On June 16, fans of James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses gather to celebrate--with costumes, food, drink, readings and music--the day on which the novel takes place. Named for Leopold Bloom, the main protagonist, Bloomsday celebrants in Dublin reenact events of the novel in the areas mentioned, and cities around the world put their own twist on the celebrations.
New York, with its strong Irish heritage and wonderful literary tradition, had a fantastic day of events. We were thrilled to be able to go see Overlook author Peter Quinn, whose new book The Man Who Never Returned comes out in August, at the celebration at Ulysses' Folk House in downtown Manhattan. With a lectern and microphone set up outside and picnic tables on the cobblestones, it was a place that lent itself to the dramatic reading style in which Joyce is best appreciated.
And what a celebration it was. Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, hosted readings from Ulysses that culminated with a dramatic take of Molly Bloom's soliloquy that brought the crowd gathered outside at picnic tables on the cobblestones to their feet.
It was an incredible experience to see so many people gathered, reading along with well-worn, well-loved copies of various editions of Ulysses, losing themselves in the music of the worlds, enjoying a glass of Burgundy or an ice-cold Guinness and the camaraderie of people who have not only read this rather daunting book, but loved it. They laughed--for to read Ulysses aloud is to realize the many wordplays of Joyce and the irreverent humor that he loved.
The readers left by six for the seven o'clock performance of Bloomsday on Broadway, broadcast on WNYC and featuring luminaries like Stephen Colbert, Ira Glass, Malachy McCourt and our own Peter Quinn.
We'd love to hear any of your Bloomsday stories and get recommendations for next year, although we can say with confidence that we'll definitely be back at Ulysses' for the party that begins with a lunch of gorgonzola and lasts late into the night.