Every student of English-language literature is familiar with the novel Ulysses, the brick-thick tome written by Irish author James Joyce, first published in France (where Joyce lived in self-imposed exile) in 1922. It did not see print without hesitation and controversy, having been called obscene, a laughable judgment given today's standards. And indeed, it was not published in the United States until 1933, when a groundbreaking federal district court decision by Judge John M. Woolsey struck a great blow against literary censorship.
The entire novel takes place on a single day, June 16, 1904, which is now known as Bloomsday, after the protagonist Leopold Bloom. The day is commemorated, all over the world, by readings from the novel in a social atmosphere. Such a reading will take place in Madison on Thursday, June 14, at the Brink Lounge for the benefit of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Joyce himself was visually impaired and eventually became blind.
The first Bloomsday occurred in 1954, when a group of Irish literary types decided to trace Bloom's itinerary through Dublin, where the book is set. Predictably, the tour ended in a drunken brawl before it was completed. This will not happen on Thursday. Registration begins at 5 p.m.; the tariff is $35, $25 for students, and includes refreshments and hors d'oeuvres before the readings begin at 6 p.m. Various Madison notables, myself included, will read passages from Ulysses.
Our cover story this week, "Funny or Die," is written by Isthmus digital media director Jason Joyce. This is pure coincidence. He isn't even Irish. But he may have been hit in the head with a Blarney Stone growing up Swedish/Norwegian in Minnetonka, Minn. We'll still let him share Bloomsday with us, as we do everyone, in the spirit of literary pursuit and the downing of a well-poured pint of the black and tan.