Bloomsday: James Joyce Day, June 16th

I have a gig on Friday with a band. The fact that I am unable to play a musical instrument, and possess a singing voice that sounds like a bag of cats in a blender (a metaphorical blender – I love cats and would never knowingly cause a moment of distress to one of those classy creatures) is entirely irrelevant. My services were requested, so I graciously accepted. I have been asked to perform to honour the works of Mr. James Joyce.

Friday June 16th is Bloomsday in Dublin. This day commemorates and celebrates the life of writer James Joyce, during which the events of his most famous book ‘Ulysses’ are relived. ‘Ulysses’ is a novel set over a 24 hour period – June 16th 1904 – and recounts the adventures of one Leopold Bloom – the son of a Hungarian Jewish immigrant and an Irish Protestant, as he wanders his home city of Dublin.

On this day in modern times, certain people dress up in Edwardian costume and participate in various cultural activities – readings from the books, pub crawls and music events around the town.

It all sounds like silly scrapes and jolly japes to me.

To my shame, I’ve never read the book. ‘Ulysses’ is one of those books, that for as long as I can remember has been claimed by certain people as a sign of how well read and intellectual one is. To have read this tome is a marker of a certain type of depth as a reader. A level of intelligence above that of the hoi-polloi. Consequently there are far more people who claim to have read the book than who actually have.

It’s not that I don’t want to read it, or believe that it is beyond the scope of my understanding. It’s just an intimidating book. Numbering almost one thousand in pages it is written in a stream of consciousness style. Apparently this means it is written in the manner in which people think – no logic, rhyme, reason, linear narrative. Or grammar.

It’s a book that I tell myself I should read. However as I am the type of reader who finishes what he starts, launching into a difficult thousand pager is a bit off-putting.

I’ve performed in  a stage version of ‘Ulysses’ some years ago in Amsterdam – a one hour adaptation comprising of snippets from Leopold Bloom’s day. I played one of two narrators. This took place in the Badhuistheater – probably the most wonderful theatre I have ever performed in.

One of my old acting muckers in the Dam is from Ireland originally. She has a singing friend living here. Having seen me in a few shows with the group in Dublin she asked me would I be interested in getting involved in Bloomsday.

I feigned nonchalance, while inwardly thinking ‘Oh but yes, absolutely, I’d love to. And I’ll consider nudity if it is tasteful and the role demands it – artistically speaking of course’ The depths of my shallowness are quite profound.

So tomorrow, it will be an early start at the James Joyce Tower in Glasthule. Dressed in my Edwardian inspired clothing I shall join the singer, the flautist, bodhran player and guitarist. They will perform songs associated with Joyce. Between numbers I will be reading from the book. Afterwards we will head to a café for a similar performance. In the evening the band will be at the Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire doing their thing. There will be a different narrator at the later show. But that’s all gravy. I’ll have done my piece for Irish literature.



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