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Ulysses on Stone Street

June 20, 2010

Do me (and yourself) a favor: Mark your calendars for next year’s Bloomsday (June 16th, 2011) so you won’t miss the readings from “Ulysses” hosted at the eponymous pub on Stone Street, in lower Manhattan, by all-around mensch and nonpareil writer, Colum McCann. I know, I know, “Ulysses“ is dense, impenetrable, the literary totem of literary scholars/snobs/wannabees. Except it isn’t. Difficult in some parts, yes. But in others eminently accessible, it is a book that requires work to grasp in its totality. (Said James/Jimmy/Seamus Joyce something to the effect, “It took me 14 years to write, so why shouldn’t take you a while to get through?”) But it’s work that never stops paying off. It’s the only book I’ve read three times. (Does that sound pretentious? Yes. Sorry. Sue me.) When I was working at Time Warner in the infernal salt mines of speech writing and trying to produce my first novel, I kept “Ulysses” in the top drawer of my desk. I arrived two hours before the mine boss’s whistle blew to write what I could of a book that I wasn’t sure I could write and often doubted I’d finish. (It was eventually published as “Banished Children of Eve.”) Those mornings when I was stymied (and, Christ, there were a lot of them), I’d take out “Ulysses,” read a page/paragraph/sentence and be reminded of the magic of storytelling, the plasticity and suggestiveness of language and how a writer/ novelist/fabulist has the right /duty to try anything, to experiment, to seek every chance available to explore what it means to be a human being in the context of a certain place and time. There were times (a lot of them) I was totally intimated by Joyce. I knew that at my best, I’d fall far, far, far short of Seamus at his worst. But more often I was reminded of just how central storytelling is to our species, how every story matters, how the truth is in the telling, and I was motivated to keep going. The enduring triumph of Joyce’s masterpiece hit me again, full force, on Stone Street, the most Dublinesque of New York streets, as I listened to terrific performers like Larry Kirwan and Colum McCann turn words into flesh, a rapturous afternoon, weather and Guinness pregnant with Liffy quiddity, the afternoon capped by Aedin Moloney’s breathtaking, time-bending transubstantiation of Miss Molly, bringing her blazingly, fun-lovingly, fiercely, bloomfully, unforgettably to life. It’s a date, then, no? Next June 16th, Bloomsday, yes, at Danny McDonald’s Ulysses Pub, on Stone Street, yes. Say yes. Yes.

4 comments

  1. Your blog/essay is *so* right on. I remember having those same thoughts of authorial inadequacy as I struggled with *Ulysses.* It’s a work I am still trying to understand, a work that keeps bestowing its spiritual riches on all who try to read it, not just the academic “spiffingtons” with their noses in the air, and in parts, it is just plain hilarious in an irreverent, classically Irish kind of way. I wish we lived closer to the “Apple” so we could have attended.


  2. sublime. on my calendar for june-next


  3. I’m afraid I can’t commit to being anywhere where the phrase “Guinness pregnant with Liffy quiddity” might come up!.


  4. Yo, Mama L., How about “lasagna laced with Latin lassisitude”… Does this do it for you?



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