Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Bloomsday.

I read Portrait of the Artist as a freshman college English assignment, and found it an interesting, if challenging, contrast to the fiction, mostly Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis, I'd been reading at the time. I didn't return to Joyce until my thirties, when, on the recommendation of a friend, I read Dubliners. I liked the stories, especially "The Dead", very much. It wasn't until I was in my forties, though, that I tackled Ulysses, although I'd seen Joseph Strick's and Fred Haines' excellent 1967 movie adaptation while in law school (and heard the conclusion of Molly Bloom's soliloquy recited by "Ralph Spoilsport" on Firesign Theater's How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All? many times after that).

Ulysses was tough going for me. I read it in small chunks, mostly while commuting on the subway. The "nighttown" sequence was particularly difficult. Once I got through it, though, I was glad I'd made the effort. It helped to make more enjoyable my visit to Dublin several years later. There's a nice appreciation of the book by Colum McCann in today's New York Times, in which he tells how it helped him to understand his deceased grandfather, a man of Joyce's time and, in his younger days, of the Dublin of Ulysses.

As for me, if I may be excused, I'm off to search for Gerty MacDowell.

(Joyce image courtesy of Hell's Kitchen.)

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