Happy Bloomsday to James Joyce! We celebrate “a book in love with its own language.”


Joyce scholar and friend (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

On this day in 1904, the young 24-year-old author James Joyce had his first date with Nora Barnacle. Now the day is fixed in literary history, and celebrated the world over as Bloomsday. How many other days do set aside to celebrate a single work of literature? I can’t think of any.

Certainly Joyce himself didn’t forget the day. He couldn’t: The single day forms the setting for his Ulysses, when Leopold Bloom takes a long rambling walk around Dublin on June 16.

Carol Shloss, author of Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, calls it “A rollicking book, in love with its own language, with ever word enjoined in the effort of living through everyday hardships with equanimity.” Her latest effort was published last year in a volume edited by Kim Devlin, Finnegans Wake Chapter by Chapter.

She has traveled the world sharing her work and meeting fellow Joyceans in Dublin, Joyce’s city, and in many others – but not today, in the COVID era. Today she will be celebrating via Zoom at the University of Buffalo, which has the world’s largest collection of Joyceana. (Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, who taught at Stanford, will be reading, too.) Carol adds that “Joyce’s deep humanity draws people from disparate parts of the world together even during the pandemic that keeps us physically apart.”

“…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” (Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy, the last words of James Joyce’s Ulysses)


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