James Joyce’s long modernist novel Ulysses confines the entirety of its action to the city of Dublin and the day of June 16, 1904. The novel’s mock epic hero is Leopold Bloom; the novel charts his course through the day along with a few other notable Dubliners — Bloom’s unfaithful wife Molly, Joyce’s alter ego Stephen Dedalus, and the sardonic Buck Mulligan. Dubliners at heart and fans of the novel celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Bloomsday.
At Armavirumque Roger Kimball observes:
Whatever one’s final judgment about Ulysses, it is surely worth reflecting on the sheer power of the book, which, since its publication on February 2, 1922 (Joyce’s 40th birthday), has stirred controversy, animated discussion, and fired imaginations as no other novel I can think of has done. Where is the James Joyce of 2004?
Kimball directs us to the “thoughtful column” on Ulysses by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post: “A century after Bloomsday, ‘Ulysses’ still offers challenges.” Stephen Schwartz has a wonderful article on the novel in the current Weekly Standard: “Ulysses and us.” Schwartz writes:
Ulysses transmutes the events of Homer’s Odyssey into the common speech of the Dublin Joyce knew. It was English as the language had never been spoken before, and perhaps never will be again: an English of comedy, depth, pathos, and blarney. The reader feels an almost physical desire, a linguistic lust, to have heard the voices recorded in its pages. Joyce did not simply use language; he lived within language, and Ulysses is truly a poem in prose. There is no other body of fiction, in any language, fully comparable to James Joyce’s.
The book itself is funny as hell and beautiful, a great artist’s meditation on what it means to be a human being. Borrowing from Roger Kimball, happy Bloomsday!