Who Will Remember Bloomsday?

James JoyceJames Joyce wrote with excruciating effort as he recovered from one of many eye operations in June 1924. He’d had an iridectomy on his left eye in hopes of preventing another attack of glaucoma. According to Richard Ellmann’s biography, the worst part of the operation was the aftermath. “Lying with face bandaged in a darkened room, he saw before his mind’s eye a cinema of disagreeable events of the past. This was varied by thoughts of Finnegans Wake. Myron Nutting went to the clinic, ‘Madame de la Valliere’s chateau, rue Cherche-Midi’ (as Joyce derisively called it), to visit his friend, and found him lying on his back in the dark, his eyes under dressings as big as small pillows. ‘Hello, Joyce,’ he said cheerily. Joyce remained silent and motionless for a few seconds, then reached under his pillow and drew out a composition book and a pencil. Slowly and carefully, by touch, he made an entry, put his book and pencil back under the pillow, then held out his hand to say, ‘Hello, Nutting.’ Aware of his friend’s bafflement, he took up the notebook again and showed him the words, ‘Carriage sponge,’ which left Nutting no wiser. On June 16 the gloom of the clinic was alleviated by the arrival of a bouquet of hydrangeas, white and dyed blue, which some friends sent him in honor of ‘Bloomsday,’ as the day of Ulysses was already called. In his notebook Joyce scrawled, ‘Today 16 of June 1924 twenty years after. Will anybody remember this date?’” (Ellmann 566)

Is there another work of literature today that is so set in the calendar, or read with such exultation?

… and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know of Mulvey and Mr Stanhope and Hester and father and old captain Groves and the sailors playing all birds fly and I say stoop and washing up dishes they called it on the pier and the sentry in front of the governors house with the thing round his white helmet poor devil half roasted and the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs and the auctions in the morning the Greeks and the jews and the Arabs and the devil knows who else from all the ends of Europe and Duke street and the fowl market all clucking outside Larby Sharons and the poor donkeys slipping half asleep and the vague fellows in the cloaks asleep in the shade on the steps and the big wheels of the carts of the bulls and the old castle thousands of years old yes and those handsome Moors all in white and turbans like kings asking you to sit down in their little bit of a shop and Ronda with the old windows of the posadas 2 glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Read more in the Project Gutenberg e-text of Ulysses. And if that agenbite of inwit is more than you can chew, someone/everyone is tweeting the book from “Sttaely plump Buck Mulligan” to “yes I will Yes” at #bloomsday.

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