Friday, June 16, 2006


Happy Bloomsday, the holiday inspired by that most musical and most impenetrable of novels, James Joyce's Ulysses. If ever there was a novel that deserved its own holiday it's Ulysses. Not only does it chronicle the events of a single day (a rare distinction, in such a long novel), but it benefits greatly from being read aloud and enjoyed communally. It's also sometimes best appreciated in small doses, I've found. Here's a sample passage from Episode 4, known as "Calypso," for your Bloomsday enjoyment:
MR LEOPOLD BLOOM ATE WITH RELISH THE INNER ORGANS OF BEASTS and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod's roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

Kidneys were in his mind as he moved about the kitchen softly, righting her breakfast things on the humpy tray. Gelid light and air were in the kitchen but out of doors gentle summer morning everywhere. Made him feel a bit peckish.

The coals were reddening.

Another slice of bread and butter: three, four: right. She didn't like her plate full. Right. He turned from the tray, lifted the kettle off the hob and set it sideways on the fire. It sat there, dull and squat, its spout stuck out. Cup of tea soon. Good. Mouth dry. The cat walked stiffly round a leg of the table with tail on high.

-- Mkgnao!

-- O, there you are, Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

The cat mewed in answer and stalked again stiffly round a leg of the table, mewing. Just how she stalks over my writing-table. Prr. Scratch my head. Prr.

Mr Bloom watched curiously, kindly, the lithe black form. Clean to see: the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes. He bent down to her, his hands on his knees.

- from "The Literature Network", an online resource where you can search the complete text of Ulysses and many other novels

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