Yes, once again I have blown my chance to write a special Bloomsday post about the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode of Ulysses, in which Stephen Dedalus presents a little lecture in the Irish National Library on his theory of the relation between Shakespeare’s biography and his works, and Leopold Bloom completely undercuts this solemn exposition by wandering around to check whether the classical sculptures of goddesses scattered throughout the library have anuses. Oh well, there’s always next year—and at the rate I’m going, though my reading of Shakespeare will long be finished, we will still be hashing over the results.
Truly, Joyce is Shakespeare’s only near competitor in the language as artificer. He knew it, and you should too. Listen if you can to the annual Symphony Space Bloomsday on Broadway reading from Ulysses live on WYNC New York, from 8 pm Eastern Daylight Time in the United States and Canada, or to recorded readings on WBAI, New York’s Pacifica radio station. (By the way, did you know that Stephen Colbert says one reason he moved to New York was to be able to see this annual event live? He’s since participated in it more than once. Do you still wonder why I love the guy?) And read the book, as I am urging you to read Shakespeare, receptively and with your whole humanity. Don’t listen to the more and more insistent drumbeat that insists that long books, like Ulysses or Moby-Dick or William Gaddis’s The Recognitions, are boring and demand too much attention. Remember that like Shakespeare, such books are above all (intentionally) funny. As with Shakespeare, if they don’t make you laugh you’re not doing it right.
The Internet, some say, is making us stupid. But some of us don’t need the help. I don’t mean people who don’t like Ulysses, or think they don’t. Apart from tastes differing, most people aren’t introduced to it properly—again like Shakespeare. (A pause to thank Phil Church, my teacher at Kenyon College who gave me the properest introduction to Joyce anybody could have asked for.) I have no problem with them. I do have a problem with people who think that flaunting their cultural ignorance is a badge of cool. Guess what: it wasn’t Clay Shirky who coined the phrase “Here Comes Everybody.”
Anyway, Happy Bloomsday, and there will be another post on Mercutio soon, I promise.