17 June 2012

On Bloomsday

Today is the centenary of the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses. Or at least the 108th anniversary of the day (16 June 1904 a.k.a. "Bloomsday") which it supposedly chronicles.

Readings have interrupted regular scheduling on Radio 4 (which is tantamount to lese-majeste)

[Full disclosure: I am not, and have no relationship with, the James S Atherton, Joycean scholar and author of The Books at the Wake. But in my first days at university, in 1963, I did look up my own name in the card index--and found that reference. I found it on the shelf, and glanced in it for at least two minutes, before putting it back and beginning to wonder about the point of literary scholarship--beyond, of course, of its intrinsic delight, like that of solving a cryptic crossword puzzle.]

But I have read Joyce. My copy of the 1969 Penguin edition of Ulysses is beside me as I write, with pencil marks up to page 687. I confess that unlike my namesake, I never tackled the Wake.

So? Skip to the conclusion. Joyce invented literary bling.

I wanted to finish this post on Bloomsday, but I've missed that deadline (at least in BST terms). So, in short;

Ulysses is an  amazing tour de force. But the harder it tries the more contrived it gets.

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