On June 16th, this podcast (which is I, actually) will host a Bloomsday event from 6 to 9 p.m. at Urban ReThink in downtown Orlando. This event is inspired, in large part, by the Bloomsdays I attended in New York when I lived there. Here is a journalist droplet I wrote about my last one.
Bloomsday 2010: A Dispatch from NYC
Amidst the slate-gray geographic jigsaw puzzle of downtown Manhattan, Stone Street is a picturesque anachronism, a valley of nineteenth century architecture with its brick rectangles lined with pubs. And on the afternoon of June 16th, one of its pubs, Ulysses Folk House, celebrated both its anniversary and the day the spirited, expansive Modernist novel it is named for is set on.
Colum McCann, winner of last year’s National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin, emceed the event, as he has done for the last seven years, with vivacious humility and charming bonhomie. He read the opening pages of James Joyce’s 1922 novel with his creamy baritone brogue, to a crowd of a hundred or so listeners congregating in the middle of the surprisingly mild afternoon. His stubbled cheekbones pursed often, ready to grin, as he loudly intoned Buck Mulligan’s mockery of Latin, or one of Stephen Dedalus’s many moping retorts to Mulligan. With his peach-colored boutonnière in his tweed jacket, McCann himself looked like a character out of the book.
So did many people in the audience, which over the next few hours swelled to three times its size. Waitresses emerged with infinities of amber pints. Readers pecked their way randomly across the text. Larry Kerwin, lead singer of the Irish punk band Black 47, approached the podium with a heroically-tattered paperback. He read the part of Gertie MacDowell, the adolescent girl who watches the seaside fireworks, and the admirer who was watching her, with such sweet, cooing teenage hysteria. And the crowd cheered Kerwin as if his voice and Joyce’s words were themselves fireworks dazzling off somehow in broad daylight.
The greatest pyrotechnics, however, came from a diminutive actress named Aedin Moloney, who intermittently read from Molly Bloom’s risqué, stirring, and often poignant soliloquy that closes Ulysses. Moloney’s voice reverberated all over Stone Street with the dreamy passion and jeweled filth and mad romance of Joyce’s novel, with her enrapt audience clapping, laughing, and whooping for literal joy.
“Ulysses, originally, was street culture,” beamed the owner of Ulysses Folk House, Danny McDonald, “that’s what the book is really about—street culture—and this is street culture, folks.”