Friday, June 16, 2017

It's Bloomsday

And for the first time, I'm enjoying June 16 in Dublin. Just returned from a walking tour of some of the locales in Ulysses, organized by the James Joyce Centre. If you're a Joyce fan, nothing in the book is too small--we learned some about how detailed some of his research was as he contacted people in Dublin he knew to check out specific details.

The woman who led the tour got into the spirit by reading appropriate selections from the novel at each stop. Memorable lines from Joyce--Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as well as Ulysses. Normally this kind of minute tracking leaves me cold but with Joyce, it all becomes fascinating. People get tied up in his plotting so that you think this is where Leopold Bloom walked and tend to forget that he and all the rest were fictional--except that so many of the characters, like the Citizen in the great scene in Barney Kiernan's pub, were closely drawn from real people Joyce knew. 

We passed Oliver St. John Gogarty's residence and recalled that as the marker says, he was a surgeon, writer, and statesman, but in fact he's remembered almost entirely because he was the model for Buck Mulligan, whose name begins the first sentence of Ulysses. This is like the powerful Viennese critic whom Wagner mocked as the character Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger but today is only remembered for that.

Yesterday we paid the obligatory visit to Trinity College's Old Library to see the Book of Kells. The Book is worth seeing, being an 8th century product of the monastery world, and you crowd around the glass-covered exhibit case in a darkened room (to protect the vellum) as everyone seeks to see it close up. To me, going upstairs to the Long Room, which is possibly the most magnificent classically-designed library I've ever seen, was far more impressive.

The tour of Trinity College was also fascinating. The tour guide had just graduated so she passed on inside info such as the true story about the once-highly-desired lodgings in classic old buildings that although occupied by the fellows--the faculty--and prize students, lack central heating and require one to wait outside to use the communal showers. The less historic, but still old, regular dorms have been renovated and are now preferred. I wonder what Samuel Beckett or Jonathan Swift thought, much less Oscar Wilde, who spent two years there and whose family lived nearby.

Later we went to another Joycean event--a panel discussion of the idea of Irishness in Ulysses by three writers, held in the General Post Office on O'Connell Street, site of the 916 Easter Rising. This was a good exploration of both the way Joyce viewed Ireland and the way the people he writes about saw the country.

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