Europe

Finding joy in James Joyce as Leopold blooms once more

  • 20 May 2013
  • From the section Europe

In a month's time it will be Bloomsday, which celebrates a day in the life of the fictional Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce's famous novel Ulysses.

James Joyce
James Joyce's novel Ulysses has given birth to Bloomsday which celebrates a day in the life of the book's main character, Leopold Bloom

In the build-up to the day there have been public readings of the book in venues associated with it.

Most public readings of revered texts are rather restrained, sometimes stiff, affairs. but the one I was at most certainly wasn't.

It was more like James Joyce's Ulysses meets the Rocky Horror Picture Show with different people reading a chapter from the novel, but with lots of added heckles, sound effects and some in early twentieth century costume.

Jessica Yates is one of the organisers of the public readings of the novel.

"The story just comes to life while you're reading it," she said.

"There's also a beautiful sense of community when you're reading something together. It's like when you're a kid and you're read to sleep. People really get into it."

'Contemporary'

The heckles may not always be politically correct, but Niall Laverty another organiser, says the book, set in Dublin on 16 June 1904, remains relevant.

"It's one of those books that the more you read the more you get out of it. It's a bit like a soap opera. It's very contemporary and it's a celebration of the city and its people," he said.

But Maite Lopez, from Germany and one of the readers, knows that while Dubliners venerate Joyce they have a very ambiguous relationship with his novel, Ulysses.

"Most Dubliners own a copy of Ulysses but most Dubliners haven't read it. They know lots of stories about Joyce, though," she says laughing.

The chapter being read, called Eumaeus, is set in a hostel near what is now the main Busaras - bus station - in the centre of the city.

The reading is in the nearby Isaacs Hostel where James Clancy, one of the managers, is happy to help out.

"In the chapter, coffee and buns do play a part. We got one of our girls to make a few 'dirty buns' because that's what they asked for," he said.

"We've got coffee brewing as well so, hopefully, a few people will take part."

Free

The organisers have also written a little manual with illustrations to help people understand what is going on in the text, but also so that they can see where the story unfolds and what is recommended to visit.

Those who joined in and took part in the night's reading - which by the way is free - say they got a lot out of it.

Aaron McColl-Jones from Sydney, Australia said: "I'm actually a lot more interested in reading the book and I think it will be a good book that I can relate to."

Fellow Australian, Sean Watters from Adelaide, agrees: "I don't really know that much about Ulysses but it sounds like an interesting story and I might give it a read."

Dylan Bateman from Canada says he found the whole event very "cool".

'Experimental'

"I saw everyone in their costume, which I really like. So, I figured why not join in as it's not something I'd do at home," he said.

Judy Boraham from Australia said: "Every chapter in Ulysses has a different style and flavour about it. I think Joyce is fabulous, a true experimental writer."

While another, Canadian Katie Hawes, says the readings "were a lot more entertaining than just reading a book".

The readings and mayhem will continue for the next few weeks building up to Molly Bloom's - rather naughty - soliloquy where she remembers past lovers.

That public reading will be in a bed.

Just over an hour after beginning, the readers and hecklers bring the evening to an end.

If you want to know more about the free readings and performances you can visit the website.

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