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Happy Bloomsday – with pandemic time on my hands I have time for a retrospective by Ann Treacy
June 17, 2020, 4:03 am
Filed under: Bloomsday, Dublin

Happy Bloomsday! The day celebrates James Joyce’s way out there novel, Ulysses, which follows Leopold Bloom around Dublin on June 16, 1904. There are 18 chapters that parallel the episodes of Homer’s epic Odysseus. Rumor has it they are calling it Zoomsday this year. I thought I’d go through old note (and photos of Dublin) to see how many episodes I could remember.

Episodes 1-3 follow Steven Dedalus. It starts at the Sandycove Maratello Tower, near 40 foot. (I have a picture of us swimming at 40 foot; it’s freezing and there were jellyfish!) Mulligan is kind of a jerk. Dedalus leaves to teach a class. He gets into a discussion with the headmaster about Jews in Ireland. (Leopold is Jewish.) Dedalus claims that God is a shout in the street. Eventually Dedalus ends up on Sandymount Strand, a beach on the Dublin Bay. The episode is very stream of consciousness; we’ll see later that despite being a very nice area, Sandymount seems to inspire grittiness. (I’ve chosen a picture of a picnic actually between Sandycove and the Maratello Tower at Sea Point.)

Episode 4 – enter our hero Leopold Bloom. lived at 7 Eccles Ave. The door of that home is now at the James Joyce Museum. (And that’s our picture!) Leopold is cooking breakfast for his wife Molly, the singer. She’s having an affair with her manager Blazes Boylan and that’s driving Leopold crazy. He also wonders if it would be possible to walk across Dublin without passing a pub.

Episode 5 – Leopold is all about the women – getting a love letter from one (who isn’t his wife) and trying to sneak a peek at another wearing stockings. He seems a little lecherous. Leopold visit St George’s Church, which leads to some theological turmoil and alignment to sexual allusions that went over like a lead balloon in Catholic Ireland back in the day.

Episode 6 – Leopold joins several others on a way to Paddy Dingham’s funeral at Glasnevin – crossing the four Dublin rivers/canals in the processional. (I’ve included a picture of the girls at Glasnevin, where we totally saw a ghost.) Leopold remembers his son (Rudy) who died and his father, who committed decided.

Episode 7 – Bloom tries to place an ad; the format of the chapter is a series of newspaper headlines. The conversation is scattered. Funny it would nearly be like reading Tweets now.

Episode 8 – Lots happens but in the spirit of brevity, Leopold has a gorgonzola sandwich at Davy Byrne’s pub. He talks about his declining marriage. He talks about the goddesses in the National Gallery – about the anatomy they share with humans. (We usually go for the bog people at the Museum; I have a photo of the girls there.)

Episode 9 – Leopold visits the National Library. (One of my proudest moments was when I got a library card at the National Library as a student!) There’s a lot of talk about Shakespeare’s Hamlet and his wife’s fidelity. But mostly it’s a lot of blowhards – and in the end Leopold admitting that he doesn’t even believe his own theory.

Episode 10 – This chapter is a quick take on what’s happening with all of the minor characters in the novel. It’s presented like a description of an artwork. It’s very much a love letter to the city map of Dublin, including a brief stint in Phoenix Park. (I’m going to include a picture of the deer in Phoenix Park.)

Episode 11 – The singing chapter that takes place at the Ormond Hotel. Two barmaids are fighting. Blazes Boylan is in the same bar – on his way to meet up with Leopold’s wife. The language of the chapter is a musical, alliterative tongue twister.

Episode 12 – This is another pub scene. The Citizen is holding court and doesn’t like Leopold – he’s a Fenian and anti-Semite. There’s a language of North Dublin that I’ve always liked in the chapter and fighting. I have a strong memory of Joyce’s line about “Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx and Mercandente and Spinoza.  And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew.  Your God.”

Dun Laoghaire

Episode 13 – We’re back at Sandymount with Dedalus and Leopold and Gerty MacDowell. Gerty is daydreaming of romance. Leopold is watching nearby. Gerty flashes him. He masturbates and fireworks go off in Dun Laoghaire. He finds out she has a disabled leg. Then he starts feel bad about his indiscretion and then decides it’s all in his head. (So many pictures to choose form here. Just kidding but we lived near Dun Laoghaire so I was able to find a few.)

Episode 14 – Leopold visits the maternity hospital in Merrion Square. And area we know well because that’s where we often caught the bus home. On a high level the episode is about the birth of the English language. With different sections being written in the prose of different authors. On the face of it the mother to be has been in labor for days. The guys go for a drink and talk about sex and birth and life.

Episode 15 – The longest chapter is written like a screenplay. It’s a trip into Dublin’s red light district, which Joyce calls night town. It’s phantasmagorical. Leopold and Dedalus visit the brothels. I remember someone turning into a pig. Dedalus remembers his dead mother. Dedalus is drunk and overpays for services. It’s very vivid. There’s a fight and a soldier and eventually the cops show up and the two heroes disappear into the night.

Episode 16 – Leopold and Dedalus go to the taxi rank. Dedalus is drunk. Leopold is not. They talk about everything. We don’t know what’s true and what’s imagination. Leopold is worried for Dedalus because his young and foolish with drink and money. It’s rings pretty true to the end of a good night in Dublin.

Episode 17 – Leopold brings Dedalus home. There is a literal pissing contest of sorts. Dedalus doesn’t stay. Leopold goes to bed with his wife, who has 309 questions for him.

Episode 18 – The Molly Bloom soliloquy. She is in bed. She is thinking of lovers – past and present. It’s back to the stream of consciousness. Talk moves from farting to periods to marriage proposals at Howth Head (I’ll include a picture from there – a place we loved to visit on the opposite side of Dublin Bay from where we lived.) I always love this chapter for the line – the sun shines for you senorita. But upon looking back I have mangled the line horribly, which seems fitting. Molly’s speech gets very sexual, showing that Joyce was very equal opportunity with literacy climaxes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about Ulysses. When I was doing the MA at University College Dublin, you sort of chose James Joyce or Samuel Beckett for the exams. And I leaned to Beckett, who was much more theater (and novels!) of the absurd. I think I have the COVID pandemic to thanks for the time and inclination to walk down literary memory lane.  I was struck at how much Leopold, now one of the most famous Dubliners, feels like an outsider. I think we all do.


1 Comment so far
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Never could navigate my way through Ulysses but love your blog (as usual). Happy Juneteenth.

Comment by womanlake




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