Happy Bloomsday!

by Angela Tung on June 16, 2011

Every June 16, James Joyce fans everywhere celebrate the Irish writer’s mammoth tome, Ulysses.

Serialized from 1918 to 1920, Ulysses was first published in its entirety in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, who started Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Deemed “obscene” due to a passage that included the main character, Leopold Bloom (for whom the holiday is named), masturbating, Ulysses was banned in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom till the 1930s.

Bloomsday began in 1954 “on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Flann O’Brien organised what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route.”  Now 57 years later, Ulyssean festivities are still going strong.

The little bookshop that started it all is displaying artwork from artist Stephen Crowe’s “Wake in Progress, his ongoing project to illustrate every page of [another Joyce novel] Finnegans Wake.” In Dublin and New York, Joyceans celebrated with Bloomsday breakfasts. Broadway is putting on a daylong, celebrity-studded marathon reading, while tweeps are attempting to tweet all 256,000 words of Ulysses in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, author Frank Delaney is deconstructing one line of Ulysses a day; photographer Motoko Fujita put together a book of Joyce-inspired photographs; and Rory McCann, an Irish software developer, created an algorithm to solve the Ulyssean riddle, can you cross Dublin without passing a pub? (The short answer: yes but it’s not easy.)

Feeling less ambitious? You can see the what, where and when of 16th June 1904, as well as just the where.  Or if you’ve always wondered what the entire text of Ulysses translated in 2D barcodes looks like, you’re in luck. Of course we at Wordnik aren’t empty-handed – we have lists for this, Ulysses, Ulyssean, and Joycean.  And with the end of the Ulysses copyright next year, who knows what will happen (Bloomsday flash mob, anyone?).

Whatever you decide to do (or not do), you have 365 days to read, or re-read, the novel for next Bloomsday.  Or you can watch the movie.  We won’t tell.

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