Happy Bloomsday

by Henry on June 16, 2004

Today is the 100th anniversary of the day on which stately, plump Buck Mulligan came down the stairs of the Martello tower, razor, mirror and washbowl in hand. Like many other Dubliners, I’ve a distant relative who’s a character in Ulysses. “Professor MacHugh” is based on my great-uncle Hugh MacNeill. He appears in the Aeolus section, which is appropriate enough; he’s a bit of a windbag (and according to family hearsay, the original was an alcoholic and a chronic gambler to boot). This isn’t as unusual as it might seem: everyone in Ireland is related to everyone else, and ‘placing’ someone (i.e. finding what relatives or friends you have in common) is a source for hours of entertainment whenever two Irish people meet. Not only that – but Ulysses is a long novel, with many minor characters – Dubliners who don’t have some tenuous connection to the novel are perhaps even rarer than Dubliners of a certain age who don’t claim to have been regular drinking companions of Paddy Kavanagh, Brendan Behan, and Myles na gCopaleen (aka Brian O’Nolain). Which is to say, very thin on the ground indeed.

Update: Google too are celebrating Bloomsday.

{ 15 comments }

1

chun the unavoidable 06.16.04 at 5:36 am

I’ve got to come out of retirement to say this: don’t go around saying this book doesn’t have a plot, even in philosophy departments.

2

keef 06.16.04 at 5:37 am

“Myles na gCopaleen (aka Brian O’Nolain)”

Funny, I always refer to him as Flann O’Brien.

Any reason why you didn’t mention his most common name to this american?

Keef

3

keef 06.16.04 at 5:37 am

“Myles na gCopaleen (aka Brian O’Nolain)”

Funny, I always refer to him as Flann O’Brien.

Any reason why you didn’t mention his most common name to this american?

Keef

4

keef 06.16.04 at 5:40 am

Apologies for the double post and I should clear up the wording on my question:

Any reason why you didn’t mention his moniker that’s most commonly known — to this American at least?

Keef

5

Kieran Healy 06.16.04 at 6:17 am

Any reason why you didn’t mention his moniker that’s most commonly known — to this American at least?

Because while Myles and Brian often went out drinking, Flann was antisocial and tended to stay at home nights.

6

keef 06.16.04 at 7:48 am

previously I wrote:

“Any reason why you didn’t mention his moniker that’s most commonly known — to this American at least?”?

and Kieran responded:

“Because while Myles and Brian often went out drinking, Flann was antisocial and tended to stay at home nights.”

To which I respond with a heartfelt chuckle, since they are all one and the same person.

However, here in America, I know Brian/Myles/Flann from his novels mostly. At Swim Two Birds, The Poor Mouth, The Hard Life and The Third Policeman, all books that make any truly sentient being shriek with laughter; and secondarily from collections of his “Myles” writings for the newspaper, which were collected by Penguin and I think later by Dalkey Archive Press in the US.

Funnily enough, the Dalkey Archive Press has published Flann’s novel “The Dalkey Archive” in the US.

http://www.centerforbookculture.org/dalkey/backlist/obrien.html#dalkey

I think Myles/Flann/Brian would have liked that.

Looks like they have four other Flann/Myles/Brian novels in print currently, too.

Since I got a funny but not explanatory answer from you, I figure it’s because maybe folks in the US know him mainly from his longer fiction, and not from his shorter newspaper pieces under the name Myles, which are very hard to find and probably even harder to understand for Americans. And I’m an American with no direct connection to Ireland, including the fact that I’ve never set foot on that land.

However, to state it baldly and uncompromisingly, the writings of the person variously referred to as Brian O’Nolain, or Myles na gCopaleen, or Flann O’Brien, are funny, scalding, deft, clever, and penetrating. At his best, he’s like Mark Twain.

Also like Mark Twain, he’s great often and not so great occasionally, but always worth reading.

Keef.

7

Ray 06.16.04 at 9:05 am

_Up_ the stairs, stately, plump Buck Mulligan came _up_ the stairs. Stephen was on the roof of the tower.
http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/29/61/20788/1/frameset.html

8

cokelly 06.16.04 at 9:20 am

No no no. Stephen was down the stairs. Buck Mulligan was on the roof. Hence “Come up Kinch! Come up you fearful Jesuit!”

9

nick 06.16.04 at 10:16 am

Are The Best of Myles and the other ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ collections not available in the US? [checks] The Dalkey Archive Press has two of them, and only The Hair of the Dogma appears to be out of print…

Anyway, I should ask my Dubliner friends for their precise familial connections to Bloomsday; one definitely ‘knows’ people, as Dubliners do.

10

Ray 06.16.04 at 10:25 am

Okay, Henry’s wrong, I was wrong, and cokelly is right. Both Buck and Stephen started downstairs. Buck comes _up_ the stairs, carrying washbowl, razor, and mirror. Calls down to Stephen, who follows him up. Shaves. Then goes down again – leaving the washbowl for Stephen.

11

bob mcmanus 06.16.04 at 12:57 pm

“Then goes down again – leaving the washbowl for Stephen.”

Usurper!

12

nnyhav 06.16.04 at 8:52 pm

13

Lance Boyle 06.16.04 at 11:02 pm

The accused will now make a bogus statement.
_

O the grey dull day! It seemed a limbo of painless patient consciousness through which souls of mathematicians might wander, projecting long slender fabrics from plane to plane of ever rarer and paler twilight, radiating swift eddies to the last verges of a universe ever vaster, farther and more impalpable.

Joyce, Portrait

14

bob mcmanus 06.17.04 at 12:25 am

Depressing. Tried to answer Matt Weiner’s question on the meaning of “ineluctable modality of the visible” that starts out “Proteus”. So I got out my note-copy of Ulysses, and saw what I had underlined and annotated, translated (nebeneinander = reality viewed as aspect of space), concluded (“movement is perceived, therefore at least concepts, nonsensual,are also perceived”)….

and it made no sense to me whatsoever. Something I used to know, used to be able to do, like hitting a fastball or fitting into the uniform in my closet.

15

Dave Farrell 06.17.04 at 11:30 am

I suppose I’m related to Henry too.

BTW, last time I was in Ireland my Dublin cousins were telling me that Joyce was reviled by scandalised Dubliners for years. How ironic he’s celebrated now he’s safely in his grave.

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