A Letter From James Joyce to Nora Barnacle, 12/13/1909

James_and_Nora

I would be delighted to feel my flesh tingling under your hand. Do you know what I mean, Nora dear? I wish you would smack me or flog me even. Not in play, dear, in earnest and on my naked flesh. I wish you were strong, strong, dear, and had a big full proud bosom and big fat thighs.  I would love to be whipped by you, Nora love! I would love to have done something to displease you, something trivial even, perhaps one of my rather dirty habits that make you laugh: and then to hear you call me into your room and then to find you sitting in an armchair with your fat thighs far apart and your face deep red with anger and a cane in your hand. To see you point to what I had done and then with a movement of rage pull me towards you and throw me face downwards across your lap. Then to feel your hands tearing down my trousers and inside clothes and turning up my shirt, to be struggling in your strong arms and in your lap, to feel you bending down (like an angry nurse whipping a child’s bottom) until your big full bubbies almost touched me and to feel you flog, flog, flog me viciously on my naked quivering flesh!!

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Summary of Bloom’s Day in Ulysses — Evan Lavender-Smith (From Old Notebooks)

Makes breakfast for his wife. Goes to the butcher. Goes to the post office. Goes to church. Goes to a chemist. Goes to a public bath. Goes to a funeral. Goes to a newspaper press. Goes to a locksmith to canvass an ad. Feeds some seagulls. Goes to a bar. Helps a blind man cross the street. Goes to the museum. Goes to to the library. Visits a bookseller. Window-shops. Goes to a restaurant. Listens to some live music. Writes a love letter. Goes to another bar. Nearly gets in a fight. Masturbates to a beautiful eighteen-year-old exhibitionist giving him a private show. Takes an alfresco nap. Takes up a collection for a widow. Goes to a hospital to visit a pregnant woman. Flirts with a nurse. Feeds a stray dog. Goes to a whorehouse. Helps avert a row with the police. Goes to a cabman’s shelter and listens to a sailor tell stories. Breaks into his own house. Urinates under the stars with another man. Watches the sunrise. Kisses his wife on her arse.

It would have been the single busiest, most adventurous day of my life.

From Evan Lavender-Smith’s From Old Notebooks.

 

Film Footage of the First Bloomsday Celebration in 1954

Film footage of the first Bloomsday celebration (June 16, 1954)–a great find by Antoine Malette, who posted the video along with an account of the journey as told in Flann O’Brien: An Illustrated Biography. The film was shot by John Ryan, and shows an extremely inebriated Brian O’Nolan (aka Flann O’Brien) having to be helped around by pals Anthony Cronin and Patrick Kavanagh. We’re also treated to a scene of Kavanagh taking a piss with Joyce’s cousin Tom Joyce, a dentist who joined the merry band. (The scene will undoubtedly recall to you that marvelous moment in Ulysses when “first Stephen, then Bloom, in penumbra urinated“). The troupe didn’t quite finish their mission, getting sidetracked by booze and quarrels. Read the full account at Malette’s site.

Ulysses (1967 Film Adaptation)

Summary of Bloom’s Day in Ulysses — Evan Lavender-Smith (From Old Notebooks)

Makes breakfast for his wife. Goes to the butcher. Goes to the post office. Goes to church. Goes to a chemist. Goes to a public bath. Goes to a funeral. Goes to a newspaper press. Goes to a locksmith to canvass an ad. Feeds some seagulls. Goes to a bar. Helps a blind man cross the street. Goes to the museum. Goes to to the library. Visits a bookseller. Window-shops. Goes to a restaurant. Listens to some live music. Writes a love letter. Goes to another bar. Nearly gets in a fight. Masturbates to a beautiful eighteen-year-old exhibitionist giving him a private show. Takes an alfresco nap. Takes up a collection for a widow. Goes to a hospital to visit a pregnant woman. Flits with a nurse. Feeds a stray dog. Goes to a whorehouse. Helps avert a row with the police. Goes to a cabman’s shelter and listens to a sailor tell stories. Breaks into his own house. Urinates under the stars with another man. Watches the sunrise. Kisses his wife on her arse.

It would have been the single busiest, most adventurous day of my life.

From Evan Lavender-Smith’s From Old Notebooks.

 

Bloomsday

Portrait of James Joyce by Djuna Barnes

How to read Ulysses

Ulysses art by Roman Muradov

Selections from one-star Amazon reviews of Ulysses

joyce_ulysses-p2

Ulysses manuscript page

A list of Irish heroes (from “The Cyclops” episode of Ulysses)

“Words,” a page from one of Joyce’s notebooks for Ulysses

Another page of Joyce’s notes, plus links to more

James Joyce talks dirty

Filming Finnegans

James Joyce’s eye glasses prescription

William Faulkner’s Joyce anxiety

Ezra Pound on James Joyce

Marilyn Monroe reads Molly 

Biblioklept’s lousy review (the review is lousy, not the book) of Dubliners

Joyce’s entry on the 1901 Irish Census

Joyce’s caricature of Leopold Bloom

Biblioklept’s review (not so lousy, the review) of a superior full-cast audio recording of Ulysses

James Joyce explains why Odysseus is the most “complete man’ in literature

James Joyce’s passport

Leopold’s Bloom’s recipe for burnt kidney breakfast

“What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?”

James Joyce’s death mask


Jerry (Nude Reclining with Ulysses) — Paul Cadmus

jerry cadmus

Ulysses (1967 Film Adaptation)

Blah Blah Bloomsday

How to read Ulysses

A list of Irish heroes (from “The Cyclops” episode of Ulysses)

“Words,” a page from one of Joyce’s notebooks for Ulysses:

Another page of Joyce’s notes, plus links to more

James Joyce talks dirty

Filming Finnegans

James Joyce’s eye glasses prescription:

William Faulkner’s Joyce anxiety

Marilyn Monroe reads Molly 

Biblioklept’s lousy review (the review is lousy, not the book) of Dubliners

Joyce’s entry on the 1901 Irish Census

Joyce’s caricature of Leopold Bloom:

Biblioklept’s review (not so lousy, the review) of a superior full-cast audio recording of Ulysses

James Joyce explains why Odysseus is the most “complete man’ in literature

James Joyce’s passport:

Leopold’s Bloom’s recipe for burnt kidney breakfast

James Joyce’s death mask:


Biblioklept Does Bloomsday

Bloomsday blah blah blah — (all links lead to Biblioklept posts (yeah, we’re solipsists around here))—

How to read Ulysses

James Joyce talks dirty

Filming Finnegans

William Faulkner’s Joyce anxiety

Marilyn Monroe reads Molly 

Biblioklept’s lousy review (the review is lousy, not the book) of Dubliners

Joyce’s entry on the 1901 Irish Census

Biblioklept’s review (not so lousy, the review) of a superior full-cast audio recording of Ulysses

James Joyce explains why Odysseus is the most “complete man’ in literature

Leopold’s Bloom’s recipe for burnt kidney breakfast

James Joyce’s death mask—


How to Read James Joyce’s Ulysses (and Why You Should Avoid “How-to” Guides Like This One)

Bloomsday, an annual celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses, is upon us today with more excitement than ever. Even with the festivities, the book’s reputation for density, erudition, and inscrutability still daunts many readers–leading to a glut of guidebooks, summaries, and annotations. Ironically, rather than inviting first-time readers to the text, the sheer volume of these guides to Ulysses can paradoxically repel. Their very existence seems predicated on an intense need, and although some of the guides out there can be helpful, others can get in the way. This need not be. Ulysses deserves its reputation as one the best books in the English language. It generously overflows with insight into the human experience, and it’s very, very funny. And, most importantly, anyone can read it.

Here are a few thoughts on how to read Ulysses, enumerated–because people like lists:

1. Ignore all guides, lists, maps, annotations, summaries, and lectures. You don’t need them; in fact, they could easily weigh down what should be a fun reading experience. Jump right into the text. Don’t worry about getting all the allusions or unpacking all the motifs.

Pretty soon though, you’ll get to the third chapter, known as “Proteus.” It’s admittedly hard to follow. You might want a guide at this point. Or you might just want to give up. (Of course, you might be a genius and totally get what Stephen is thinking about as he wanders the beach. Good for you). If frustration sets in, I suggest skipping the chapter and getting into the rich, earthy consciousness of the book’s hero, Leopold Bloom in chapter four, “Calypso.” It’s great stuff. You can always go back to chapter three later, of course. The real key, at least in my opinion, to reading (and enjoying) Ulysses is getting into Bloom’s head, matching his rhythm and pacing. Do that and you’re golden.

I’ve already advised you, gentle reader, not to follow any guides, so please, ignore the rest of my advice. Quit reading this post and start reading Ulysses.

For those who wish to continue–

2. Choose a suitable copy of the book. The Gabler edition will keep things neat and tidy and it features wide margins for all those clever game-changing annotations you’ll be taking. Several guides, including Harry Blamire’s The New Bloomsday Book align their annotation to the Gabler edition’s pagination.

3. Make a reading schedule and stick to it. The Gabler edition of Ulysses is nearly 700 pages long. That’s a long, long book–but you can read it in just a few weeks. There are eighteen episodes in Ulysses, some longer and more challenging than others, but reading one episode every two days should be no problem. If you can, try to read one episode in one sitting each day. As the book progresses, you’ll find yourself going back to previous chapters to find the figures, motifs, and traces that dance through the book.

4. So you’ve decided you need a guide. First, try to figure out what you want from the guide. Basic plot summary? Analysis? Explication? There’s plenty out there–too much really–so take the time to try to figure out what you want from a guide and then do some browsing and skimming before committing.

The most famous might be Stuart Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses, a dour book that manages to suck all the fun out of Joyce’s work. In a lecture on Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov warned “against seeing in Leopold Bloom’s humdrum wanderings and minor adventures on a summer day in Dublin a close parody of the Odyssey,” noting that “it would be a complete waste of time to look for close parallels in every character and every scene in the book.” Nabokov scathingly continued: “One bore, a man called Stuart Gilbert, misled by a tongue-in-cheek list compiled by Joyce himself, found in every chapter the domination of one particular organ . . . but we shall ignore that dull nonsense too.” It’s perhaps too mean to call Gilbert’s guide “nonsense,” but it’s certainly dull. Harry Blamire’s The New Bloomsday Book is a line-by-line annotation that can be quite helpful when Joyce’s stream of consciousness gets a bit muddy; Blamire’s explications maintain a certain analytical neutrality, working mostly to connect the motifs of the book but letting the reader manage meaning. Don Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated is an encyclopedia of minutiae that will get in the way of any first time reader’s enjoyment of the book. Gifford’s notes are interesting but they can distract the reader from the text, and ultimately seem aimed at scholars and fanatics.

Most of the guidebooks I’ve seen for Ulysses share a common problem: they are obtrusive. I think that many readers who want some guidance or insight to aid their reading of Ulysses, rather than moving between books (what a chore!), should listen to some of the fantastic lectures on Joyce that are available. James Heffernan’s lectures for The Teaching Company provide a great overview of the book with some analysis; they are designed to be listened to in tandem with a reading of the book. Frank Delaney has initiated a new series of podcast lectures called re:Joyce; the first lecture indicates a promising series. The best explication I’ve heard though is a series of lectures by Joseph Campbell called Wings of Art. Fantastic stuff, and probably the only guide you really need. It’s unfortunately out of print, but you can find it easily via extralegal means on the internet. Speaking of the internet–there’s obviously a ton of stuff out there. I’ll withhold comment–if you found this post, you can find others, and have undoubtedly already seen many of the maps, schematics, and charts out there.

5. Keep reading. Reread. Add time to that reading schedule you made if you need to. But most of all, have fun. Skip around. If you’re excited about Molly’s famous monologue at the end of the book, go ahead and read it. Again, the point is to enjoy the experience. If you can trick a friend into reading it with you, so much the better. Have at it.

Radio Bloomsday to Feature Jerry Stiller, Bob Odenkirk, Alec Baldwin and More

New York’s WBAI will continue their 32 year tradition of celebrating Bloomsday tomorrow with a live broadcast featuring a host of actors reading aloud from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Readings begin at 7pm and continue until 2am. Performers include Paul Muldoon, Alec Baldwin, Jerry Stiller, Charles Busch, T. Ryder Smith, Bob Dishy, Judy Graubart, Aaron Beall, Amy Stiller, Paul Dooley, Bob Odenkirk, John O’Callaghan, Brian O’Doherty, Kate Valk, Mara McEwin, James Kennedy, Jim Fletcher, Richard Maxwell, Anna Goodman-Herrick, Janet Coleman, David Dozer, Emily Mitchell, and Tara Bahna-James. More at their blog.