I was a callow youth when I attended my first Bloomsday event in New York City. I remember little about the setting except that it was dark and much drink was taken.
From the stage Frank McCourt related that while serving in the US Army in Germany he was asked out by a lady officer much taken with his accent.
“Are you familiar with Joyce?” She inquired over their first drink.
“No,” Frank replied, “what does she look like?”
McCourt who would later become the best-selling Irish writer of his generation had little notion of James Joyce, whereas nowadays every Paddy that ever lifted a pen could quote from Ulysses ‘til the cows came home.
Take yours truly, for instance, with three upcoming Joycean engagements; you could posit that I’m a first class literary poseur or another poor soul afflicted with Joyceitis.
James Joyce himself profited little from his writing. His wife, Nora Barnacle, complained that “them auld books caused nothing but trouble. You should have stuck to the singing.” She had a point for at one Feis Ceoil he came in third place to the great Count John McCormack.
But Joyce never doubted his own brilliance. As a young man with nothing yet published he told the world renowned WB Yeats that the poet was beyond help.
Joyce was also an accomplished mooch who borrowed like it was going out of style. When it came to creditors and landlords he was rarely more than one step ahead of the hounds.
Hemingway (a man who knew whereof he spoke) said that Joyce was a rummy of the first order. And yet Sunny Jim was a drunk with discretion, for though he quaffed white wine by the gallon, he would not touch a drop of red – for it reminded him of blood.
Joyce knew his women and wrote expertly - and intimately - about them. Every man contemplating matrimony should read the last 30 pages of Ulysses when Molly Bloom shares her thoughts. Some will go dashing back to the safe haven of bachelorhood; many more will roar out “tally-ho!”
That’s the power of Joyce and you will have two opportunities to experience the wondrous Aedín Moloney inhabit the character of Molly in the coming weeks. First up will be on June 11th at Barnes & Noble in Tribeca where she will terrify the uptight in the company of Pete Hamill, Malachy McCourt and yours truly.
This event will be sponsored by Irish American Writers and Artists; however don’t bring your Grand-Aunt Fanny unless she can handle unbridled womanhood in the raw, for Molly Bloom is a woman of considerable appetites.
Aedín will reprise the role outside Ulysses Folkhouse on Pearl Street on the afternoon of June 16th.
I am often hailed as the world’s foremost male interpreter of the Ulysses character, Gerty McDowell – being the only one certainly helps. I’ll be unleashing Dirty Gerty, as she is commonly known, while leading a discussion on Ulysses in Bryant Park Reading Room at lunchtime on June 16th.
All these Joycean events are free in honor of Sunny Jimmy Joyce who never cared to pay for anything himself. You should attend one or more for Ulysses is much better heard than read.
Jot down some quotes that tickle your fancy – and there will be many for Joyce put the kitchen sink into “the world’s greatest novel.”
Then on June 17th, in the solitude of your room, with a roaring hangover, you can commit your favorite lines to memory.
Upon recovery, dressed in your best seersucker suit and straw hat, head for your local saloon where you can mouth off these priceless nuggets to the assembled shocked and awed peasants. Have no qualms about accepting every free drink offered you, and demand copious buybacks from your barkeep.
Ah yes, God bless Jimmy Joyce, genius and freeloader, the month of June would not be the same without him.
June 16 12:30-1:45pm, Bryant Park Reading Room, 42nd St./5th Ave., NYC
June 16 2pm Ulysses Folk House, 95 Pearl St., NYC
June 16 11pm Celtic Crush, SiriusXM Radio - The Spectrum, Ch. 28, Bloomsday Show