On Bloomsday, Philadelphia celebrates a literary masterwork
For the 23rd year running, Philadelphia's Bloomsday celebration Monday will bring together lovers of literature for an outdoors all-day reading of James Joyce's "Ulysses."
For the 23rd year running, Philadelphia's Bloomsday celebration this Monday, June 16, will bring together lovers of literature for an outdoors all-day reading of James Joyce's "Ulysses."
"The point is to get passersby, just people walking through the city like Leopold Bloom did, to come and see what is happening," said Emilie Parker, director of education at the Rosenbach Library and an organizer of the festivities.
While Ulysses (inspired by Homer's "The Odyssey) covers a lot of ground and even includes the end of the world, the entire book is set on June 16, 1904 and follows Joyce's modern-day Odysseus — average schlub Leopold Bloom — as he walks around Dublin. Thus, June 16 is known as "Bloomsday."
The public readings will take place at the Free Library Central Branch from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., at Rittenhouse Square from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and from 3 p.m. on outside the Rosenbach Library at 20th and Delancey streets, which houses the original manuscript of "Ulysses." (Click here for the full schedule).
Dozens of readers, including former Gov. Ed Rendell and Free Library president Siobhan Reardon, will strive to bring Joyce's famously complex prose to life.
"It's like music. You can just sit there and let the words wash over you, even if you're not getting the meaning of all the words," Parker said of Joyce's writing.
Local actor Drucie McDaniel, who runs The Actors Crossroads acting studio, will read the legendary stream-of-consciousness monologue by Bloom's wife Molly that concludes the book.
"It shows the whole panoply of the female condition," McDaniel said. "I can't believe a man wrote it, and that it's as old as it is and it's still pertinent."
In Ulysses, Odysseus is Bloom, the Jewish Irishman who sells ads for a newspaper, and faithful Penelope is the philandering Molly, but McDaniel said the contradictions make the characters human.
"He's every man, and she's every woman. They're doing the best they can with what they have," McDaniel said.
Deemed obscene, the book was banned in the United States until 1941.
In 1998, the Modern Library voted Ulysses the greatest book of the 20th century.
Bloomsday is celebrated across the world by book-lovers who follow the paths of the characters around Dublin, read the book aloud, or just enjoy good food and drink.