James Joyce is one of the most celebrated writers in history and for good reason. Though his Finnegans Wake is incomprehensible, it is not more so than a Beethoven Symphony. But we don’t ask a Beethoven Symphony to be easily understood because it isn’t written in words.
We do however ask a painting to be understandable. Even though some of the greatest achievements in art history have been abstract, a very large percentage of the world’s people just won’t have it, including Andy Rooney and Morley Safer of 60 Minutes.
Picasso is regarded as the most talented and creative painter in modern times, with the possible exception of Matisse. Even so, to this day, I come across people who refuse to believe that the giant sculpture in Chicago by Picasso is a representation of a head of a woman, even though that is its name.
Stravinsky’s dramatic music for The Rite of Spring scandalized Paris when it opened. Later it was a big part of a Walt Disney movie, Fantasia and children flocked to it. Of course the dinosaurs didn’t hurt the box office.
And now to Bloomsday. It is not for me to say whether Ulysses or Finnegans Wake is the greater masterpiece. But Bloomsday is a celebration of James Joyce. It is named for his main character in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, and the date is chosen because it is the date on which Ulysses takes place in Dublin in 1904.
Enthusiasts around the world gather together, raise their pints of Guinness and sing the praises of the great genius who brought us the immortal Molly, the unbearable Buck Mulligan, the musical girls Gold and Bronze, the mysterious man in the MacIntosh and others almost as numerous as the characters in The Simpsons.
Convocations (read mobs of plastered fans in pubs) are held in Dublin and other major cities of the world wherein one can present and pretend to listen to papers about deep and Orwellian interpretations of the characters’ minutest hiccoughs. (Notice the old-world spelling; so suave).
It would not surprise me to hear that a stage presentation of an all-hip-hop interpretation of Ulysses was headed for off-off-Broadway. Maybe already done.
There is a remarkable gent named Jorn Barger who has done the most incredible accumulating of Joyce related info on the web that it makes a person wonder how he could possibly have the time to breathe. It contains full texts of much of Joyce’s works. You can take a look here:
He calls his site robotwisdom because he is an artificial intelligence specialist. If you have nothing to do for the rest of your life you can spend it on the rest of his site.
If you have been planning for years to read Ulysses, Bloomsday activities are a great way to get in the swing of it.
If you have not been planning to read Ulysses, whatever in the world are you doing that’s more important than that?
Jack Wilson is a writer and artist from Los Angeles and Phoenix.
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