Happy Bloomsday! I’m assuming everyone else is off at the pub, or having a little grilled mutton kidney, or knocking around Dublin in a white dress as is appropriate to the date. Me, I’m in Boca Raton primping for a family wedding—no stately plump folks in sight, just lots of sleek tans and frosted toenails. However, options abound for the rest of you; try Bloomsday Central for local listings if you haven’t yet decided how you’re going to celebrate. And the Bookballoon Ulysses reading group kicks off today, so if you’re in the mood to dedicate the next year to some lively discussion, this is the place.
On the other hand, if you’re not up for such close reading today, you can follow Colin Dickey’s lead and read Ulysses straight through in real time. Not a fanatical enough Joyce devotee to recreate his undergrad years by sitting down to parse the book’s myriad classical, popular, and generally enigmatic references, last year he opted for an all-day read-a-thon—running, as the novel does, from 8 a.m. until the wee hours of the following morning. He read straight through, stopping only for pizza, without worrying too much about getting every last bit—“You let go of a lot of anxiety of comprehension, replaced instead by the anxiety of finishing. But this anxiety, as it turns out, is a lot easier to deal with.”
And, as it turned out in this case, a lot more fun. Reading straight through for the story and the poetry in Joyce’s work, putting aside the stresses of total comprehension, Dickey admits to having a great time with the book:
My reading experience is certainly not for everyone, but it was a way for me, as a reader, to re-enter a novel I’d long given up on, a way to make it useful for myself and my current situation. Between the idea that it’s too imposing to be read, and the idea that it’s too sacred not to be exhaustively studied, I want to offer a third alternative: it’s a good, at times great, eminently readable novel.
While he stuck to the story’s timeline, he was joined by 20 or so other readers on and off throughout the course of the day—so there’s still time, if you’re so inclined, to try a little Ulysses on a friends-with-benefits basis, in case you’re not quite ready to commit.
(Photo is “Ulysses, by James Joyce,” from nikkorsnapper’s Flickr photostream.)