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5 reasons to love Bloomsday

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image from Hammer Museum

It’s Bloomsday.

The anniversary of a writer’s first date with his future wife, written into literary history as the day in which the story of perhaps the most important modern novel in the English language takes place: the 16th of June 1904.

Weird people around the world are going to dress up in Edwardian garb and celebrate a novel in which a “man goes for a walk around Dublin. Nothing happens,” – a quote everybody always repeats, but nobody knows who actually said it first – Joyce’s Ulysses.

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Why should you care? After all, Bloomsday “has as much to do with Joyce as Christmas has to do with Jesus” or green beer on St. Patrick’s Day with being Irish.

But there are so many reasons to love Bloomsday:

It’s a perfect day to immerse yourself in James Joyce, simply because so many other people in the world are doing so. Events are planned everywhere, simply look up what’s happening in your city. You will often hear that Joyce’s work is incomprehensible, hermetic and what not. Ok, fine, he’s not the easiest author to grasp, but Dubliners is a delight and The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man is perfectly accessible. Ulysses is slightly less so, but give it a go (or another go). Added bonus: it’s a perfect holiday for introverts. Stay at home and read, listen to Joyce-related radio programs or podcasts, or go to a pub, order a drink and read by yourself – it’s still a legit Bloomsday party.

For many, Bloomsday is just a synonym for a posh Irish pub crawl and for most of us in the northern hemisphere pub-crawl related shenanigans are so much more easily pulled off in June than they are in March. It’s far easier to retain some composure when you don’t have to deal with layers of clothes, umbrellas and similar.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Dublin, you have the crawl all mapped out for you. This will seriously reduce the time otherwise spent in front of pubs, trying to figure out where to go next. Most of us will be somewhere else, however, so the itinerary will require some advanced planning. You can be diligent and go back to the novel, or you can use a cheat sheet that has done it for you. Now all you have to do is decide which corners of your city will stand in for Bloom’s/Dedalus’s Dublin and you’re good to go. Ok, you might have some difficulties finding a suitable substitute for Bella Cohen’s brothel. But then, you might not.

You can drink anything you want. As Joyce is considered a heavyweight among writers, any alcohol is good. No green beer required; if you want green, absinthe is the obvious choice. You can always stick to Bloom’s classic lunch, a gorgonzola sandwich and  a glass of burgundy.

To continue the green theme: while we support the reduce-reuse-recycle paradigm, we’re with Dame Maggie Smith (and Kermit) on this one: it’s a difficult color. Particularly when it comes in god-awful shades of t-shirts with “cute Irish motives”. Not today. A proper Bloomsday party is a bit like going to a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, except everyone is wearing some version early 20th century clothes. At least early in the day.

Love it yet?

Here’s a bonus reason for you: Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.  There’s nothing else quite like it. Nothing.

Happy Bloomsday!

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Barbara S

Barbara S