It’s almost June 16th. Bloomsday. I enthusiastically celebrate this day commemorating my Jewish brother (well, sort-of), Leopold Bloom, as he travels and travails through Dublin and its environs on June 16, 1904. Bloom’s odyssey is chronicled in James Joyce’s Ulysses, arguably the greatest book ever written in the English language.
I, like so many countless others, endlessly struggled to read the book. I tried three times before I enrolled in Steve Diedrich’s Ulysses class at the Newberry, and soon the genius of Joyce slowly, but very truly, began to reveal itself in the fantastic dialogue and narrative. Only ten sessions with Steve ( a non-academic who worked by day as an insurance actuary) and words became images, the literary mystery unfolded into sense and sensibility, and the book’s marvelous cast of characters leaped forward out of Joyce’s unbridled imagination and into my mind and soul.
I took Steve’s class in 2007. Sadly he died of cancer three years later. Not only had he taught the Ulysses class at the Newberry for twenty plus years, but he also organized a Bloomsday celebration each year at the Cliff Dwellers.
Steve transformed me into that small circle of literati who are proud to be called “Joyce enthusiasts.” I celebrated my first Bloomsday at the Cliff Dwellers in 2008 watching Steve orchestrating a marvelous selection of readings from the text. The next year, my wife Anne (another one of Steve’s students) and I traveled to Dublin as pilgrims on our own Joycean hajj. We remain regulars at the Cliff Dwellers annual Bloomsday.
This year, once again, my friend and the illustrator of my book, the incomparable Leonid Osseny, enhances the Cliff Dwellers Bloomsday festivities by exhibiting some of his Ulysses sketches on easels. He has an illustration for each chapter of the book. Leonid’s exhibit of “Chicago Bridges,” by happenstance, also is on display at the Cliff Dwellers.
Hope to see you at the Cliff Dwellers this Bloomsday where Molly Bloom always gets the final word to say. Yes!