By AMANDA PETRUSICH
The New York Times: June 10, 2010
BLOOMSDAY may not have reached the nerd heights of Comic-Con, but it’s still a glorious expression of fandom. Each year, in honor of the raunchy, transcendent Dublin day recounted in James Joyce’s “Ulysses” — which details the comings and goings of Leopold Bloom on June 16, 1904 — acolytes rejoice with readings, parties and pub crawls. Few subcultural gatherings merge high and low with quite as much pluck.
One of the earliest Bloomsday precursors was held in France in 1929 (Sylvia Beach, the publisher of “Ulysses,” hosted a lunch with her companion, Adrienne Monnier). In 1954 a group of costumed Irish authors developed the archetype for future celebrations by traversing Dublin via horse-drawn cab and perhaps emptying a glass or two en route.
Today aspiring partakers should consult bloomsdaynyc.org, a compendium of events founded by Enam Hoque in 2008. Mr. Hoque, a passionate Joyce fan, described the Bloomsday mood as ecstatic. “It’s always joyful, it’s always pleasant, it’s always a celebration,” he said. “It’s not a somber mood. Some people may have had a few drinks, a few pints of Guinness. But other people, they just love the literature. You can see their mouths moving as people are speaking.”
Bloomsday on Broadway, staged annually at Symphony Space since 1981, has a cabal of actors and writers performing scenes from the novel. This year’s iteration, which will be simulcast on WNYC radio, wnyc.org and symphonyspace.org, explores the parallels between “Ulysses” and Homer’s “Odyssey.” Excerpts from both works will be enacted on Wednesday by a cast that includes Stephen Colbert, Ira Glass, Malachy McCourt, Tony Roberts and David Margulies. Isaiah Sheffer, artistic director of Symphony Space, will host.
“Joyce was a poet of sound; he wasn’t a visual person,” Mr. Sheffer said. “It’s meant to be read aloud. The big discovery is that it’s funny.”
Although the prospect of adopting a roiling brogue is tempting for some actors, Mr. Sheffer has a strict no-accents rule, ensuring that his performers don’t sound “like a bunch of actors auditioning for a leprechaun commercial.”
Mr. Colbert, who cites Bloomsday on Broadway as one of the reasons he moved to New York, will play Odysseus. “Performing ‘Ulysses’ on Bloomsday at Symphony Space is the only way I’ll ever finish the damn book,” Mr. Colbert admitted in an e-mail message. The seven-hour event will culminate with a two-and-a-half-hour uncensored reading of Molly Bloom’s erotic late-night monologue by the actress Fionnula Flanagan.
The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the City of Brooklyn, a social club, is marking its 150th anniversary by organizing one of Brooklyn’s first large-scale Bloomsday-inspired events. On Saturday members will lead a tour of five pubs along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, a neighborhood known for its cadre of authors. Actors and fans (including Charles J. Hynes, the district attorney of Kings County, who shares a name with a character in the novel) will read, and participants will get a taste of Bloom’s lunch (“a glass of burgundy,” a Gorgonzola sandwich).
The Friendly Sons — fresh off a six-week, directed reading of the whole of “Ulysses,” which they completed with members of the St. Boniface parish — plan to have a banner and a bagpiper accompanying the troop of celebrants, lest their presence go unnoticed.
And for readers who wish to participate but remain somewhat flummoxed by Joyce’s prose, the illustrator Robert Berry is releasing “Ulysses ‘Seen,’ ” a comic-book adaptation of the novel; the first chapter will be available at ulyssesseen.com (with an accompanying readers’ guide) and as a free app for the iPad. The idea, born on a prior Bloomsday, was fueled, as Mr. Berry explained in an e-mail message, “by a few pints of Guinness and a bet.” That’s an origin Joyce might approve.
Like Molly, Just Say ‘Yes’ (June 11, 2010)