On June 5, 1958, Ulysses in Nighttown, a dramatization of the Circe episode from James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” had its world debut at the Rooftop Theatre, an Off-Off Broadway venue on Houston Street. In the production, conceived and directed by Burgess Meredith, the role of Leopold Bloom was played by Zero Mostel. Others in the cast included Carroll O’Connor, Bea Arthur, John Astin and Anne Meara. Sets for the play were designed by the Academy Award winning designer Herman Rosse. The play was a major success. Mostel, who had been blacklisted, received critical acclaim, winning an Obie for the role, and was able to get his career back on track.
My friend, the artist Leonid Osseny, has collaborated with me on my books Chicago Sketches and 1001 Train Rides in Chicago. I first met him when he was showing his Ulysses-related artwork at an exhibit at the Irish American Cultural Center in Chicago. In his piece, Real Time in ‘Ulysses’ J. Joyce, illustrations of the eighteen chapters of Ulysses are depicted.
Leonid, who has an architectural background, is an eclectic artist who has utilized styles as diverse as Gothic to Constructivism in his work. His vision of Ulysses was formed by the compositional school of the great cinema director Sergei Eisenstein, who employed the device of “Inner Monologue,” must like Joyce, to convey his ideas.
Leonid has also exhibited his work on Ulysses at the 19th International James Joyce Symposium in Dublin, the Palette and Chisel and the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago, and the Evanston Public Library. He is an amazing artist, and he is always looking for additional venues to show his work. Please contact me at email@example.com if you might have interest in discussing a possible showing of Leonid’s art in the future.
I want to update you on the status of the upcoming courses that I plan to teach:
The seminar on Ben Hecht’s “1001 Afternoons in Chicago,” at the Newberry Library, that was to have started last week, has been postponed until the planned Newberry reopening in July. No definite date yet for the seminar.
The seminar on “A Taste of Faulkner” at the Newberry, which I’m teaching with Bob Boone, was to have started in June, but will now have to wait until the Newberry reopens. No definite date as yet for the seminar.
The course on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “A Crown of Feathers” is scheduled to begin June 18 at the Oakton Community College’s Emeritus program. Registration is open for it at www. Oakton.edu/conted.
I will be teaching a course on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” at Oakton starting in October. More information on this will be made available soon.
Stephen Joyce, the last living descendant of the great Irish author James Joyce, passed away in France two weeks ago at age 87. He is seen in the photo with his wife Solange. The couple had no children. He was the son of the author’s only son Giorgio.
Stephen was the fierce gatekeeper of the James Joyce literary legacy until Joyce’s copyright expired in most places at the end of 2011. Joycean scholars had fits with him. Hans Walter Gabler, who edited a popular critical edition of “Ulysses” in 1984, said of the grandson that “with refusals of permission and /or exorbitant fee requests, he terrorized scholars and critics as well as publishers into passivity and non-action in an attitude of ‘anticipatory obedience.’ ” President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland was kinder in his public statement after the death of Mr. Joyce, stating that he had been “deeply committed to what he saw was the special duty to defend the legacy of the Joyce family in literary and personal terms” although admitting that it was “not a task carried out in harmonious circumstances at all times.”
I will once again be teaching James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Oakton College Emeritus program in Skokie beginning Wednesday afternoon beginning September 26. The campus is located at 7701 North Lincoln Avenue. The class is from 1:30 to 3:30 and runs nine consecutive Wednesdays through November 21. Ulysses is arguably the greatest novel ever written in the English language. Admittedly, the reader is intellectually challenged by the book. But it is well worth the effort. On the surface, it is primarily a story of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus and their travels and travails through Dublin and its environs during the day and evening of June 16, 1904. The book concludes with Molly Bloom’s unforgettable soliloquy. The reader soon recognizes the genius of Joyce through the novel’s fantastic dialogue and cascading narrative. The marvelous cast of characters leaps forward out of Joyce’s unbridled imagination and into the reader’s mind and soul. I hope that some of you will consider taking this course, and feel free to share this information with others who may have interest. Registration can be done online at http://www.oakton.edu/conted or by phone at 847-982-9888.
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.
Recently I met Nancy Straus at a Cliff Dwellers event and the conversation between us turned to Ulysses by James Joyce. I was astounded when Nancy mentioned to me that she owned a rare copy of the book that was signed both by Joyce and the French artist Henri Matisse and contained illustrations from etchings done by Matisse, including the front cover with its gold-embossed Nausicaa design.
In 1935, the Limited Editions Club (LEC) published a limited illustration edition of Ulysses after Matisse had been paid $5,000 by George Macy, the founder of the Limited Editions Club, to do the Ulysses-themed artwork. It turned out that Matisse had not read Joyce’s Ulysses in the French translation. Nor did he intend to after he had been commissioned to do the illustrations.
Instead, Matisse proposed to create the artwork based on Homer’s Odyssey, which after all inspired Joyce to craft his modernistic take on the ancient Greek legend. And as it turned out, Joyce had no problem going along with Matisse on his proposal. In fact, Joyce enjoyed this illustrated edition so much that he bought several copies and presented one of them as a Christmas gift to his son and daughter-in-law in 1935.
There were only 250 copies of the LEC Ulysses signed by both Joyce and Matisse. The numbering is not in consecutive order. Nancy’s copy is #353. She was kind enough to send me photos of the cover and signature page of her copy.
We will be celebrating Bloomsday on the evening of Friday, June 16, from 6:30 to 8:00 at the Euro Echo Cafe in Skokie, located at 7919 Lincoln Avenue. A number of us will be reading some of our favorite passages from Ulysses, and we encourage others to read with us. There will be a display of Ulysses-related art by Leonid Osseny. Euro Echo Cafe is a comfortable and cozy place with a nice selection of sandwiches, salads and desserts. It is located across the street from the Skokie Theater. Please confirm your attendance and let me know if you would like to read by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Scottish born evangelist John Alexander Dowie is mentioned in four chapters of Ulysses. Dowie believed he was the third incarnation of the prophet Elijah, following Elijah himself and John the Baptist. He was fond of wearing Elijah-like clothing quite often, especially when he was touring the world from “Frisco beach to Vladivostok” to raise funds for his holy city of Zion, situated thirty miles or so north of Chicago. The “throwaway” of a paper flyer announcing Dowie’s upcoming evangelical meeting in Dublin plays a major role in the book’s narrative.
I was very saddened by the passing of Frank Delaney this past Tuesday. Irish born and bred, he had nicely settled in Connecticut for many years. Mr. Delaney was truly a Renaissance Man: an author, broadcaster and producer with interest and knowledge on a myriad of topics. He interviewed 1400 authors for his Bookshelf program that he produced and hosted on BBC Radio Four. I met him once, at a book event at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, and found him to be extremely gracious during the few minutes that we chatted.
Mr. Delaney’s true literary passion was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Since 2010, he produced 368 readings on his podcast Re: Joyce. And he indeed rejoiced on each and every reading. Speaking with his lilting Irish brogue, he savored each line that he read and commented on from Ulysses. Most readings were about five minutes, some a dash longer. They were basically oral mini-essays, read with both gusto and a discerning analytic eye.
It was Mr. Delaney’s intent to cover the entire book, from beginning to end through these mini-essays. From June 16, 2010 through last week, he read up to Chapter 10, page 192 of the Gabler edition. If he continued at that pace, it would have taken another twenty years to complete the book. Still, in less than seven years there were 2,500,000 downloads of Re: Joyce.
I was a frequent listener of Re: Joyce for both when I prepared for the Ulysses classes I taught, or just for the pleasure of listening to one great Irishman reading the words of another great Irishman. Mr. Delaney, you truly will be missed.