I have a special, guilty place in my heart for James Joyce’s Ulysses. I tried to read it on the shores of Lake Michigan when I was 17, and powered through 20 pages before I realized I had no idea what was happening. I had a similar experience with the Cliff Notes (shame) on the shores of Lake Erie. I built up my Joyce muscle during Irish Lit courses in college, and, in a fit of substitution, took to sleeping with a Spanish-language edition of the novel when my relationship with an Argentine named Ulises turned sour. But, like many a straw man English major, I haven’t actually read the book.
My literary pretense outweighs my shame, so I felt entitled, nay, obligated, to geek out over yesterday’s observation of Bloomsday. In my defense, at least I’d absorbed the very basic information — the main characters are Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus, the setting is Dublin, June 16, the frequent allusions to Homer — that cushions my ignorance.
I usually opt for marathon readings, though I should admit I’m the sort of person who lets the diehards work their way through the first seventeen episodes, unaccompanied, and then swoop in for the “yes oh yes I will yes” leg and grab a commemorative T-shirt. In lieu of hopping a plane to the mean streets of Dublin, or completing this oldie-but-goodie Bloomsday Boston itinerary, I winnowed my way through Bloomsday commentary, looking for books to add to my ever-growing “to read” list. James Cohen’s Daily Beast article on recent novels that have been described as the [insert culture/ nationality/ ethnicity here] Ulysses is a good start, though I’m going to steer clear of the Argentine model.
If you’re still interested on reading more about Ulysses, feel free to check out our feature article, A ‘Moral Pub’ Crawl Through James Joyce’s Dublin.