A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
Buffalo, NY — with Robin & Linda Williams
A live performance with Robin & Linda Williams in Asbury Hall at Babeville
Molly’s soliloquy from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Public domain. (buy now)
“O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the
figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue
and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and
cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put
the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how
he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and
then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to
say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him
down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like
mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
Today is Bloomsday, and James Joyce (books by this author) fans all over the world are celebrating. It commemorates the day on which the events of his novel Ulysses take place. Joyce chose June 16th, 1904, for the setting because it was the day of his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife. They’d met each other randomly on Nassau Street in Dublin on June 10th, chatted a bit, and agreed to meet up later. But she stood him up on their first would-be date of June 14th. On the 15th, the 22-year-old James Joyce sent a note to her that read:
“I may be blind. I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me — if you have not forgotten me!”
They successfully met up the following day, June 16th. They went for an evening stroll around the south bank of the Liffey River in Dublin. And Joyce later chose this day for the setting of Ulysses.
Even after the novel’s success, Joyce himself did not call June 16th “Bloomsday.” Nor did he really celebrate the day, though publisher Sylvia Beach organized a celebratory Parisian luncheon on June 16th, 1929 — years before the book was legal in the English-speaking world.
The first modern celebration of Bloomsday was in 1954, the 50th anniversary of the fictional events in Joyce’s book, and about three decades after Joyce published his novel in 1922. Irish writers Flann O’Brien and Patrick Kavanagh got together with critic John Ryan and a dentist cousin of James Joyce, named Tom Joyce, to make a daylong pilgrimage around Dublin. They were to have stops at the Martello Tower (the opening scene of the novel), Davy Byrne’s Pub (where Bloom eats a gorgonzola cheese sandwich) and 7 Eccles Street (where Bloom and his wife, Molly, lived). They role-played, acted out the dialogue, and rode in horse-drawn carriages like those described in the scene of Paddy Dignam’s funeral. They were supposed to end up in the red-light section of Dublin, where the 15th chapter of Ulysses “Nighttown” is set, but the literary pilgrims got a bit drunk and distracted at a pub about halfway through the route and lost their ambition to finish it.
There are big Bloomsday celebrations today in Paris, Toronto, Seattle, Sydney, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Oslo, Trieste, Minneapolis, Melbourne, Genoa, and Pittsburgh. In Philadelphia, there are readings — seven hours’ worth — on the steps of the Rosenbach Library, where the original manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses resides.
It’s the birthday of Joyce Carol Oates (books by this author), born in Lockport, New York, in 1938. She grew up on her parents’ farm in nearby Millersport. Her parents weren’t educated, but they encouraged her in her passion for books and writing. “I can’t remember when I first began to tell stories — by drawing, it was then — but I must have been very young,” she said in an interview with The Paris Review. “It was an instinct I followed quite naturally.” Her grandmother gave Joyce her first typewriter when she was 14, and she never looked back, writing novel after novel in high school and then throwing them away immediately. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, and she went on to Syracuse University, from which she graduated valedictorian of her class.
She published her first short story collection, By the North Gate, in 1963, and her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, in 1964. Thus began a career that has produced more than 50 novels to date, as well as numerous memoirs and collections of stories, essays, and poetry. She wrote her latest, A Widow’s Story: A Memoir (2011), after Raymond Smith, her husband of 47 years, died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 2008.
She once said, “A writer who has published as many books as I have has developed, of necessity, a hide like a rhino’s, while inside there dwells a frail, hopeful butterfly of a spirit.”