Bloomsday as you may or may not know is celebrated on June 16th, which was the day in 1904 in which Leopold Bloom took his (in)famous stroll around Dublin in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

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If you haven’t read Ulysses, and most people haven’t but like to pretend that they have because it makes them sound erudite, this book was considered scandalous when it was first published. Whatever of the revolutionary stream-of-consciousness style, the book includes some passages that were considered quite salacious at the time, such as this one:

Wildly I lay on her, kissed her: eyes, her lips, her stretched neck beating, woman’s breasts full in her blouse of nun’s veiling, fat nipples upright. Hot I tongued her. She kissed me. I was kissed. All yielding she tossed my hair. Kissed, she kissed me.

Quite tame by our standards in 2019 when every kind of kinky porn you can imagine is a few clicks away, but such words certainly garnered the attention of the morality police (censors) in the early 1900s.

There are a lot of ways to celebrate Bloomsday if you are so inclined:

  1. Possibly the most popular way is by getting drunk. Allegedly the first people to inaugurate this celebration attempted to retrace Bloom’s steps around Dublin, but only made it halfway because they passed out.
  2. Go on a first date! June 16th is the day that Joyce met his great love, Nora Barnacle. You never know who you’ll meet!
  3. Masturbate. Leopold Bloom did.
  4. Get a hand job. Ibid.
  5. Go to one of the multitudinous Bloomsday celebrations around the world.
    1. Symphony Space is hosting an event this year.
    2. Irish-American Bar Association of New York has its own event to remember the lawyer who represented Joyce’s publisher in the obscenity trial.
  6. Read a book by James Joyce or another Irish author.
    1. On this note, Joyce is frequently associated with the Gaelic revival/Irish cultural nationalism that blossomed around the time the book was written. Playwrights and authors worked to revive the Irish language and celebrate Irish works–hence the founding of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
    2. I’m not a Joyce expert, so I would have to do some further research, but my guess is that Joyce would be wary of being associated with some of the major figures of the Gaelic revival such as Lady Gregory. And I say that because Leopold Bloom, who is Jewish, encounters some antisemitism in Ulysses, and so I’m not sure how Joyce felt about the obsession with Irish identity. Could a Jew be Irish? Maybe this is not at all what Joyce had in mind, but it strikes me that he wasn’t fully on board with the obsession about what it means to be Irish as were the major anti-colonial figures such as Patrick Pearse.
    3. If you need a different Irish author, you might consider Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Maeve Binchy, Roddy Doyle, or Sally Rooney.
  7. Any other ideas!!? Let me know in the comments.
Categories: Books

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