Today is Bloomsday! Here's how and why we celebrate one of my favorite books.
Every year on June 16th, the world celebrates James Joyce and Ulysses in what has come to be known as Bloomsday. For those who might not be familiar, James Joyce was an Irish writer who was considered to be the father of modernism in literature. He wrote everything from poems to plays, but his most well-known work is Ulysses. Published in its entirity in 1922, it is considered to be the greatest work of modernist literature. The plot is pretty simple: Leopold Bloom wanders around Dublin for a day, meeting and almost-meeting a multitude of characters. The events in the book are ordinary, but the way the book is written is extrodinary. Some chapters, or episodes, are written in stream of conciousness while others try to mimic music or slow down time to describe what all can happen in the same moment. To be brief, it is a masterpiece.
This 700-plus page book takes place during one particular day: June 16, 1904. The date itself is a nod to Joyce's wife, Nora Barnacle, as it is the day the pair had their first date. And in turn, people all over the globe now celebrate this day as Bloomsday. In Dublin, people walk around the city and retrace the steps taken by Leopold Bloom. There are pub crawls and dramtic readings, and costumes are worn. Places like Hungary, Italy, and even Canada celebrate the day with readings and literary events. Many cities in the United States have their own celebrations as well, with places like New York having a Ulysses on Broadway evening and Philidephia throwing a Bloomsday festival.
It's no surprise that Ulysses is my favorite book. And I don't say that to be pretentious. Ulysses inspires me to think about writing without limitations and to focus on the extrordinary of every day. Joyce wrote about a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom. It wasn't a special day for Mr. Bloom; he was just out running errands. And yet, it has been turned into a world-wide phenomenon. It's a good reminder that every single day, no matter what is happening, is worth documenting.
The last words of the book are "Yes I said Yes I will Yes," and I think about those words probably once a day. It reminds us to say yes a little more and to do so fearlessly. Or as professor of mine once put it: "Choose experiences. Choose love. Choose life."