Thanks, James Joyce for Bloomsday!
James Joyce, an iconic Irish novelist, is renowned for his fearless writing. He was infamous for capturing the sacred alongside the profane and he was famous for his influence on modernist composition. Born and raised in Dublin, Joyce’s writing never lets you forget you’re in Ireland. Once each year, he is celebrated as enthusiastically by those who appreciate his writing as by those who’ve never heard of him. And that holiday is Bloomsday!
Bloomsday comes from a character in Joyce’s best known work of fiction, Ulysses. The title is a nod to the story’s modern parallels to Homer’s Odyssey with the main characters, Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife, Molly Bloom corresponding to Telemechus, Ulysses and Penelope. All of the action of Ulysses takes place in Dublin on one particular day, June 16, 1904. This day also happens to be Joyce’s first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. But Bloomsday did not become “a thing” until 1954, 13 years after Joyce’s death.
A Bloomsday Challenge: Walk Across Dublin Without Passing a Pub
It is from the character Leopold Bloom that Bloomsday takes its name. In Dublin, Bloomsday has expanded to a weeklong festival of activities tipping the hat to James Joyce and reveling in his bawdy snapshop of early 20th century Dublin citizenry. In nearly 200 cities worldwide, Bloomsday is observed on June 16 by dressing in period costume, reciting quotations from the book, taking walking tours and pub crawls. (A famous Bloomsday challenge is to walk across Dublin and NOT pass a pub.) You don’t even have to read the book to get into the festivities of Bloomsday!
Bloomsday Festivities Rooted in Scandal
In fact, to read Ulysses is no small commitment. But if you’re feeling subversive, you can treat yourself to reading this “dangerous” book. Ulysses was infamous in the United States even before the book was released. The US-based magazine, “The Little Review” began to serialize Ulysses in 1918, with some naughty bits resulting in a ban on the magazine being sent in the mail. Ulysses, the novel, was banned in the US until 1933.
Put a Rose in Your Hair and Raise Your Glass to Joyce
It is interesting to note that the US ban on Ulysses was lifted the same year as the nation-wide constitutional ban on alcohol, also known as Prohibition. So, when you lift a glass on Bloomsday in honor of James Joyce, you can also remember an era of progressive thought ushered in with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. When we host a “speakeasy” at The Whiskey Snug, we do it for fun and nostalgia, just like “putting a rose in your hair like an Andalusian girl” for Bloomsday!
Wrangler of Cultural Affairs