Today, June 16, is Bloomsday. At least it is celebrated as such by fans of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. It is the day that Leopold Bloom walks around Dublin for the 732 pages of that radical and now classic novel.
It is a novel that changed literature. I tried to read it. Several times. As an English major in college, I had to say I had read it. I had to say that it was extraordinary.
But that’s me. People will go to Sweny’s Pharmacy to buy lemon soap, like Bloom did in the novel. Fans will be making many stops in Dublin, some in period costume. They will do public readings. They will definitely be going to the pubs.
Some Bloomsday readings focus on the most dense parts of the book. Some will focus on the dirtiest parts. After all, the dirty/profane/obscene parts are what made it subject of a landmark American obscenity case.
It’s not a new celebration. In a letter written in 1924 by James Joyce, he said “There is a group of people who observe what they call Bloom’s day – 16 June.”
The Bailey pub Dublin’s city center has the door from No. 7 Eccles Street that was Leopold Bloom’s front door.
There are celebrations all over the world.
You might have picked up on allusions to the day in pop culture. The Mel Brooks’ play/film featured the character Leo Bloom. In the musical version, Leo asks, “When will it be Bloom’s day?” When Leo and Max meet, the office’s calendar shows the date as June 16.
Irish rockers, U2, have a song “Breathe” which refers to events taking place on a modern-day 16 June Bloomsday. It’s not a tale from the novel, but on the album where it first appeared (No Line on the Horizon) Bono uses several characters in the songs and the narrator within “Breathe” is one who is able to find redemption – something Mr. Bloom is concerned with in the novel.