now. I don’t remember any of these characters. I just remember I always liked it.

    Haven’t read any Joyce, but I might remedy that one of these days. Probably not Ulysses, though.

    Liked by 2 people

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