Jay Meehan: Bloomsday 2015
June 9, 2015
"Joyce has a most goddam wonderful book!"
~ Ernest Hemingway
So let the pre-game rituals begin! Grab your dog-eared and Guinness-sodden copy of James Joyce’s "Ulysses" and cement plans to gather with the usual suspects of your literary circle in your annual celebration of the anniversary of "that loftiest date in all of fiction," June 16, 1904. We’re once again on the cusp of "Bloomsday!"
That’s right, the date that Leopold and Molly Bloom and the young Stephen Dedalus step out upon the pages of the novel and the streets of early 20th Century Dublin, little knowing what auspicious highs and lows their long day would bring.
That this date on which Joyce sets all the action of what is widely considered the greatest novel of the 20th Century has become such a beacon to the cognoscenti is really not all that mysterious, I suppose. I mean, the book, when finally published, did shake up the world of letters like no other.
And there is always the sidebar that Joyce selected this date of his first stroll upon the strand with future wife and muse Nora Barnacle upon which to spin his convoluted yarn. But why the need by so many readers to become so fully immersed in Joyce’s narrative on this most singular date each year? Because we can! That’s why!
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We know where they went and what they ate and drank and with whom they cavorted and, in some cases, debauched, and we’ll be damned if we are going to be left out of the fun, no matter how mundane or hallucinatory it becomes.
Although I most certainly didn’t let it stop me from, somehow, touching at least the aura of Ulysses, I do recall how lonesome I felt when the centennial of Bloomsday rolled around eleven years ago and I had no one to play with — all dressed up and nowhere to go, as it were.
I even took it upon my usually quite-shy self to call Dr. Vincent Cheng, the Joycean Scholar down at the University of Utah, to see if he was hip to where a shindig or two might be in the works. Well, as it turned out, everyone who was anyone was either packing or booking a flight or otherwise getting his or her "Poldy" ducks in line to spend that day in Dublin.
Oh, I get it! Among Joyce’s loftier disciples, plans had been in the works for quite some time that, if you were at least moderately invested in such things, Dublin would be where you spent the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday. Admittedly, that didn’t do much for my somewhat parochial self-esteem.
I did rebound, however, and, following quick stops at a Deli and a liquor store, emerged at Park City’s Rotary Park with sufficient fixings to channel Bloom’s famous lunch at Davy Byrnes Pub: a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of French Burgundy wine. I may have, circumstances being what they were, doubled up on the latter.
Then it was off to the Eccles Center for a screening of "Bloom," a film that allowed the viewer into the individual and collective psyches of Leopold, Molly, and Stephen and wouldn’t be released for another couple of months. (I keep meaning to ask Teri Orr about that!)
This year, there’s Bloomsday hoopla aplenty and absolutely no reason for wannabe Joyceans to feel left out. The one event that seems to be by far the most inviting is an affair sponsored by the wonderfully named "Eccles Street Irregulars," a take on both the street in Dublin where Leopold and Molly resided and that loveable gang of ragamuffins from the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and the Utah Hibernian Society.
To quote from their press release:
"RE JOYCE! BLOOMSDAY IS COMING! A CELEBRATION OF JAMES JOYCE’S MASTERPIECE ‘ULYSSES.’ Featuring Dr. Vincent Cheng, the Shirley Sutton Thomas Welsh Professor of English at the Univ. of Utah, author of many works on James Joyce and Irish culture.
"Join us for a rollicking evening of infinite variety: SCHOLARSHIP, MUSIC, SONG, and LIBATIONS! 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Neil O’Donnell & Sons Mortuary, 372 E. 100 S., Salt Lake City."
Now that sounds like my kind of Bloomsday!
It’s not just that the novel is so richly layered and that those who become obsessed by it are outrageously cool, but, for the most part, both those assertions are true. If you’ve never done Bloomsday, do so! First one’s free!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.