It is this day, set in 1904, that James Joyce forever commemorated with Ulysses, published in 1922. Pittsburgh has a rousing Bloomsday, which entails the faithful making their way through the city, stopping at locales similar to those in the book to read from various episodes. My favorites always include Lotus Eaters and Lestrygonians. Of course, there was always a pub at which we would imbibe Burgundy and eat Gorgonzola cheese and mustard sandwiches.
I have read the book several times and never tire of it, but find that I have lost my taste for
discussing it. I haven't been to a Bloomsday in a few years (maybe next time
it's on a Saturday) but still fondly remember the good-natured celebration of
what some consider the greatest novel ever written. (For you Pittsburgh Joyceans, a schedule of this year's Bloomsday can be found here).
When I first started reading Joyce, he was a revelation. Now, after all these years, he is an old friend, telling me the same stories in oddly new ways. I suspect that it isn't so much about him, actually. But it does say something about his talent and his gift. One may wish to think that Ulysses is gibberish, or that it is a masterpiece, or blasphemous (out of those who care). But it is an icon of a book, and for me, lumped together with the great works that I have come to cherish.
This is Eleanor's doing. My mother. A voracious reader, she instilled in her sons an imperative to read, as if not to would be tantamount to refusing to take a breath. Literature has feed me well, has lead to a habit of clearing me head onto a piece of blank paper (or, now, a new Word document or blog post) and I am now seeing the same impulse towards creativity in my own daughter. I have spent much of this time back in some heavy editing for her as she enters her first literary competition. I can already see that she has a chance to succeed in this endeavor where I have failed.
There is a sacredness that accompanies a good story and the good telling of
it. It is ritual, lesson, enlightenment and joy. If you are so inclined, why
not take that dusty copy of Joyce's retelling of The Odyssey down from the shelf today and read a passage. Or maybe
go out and get one if you have never read it. In the interest of fair warning: you may hate it. Or you may thumb through several pages and decide Ulysses is not for you. But there's a chance that as soon as Buck Mulligan begins his ablutions, you will be drawn in to a simple story told grandly. If this happens, good for you.
Intoibo ad altare Dei.