There is Nothing Like Bloomsday in Dublin

This year we celebrated Bloomsday in Dublin, and it was wondrous and oh so much fun. We began our day early in the morning at an 8:00 breakfast and performances of snippets of episodes from Ulysses at the James Joyce Centre. The actors were in rare form, and the forty of us in the room were simply enthralled with delight by the meanderings and shenanigans of Molly, Poldy and Stephen. Even the serious-faced Lord Mayor of Dublin, sitting at an adjacent table, occasionally broke out with a smile and a laugh.

Immediately after leaving the Joyce Centre, we caught a train to the town of Sandycove, a suburb of Dublin which is the home to the Martello Tower that is featured in Chapter 1 of Ulysses. Now the tower serves as a Ulysses-themed museum year-round, with readings from the book scheduled on its deck for most of Bloomsday.
We tortuously climbed the narrow and winding stairs of the tower, finally reaching the deck. The volunteer in charge and I began a conversation. He told me that the scheduled readers had taken a lunch break. I mentioned to him that I taught Ulysses back in Chicago and that I was thrilled to be in Dublin today experiencing Bloomsday. Since there were about a dozen visitors milling around the deck, he suggested that I do an impromptu reading during this interlude. How could I say no?

The volunteer lent me his copy of the book and directed me towards the raised platform in the middle of the deck. There I stood, atop the tower overlooking the bay, as I began reading Chapter I with the words “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” I continued reading through the third page of the book. These were truly magical moments for me, as I read the words of Joyce from the very space where the great writer once stood himself over a century ago.

Returning to Dublin City Centre, we capped off our Bloomsday evening by attending Dermot Bolger’s splendid cabaret performance of Ulysses staged at the historic Abbey Theatre. The staging was spartan-consisting of a bar, a few chairs and a bed. Puppetry was cleverly interwoven into a good number of scenes, enhancing the surreality of much of the text.

The play ended, and so did our memorable Bloomsday 2018. Dear memories to be cherished forever.

Advertisements

Unraveling the Mystery of Leopold Bloom’s Father


As a teacher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, I have always been intrigued by the European wanderings of Rudolph Virag Bloom who in the penultimate Ithaca chapter of the book is said to have “narrated to his son Leopold Bloom (aged 6) a retrospective arrangement of migrations and settlements in and between Dublin, London, Florence, Milan, Vienna, Budapest, Szombathely with statements of satisfaction (his grandfather having seen Maria Theresia, empress of Austria, queen of Hungary), with commercial advice (having taken care of pence, the pounds having taken care of themselves). Leopold Bloom (aged 6) had accompanied these narrations by constant consultation of a geographical map of Europe (political) and by suggestions for the establishment of affiliated business premises in the various centres mentioned.”
Why did Rudolph, a Jewish man from a small town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, go to all these major European cities? What were his business dealings in each one? What were the specifics of his personal life? Why did he commit suicide? As a writer, I am being drawn to create a backstory to fill in the blanks and answer these questions. In short, this would be a prequel to Ulysses! Wish me luck. I’m going to give it a shot. If there are those reading this post, who may have suggestions for me in creating this backstory, it would be greatly appreciated.