This morning I’ve been trying on a black velvet jacket and purple & green striped skirt at UNSW’s Io Myers Studio for Bloomsday 2012 – the annual celebration on 16 June of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, set in Dublin on 16 June 1904. This year the official Sydney Bloomsday fiesta will take place at Bondi Pavilion, with music, 33 readings from Ulysses (including one by me), a film (Nora, based on Brenda Maddox’s biography of Joyce’s wife Nora Barnacle), and general drinking and partying.
Here’s what the Bloomsday on Bondi 2012 website says about the day:
‘Presented by UNSW (Global Irish Studies), The Consulate General of Ireland, O’Punsky’s Theatre and the Irish Echo, Bloomsday on Bondi features edited excerpts and rehearsed readings by luminaries of Australian cultural life including former federal minister Susan Ryan AO, writers Mark Dapin, Ursula Dubosarsky and Suzanne Leal, journalist Susan Wydham, poet Jamie Grant and actors Chris Haywood and Zoe Carides to name a few. Actors from O’Punsky’s Theatre will perform moved readings from Ulysses, directed by Maeliosa Stafford (Abbey Theatre, Druid Theatre.)’
The day begins at 10am with ‘Breakfast with Buck Mulligan’.
‘Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing-gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned: Introibo ad altare Dei.’
So opens Ulysses, the novel which spawned an industry. Joyce would be pleased but perhaps not surprised that in 2012 Ulysses still attracts scholarly attention – and can make 1000s of people around the world eat kidneys and dress up in pre World War I costume on 16 June. He wrote:
‘I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of ensuring immortality.’
Joyce not only succeeded in keeping numerous departments of professors busy unravelling his novel, he also prompted a whole literature of guides to reading it, such as Harry Blamires’ The New Bloomsday Book, a commentary on the novel which has itself become a classic, and blogs like How to Read James Joyce’s Ulysses (and Why You Should Avoid ‘How-to’ Guides Like This One).
And of course he also inspired the annual event that is Bloomsday. On 16 June Joyce pilgrims travel from all over the world to Dublin to walk its streets as the novel’s Leopold Bloom walked them in fictional June 1904. Bloomsday was first celebrated in Paris on 27 June 1929 by Joyce and his friends – including Samuel Beckett and Paul Valery – with a lunch to commemorate the 25th anniversary of 16 June 1904 and the publication of the French translation of Ulysses.
In the 21st century Bloomsday is celebrated with street festivals, readings, music and breakfasts of Leopold Bloom’s favourite food, fried kidneys and offal.
As the granddaughter of a Bloom, I’m looking forward to some Irish rejoicing on Saturday at Bloomsday on Bondi 2012.