Bloomsday Honors Irish Author James Joyce

Once again, fans of Irish author James Joyce have celebrated Bloomsday. Thousands of people descend on Dublin each June 16 to celebrate Joyce's epic novel Ulysses by re-creating the events in the book. The novel chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin on a single day — June 16, 1904 — a day, as Bloom says, that's a "chapter of accidents."

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And we go now from performing Pythagoras to performing "Ulysses."

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

That's the novel D.H. Lawrence called journalistic dirty mindedness. Virginia Woolf said it was the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.

MONTAGNE: None of which prevents fans today of the novelist James Joyce from descending on Dublin on June 16th. That's the day in 1904 on which his masterpiece "Ulysses" takes place. This year, NPR's Rob Gifford went along.

ROB GIFFORD: If you walked around Dublin yesterday, you'd have seen a variety of young men in bowler hats and young women in long, period dresses reciting on street corners to everyone and no one from "Ulysses," the novel that telescopes the story of the Greek myth "The Odyssey" into one day in the lives of a group of ordinary Dubliners.

Unidentified Man: Perched on high stools by the bar, hats shoved back at the tables, calling for more bread no charge, swilling, wolfing gobfuls of sloppy food…

GIFFORD: Now, we all read "Ulysses" in college English class, didn't we? No, me neither. No punctuation and all just a bit too un-literature-like.

Mr. DAVID NORRIS (Irish Senator): Joyce is like the nuclear explosion in literature, and people are still suffering from the radiation effects.

GIFFORD: Irish senator David Norris is arriving for a Bloomsday breakfast at Dublin's James Joyce Centre, one of dozens of events to be held across the city. Norris is a champion of the man who put the stream into stream of consciousness, James Joyce, and the book's hero, or anti-hero, Leopold Bloom.

Mr. NORRIS: Leopold Bloom is the average, ordinary, sensual man. He is Mr. Everyman. Joyce was the prophet of the extraordinariness of the ordinary.

GIFFORD: After the breakfast, guided tours are offered by Joyce fans from afar for Joyce fans from afar.

Ms. COLLEEN COX(ph) (Tour Guide): All right. This is St. George's Church, so this is one of the first and last things that Leopold Bloom sees on his day in "Ulysses."

GIFFORD: Colleen Cox is a graduate student at Trinity College, Dublin, originally from Anchorage, Alaska. She acts as a part-time tour guide along the Dublin roads described in intricate - some might say excruciating - detail in "Ulysses."

Ms. COX: I've read it a few times, and each time I find something new for the place in life that I'm at at that moment. It speaks to all people, all races, all ages, all nations.

GIFFORD: Eduardo Lago is a Spanish writer who lives and teaches in New York.

Mr. EDUARDO LAGO (Writer): For me, it's the most important work ever written in the English language. I take a plane from New York only for this, and my friends do the same thing from different corners of the world.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

GIFFORD: At a downtown event, someone is reading from "Ulysses" in Serbian. Back at the James Joyce Centre, though, it's something of a relief to hear the confessions of three friends, Brendan Hughes(ph), Michael Nash(ph) and Liam Coldwell(ph), who have been celebrating Bloomsday together for more than a decade.

Mr. BRENDAN HUGHES: I read the first page and then I gave up.

Mr. MICHAEL NASH: Well, I would admit to not comprehending everything that was in it.

Mr. LIAM COLDWELL: We're actually here because we love it, but we haven't read it -if you know what I mean.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COLDWELL: We love it because we haven't read it, actually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: So it's not strictly necessary to have read "Ulysses" to enjoy Bloomsday. Now, that's a holiday that a few of us might be able to get into. All the same, I'm leaving with a commitment to myself to try again.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, Dublin.

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