As every self-respecting Joyce lover knows, today is Bloomsday.
What is that, you ask?
Bloomsday is the day that much of the world celebrates the life of Irish writer James Joyce, whose major work, Ulysses, takes place in a single day in Dublin: June 16, 1904. The novel centers around Leopold Bloom, hence the term Bloomsday.
June 16, 1904 also happens to be the day Joyce first went out with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.
Berkeley will hold a number of celebrations today. Mrs. Dalloway’s on College is hosting a reading of excerpts from Ulysses at 3 pm. Berkeley actor Thomas Lynch and George Davis, an English professor at The Jazz School, will do the honors. Irish Soda bread will be served.
Wilde Irish Productions will present its 7th annual Bloomsday celebration at the Berkeley City Club on Durant at 7:30 pm. Melanie O’Reilly, Ireland’s foremost Celtic jazz singer will perform with Bay Area pianist Frank Martin. They will perform Joyce-inspired jazz originals as well as some of Joyce’s favorite songs. Tickets are $15.
When an excerpt of Ulysses was published in an American literary magazine in 1920, members of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice blocked U.S. publication of the book. They were shocked by the novel’s masturbation scene. A trial court reviewed Ulysses in 1921, found it to be pornographic, and banned it under obscenity laws.
Sylvia Beach, who owned the bookstore Shakespeare & Company in Paris, published Ulysses in 1922 after Joyce couldn’t find another publisher. The novel was finally published in the U.S. in 1934, after the court ruling was overturned. Beach published 1,000 copies of Ulysses. These first editions now sell for $65,000.