Bloomsday celebrates June 16, 1904: the day captured in James Joyce’s Ulysses. The Modernist novel recounts Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey as a day in the life of Dublin advertising agent Leopold Bloom.
Ulysses broke ground with its stream of consciousness narration. Laurence Sterne based the 18th Century The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman on rambling digressions. Joyce explored the inner workings of Stephen Dedalus in his semi-autobiographical first novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Dedalus returned in Ulysses, where Joyce expanded the techniques and floated through the streets and thoughts of Dublin over the course of a day.
The story ran in serialized form from 1914 to 1921 before being published as a novel in 1922 in Paris. It was plagued with obscenity charges. The United States Post Office burned copies that attempted to enter the country. Due to its idiosyncratic language, there are still difficulties finding a definitive edition.
In Dublin, fans dress in Edwardian garb and walk the streets of the city on June 16, nose in book as they trace the steps of the story. At some point, they might stop in Davy Byrne’s Pub at 21 Duke Street, “Dublin’s Original Gastro Pub,” which appeared in Ulysses and Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners.
Chicago will also find Bloomsday events. Reservations are required for The Cliff Dwellers (200 S Michigan Ave, 22nd Floor). There is a $10 reading from 6-8:15; $50 will include a post-reading dinner. https://www.facebook.com/events/287214638121321. At 8pm, there will be a reading by Bloomsday in Chicago at the Galway Arms (2442 N. Clark Street).
June 16, 1904 is also the day that James Joyce got his first hand job from his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.