Even if you haven't finished reading it, join the Joyceans for the annual celebration of Ulysses.
For one thing, Bloomsday isn't just for the experts--not by a long shot. In yes I said, Frank McCourt writes that the New York Bloomsday on Broadway event is a favorite even among those who aspire to read the book. That's fine with him. "There are people who read bits of the Bible on Sundays," he writes, "but who among us has read the whole thing?"
"I'm chuckling because it's like you found me out," says Marty Moss-Coane, host of Radio Times on WHYY, who admits the only part of Ulysses she's read is the part she performed, in her resonant radio voice, last Bloomsday. "But I just love the event--I love his language. It's fun to say the words and think about them and feel their poetry and sensuality."
Much of the event's popularity is attributable, surely, to Joyce's language--his use of words that are sometimes made up and sometimes just seem made up until you look them up and find they're in the dictionary. "People will sometimes sit with their eyes closed, just listening to the language," McDaniel says.
But there's also the fact that everybody loves Molly Bloom, the bawdy, earthy character whose stream-of-consciousness soliloquy ends the book. After 13 years, McDaniel is so beloved as Molly that she gets applause just for stepping up to the podium--but she was a newcomer to the book in the beginning too.
"I came to it totally blind and ignorant," says McDaniel, who requests a fresh copy of the script each year and adds punctuation to the text that would otherwise look like one run-on sentence. In so doing, McDaniel says, she must reevaluate the material every year, bringing her own changed perspective to the performance.
In the end, McDaniel doesn't find the book's complexity hard to reconcile with its popularity.
"Part of the reason I was able to succeed despite myself was what's so successful about Joyce's writing. He gets straight to his characters' heart."
Bloomsday 100 Wed., June 16, noon-7:30pm. Free. Rosenbach Museum and Library, 2008-2010 Delancey Pl. 215.732.1600. www.rosenbach.org
Ulysses is as much Philadelphia as Dublin, fit for any underdog who’s ever been told he or his city is second-tier. Think Rocky with a doctorate, and tons more "Mickeys.” Get ready for Bloomsday with this Philly retelling.
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