Your Bloomship

by Kieran Healy on June 16, 2011

It’s Bloomsday, or Christmas for intolerable Joyceans everywhere. The Wall Street Journal explains the literary background:

What is it about Joyce’s novel about a day in the life of a fictional Jewish mayor of Dublin, Leopold Bloom, that has inspired an international literary event cum pub crawl cum Halloween parade?

What other Interesting Facts about Ulysses have I been unaware of, I wonder? While I wait for you to enlighten me, I will perform the sacred Bloomsday ritual of genuflecting solemnly before the Poster of Great Irish Writers. You know the one—an obscure bylaw requires it hang somewhere in every Irish bar in America, and certain sorts of pub in Ireland as well. The Great Writers can be classified into various non-exclusive subgroups based on their relationship to Ireland, including “Fled”, “Driven from”, “Disgusted”, “Hated”, and “Drank half”.



dsquared 06.16.11 at 11:59 am

The answer to the “what is it about” question is the same as the reason why St Patrick’s Day is such a big event.

“Tell me, marketing department of Diageo plc, what is it about this event based around the consumption of Guiness which resonates with you?”


ajay 06.16.11 at 12:08 pm

That sounds like it was cribbed from one of those sites that has earnest-sounding but completely wrong summaries of great books, in order to entrap lazy literature students into writing complete nonsense.

The Great Writers can be classified into various non-exclusive subgroups based on their relationship to Ireland, including “Fled”, “Driven from”, “Disgusted”, “Hated”, and “Drank half”.

See George Best, who is said to have got off the plane in Toronto, seen an immense billboard with the slogan “DRINK CANADA DRY”, and tried his best.


P O'Neill 06.16.11 at 12:29 pm

I think the marketing department of CelticTiger Co. (unlimited liability company) also played some role.


Matt McIrvin 06.16.11 at 12:39 pm

What, no And Zombies?


Barry 06.16.11 at 1:16 pm

CelticTiger Co. (unlimited liability company), which is a wholly- and souly-owned subsidiary of MegaEuroBank, Incarnate (motto: ‘heads we win, tails we stick a gun up yours, and take it anyway’).


Barry Freed 06.16.11 at 2:05 pm

For the last 30 years listener-sponsored Pacifica radio station WBAI 99.5 FM in New York has had a Radio Bloomsday celebration that used to feature a full 24 hour reading of the book – often with some pretty big name actors doing the reading. The past few years it’s been shortened (7pm to 2am) and has “Alec Baldwin, Garrison Keillor, John Lithgow, Bob Odenkirk, Wallace Shawn, Jerry Stiller, Kate Valk and Caraid O’Brien as Molly Bloom, who also directs the production.” Streaming here. Archives can be found from that page too. Always worth a listen.


roac 06.16.11 at 2:13 pm

Ajay@2: The “Drink Canada Dry” joke dates back at least to 1969, when it was embodied in a country song recorded by Bobby Barnett. The writing credit on the label of the 45, pictured on a YouTube video, is to “L. Kingston” (but I doubt that it was original with him or her — not by decades).

The line is traditionally attributed to Behan, according to his Wiki page.

(Oh, and where did the WSJ get the notion that Bloom was mayor of anything, for God’s sake?)


Ray 06.16.11 at 2:14 pm

Mayor of Dublin?


nick s 06.16.11 at 2:24 pm

Mayor of Dublin?

In the Foursquare sense– ‘Leopold has just checked in at Davy Byrne’s’?


ajay 06.16.11 at 2:28 pm

7: The “Drink Canada Dry” joke dates back at least to 1969

And? Ulysses dates back to 1918 and people still appreciate it…


P O'Neill 06.16.11 at 2:31 pm

Mayor of Dublin?

Maybe they have him confused with the Briscoe family.


Red 06.16.11 at 2:49 pm

“Mayor” has now been silently changed to “denizen.” But the WSJ still insists it’s a “difficult 1904 novel.”


Steve LaBonne 06.16.11 at 2:55 pm

But the WSJ still insists it’s a “difficult 1904 novel.”

I imagine it would be a pretty slow read for WSJ types who need to move their lips.


Bloix 06.16.11 at 3:02 pm

Americans know about the Briscoes (although not by name) because of a story that when Yogi Berra heard that Dublin had a Jewish lord mayor, he exclaimed, “Only in America!”

So what’s going on is that the writer is confusing a joke he once heard with what little he knows about Ulysses – airy wisps of Jew, Dublin, and mayor are all floating around in the space between his ears.


ajay 06.16.11 at 3:06 pm

What is it about Joyce’s novel about a day in the life of a fictional Jewish denizen of Dublin, Leopold Bloom, that has inspired an international literary event cum pub crawl cum Halloween parade ?

Now changed. (Dublin has “denizens”? That seems a bit harsh.)


ajay 06.16.11 at 3:06 pm

And the answer to the question is that we all want to know what he was like before he went to New York and got embroiled with that Bialystock guy.


Kieran Healy 06.16.11 at 3:16 pm

Dublin has “denizens”? That seems a bit harsh

Dublin has Jackeens, which are much worse.


peter ramus 06.16.11 at 3:52 pm

The fabulous RTÉ Radio dramatization, here at the Internet Archive. Can’t recommend it highly enough for those looking to find a way into Ulysses.


roac 06.16.11 at 5:00 pm

before he went to New York and got embroiled with that Bialystock guy.

Who had been nominated for a Tony for playing him on Broadway (Ulysses in Nighttown, 1974). Cue doppelganger/house of mirrors metaphor.


mb 06.16.11 at 6:19 pm

and “Nostalgic for the Fictional”, surely.


Glen David Gold 06.16.11 at 6:49 pm

The 13th most interesting fact about Ulysses is that its author was created by Jack Kirby. This would be according to David Lasky’s Boom Boom comic, which retells Joyce’s biography entirely in panel swipes from 1960s Marvel comic books. Alas, I can’t find a link to a sufficiently-large scan to illustrate this.


John Quiggin 06.16.11 at 7:03 pm

Maybe its originally a transcription error. I once watched a TV movie advertised as “a group of terrorists are stranded on a desert island”, but it turned out to be “tourists”. However, they were attacked by underwater zombie Nazis, so the original description wasn’t so far off the mark.

On “mayor” I can’t make any good suggestions, but American and Australian vowels are very different. In Australian it’s a homophone for “mare” which isn’t very helpful.


Roger Ailes 06.16.11 at 7:14 pm

However, they were attacked by underwater zombie Nazis, so the original description wasn’t so far off the mark.

The Harlem Globetrotters repelled the attack quite nicely, if I recall. With an assist from the terrorist leader, al-Anhale.


Henri Vieuxtemps 06.16.11 at 7:29 pm

Probably has something to do with Bloomberg.


Barry Freed 06.16.11 at 7:47 pm

That would be Shock Waves starring Peter Cushing. It’s a classic of the genre and the first Nazi zombie movie (IIRC). Christ, even Bloomsday isn’t safe from zombies.


John Quiggin 06.16.11 at 10:42 pm

@Barry – that’s definitely it!

But, in any case, Ulysses has the Hades episode which is pretty much zombies avant la lettre.


roac 06.16.11 at 10:45 pm

There was also this, although if it was released in the US it didn’t make it to where I live. A shame, as a Norwegian Nazi zombie movie would have extra credibility. Since they actually had Nazis in Norway.


Lee A. Arnold 06.16.11 at 11:25 pm

I am pretty sure that Joyce’s other great book, Finnegans Wake, also occurs on a date certain. That is to say, the dreamer who is dreaming it is asleep on a certain date. My current guess is he falls asleep on the night of April 11, 1926. That would be the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter in a leap year when Joyce was 54 years old. Saturday because the dream’s whole sordid tale of the big man’s historical fault is being told to us in the period between his “fall” and his presumed “rising”. Leap year because the daughter Issy is a leap-year girl, she was born on Feb. 29 and is the 29th in a month’s bunch of schoolgirls. The book makes several references to HCE’s age, always in his fifties. “April” has all the main female letters, Anna Plurabelle river Issy Livia.


Barry Freed 06.16.11 at 11:42 pm

@JQ – Good point. And funny too.

@ roac – It’s a sub-genre. There’s at least half a dozen of them. Also the some of the Call of Duty first person shooter games had Nazi zombie modes. (BTW, I haven’t seen it either – I’m in the USA too – but rather than vowing to re-read Ulysses this has motivated me to request Dead Snow via interlibrary loan).

OTOH, listening to the WBAI online streaming broadcast I mentioned above at #6, Paul Muldoon is reading Stephen Dedalus -Proteus, it’s spell-bindingly gorgeous.


Barry Freed 06.16.11 at 11:43 pm

Huh, I have no idea why that strike through happened. Completely unintentional.


P O'Neill 06.17.11 at 1:00 am

BBC R4 is doing a nightly reading from a Joyce biography, complete with someone doing Joyce’s voice


bob mcmanus 06.17.11 at 1:03 am

29: I listened a while, and the broadcast absolutely did not work for me at all. I don’t think Joyce intended the “voices” to be that distinct from each other, especially the authorial voice. That is blindingly true in sections like “Aeolus” and “Ithaca” but just as true everywhere else. “Ulysses” has important pictorial qualities, the text has shape and form in itself that must be seen.

Other long arguments forborne. Enjoy if you can.


Paul M. Cray 06.17.11 at 8:44 am

@28 1926 wasn’t a leap year, unless FW is set in an alternative universe, so perhaps Joyce was thinking of Saturday, 19 April 1924 or Saturday, 7 April 1928. (According to Wolfram|Alpha, Easter Day 1926 was 4 April.)


Hidari 06.17.11 at 8:57 am

In the spirit of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the discussion above, I hereby offer, to anyone who wants to actually write the bloody thing, a version of Ulysses (based on the Odyssey, let’s not forget, which has a long section in the kingdom of the undead) in which Bloom wanders around Dublin, drinking, talking, attempting to forget that his wife is having an affair…….and also dodging the plague of Nazi* Zombies terrorising Ireland.

Doubtless this will lead to much humorous discussion about the difference between the zombies in Ulysses, and the zombies one sees wandering around Temple Bar, especially after closing time. Ha ha.

*Yes Nazi Zombies. They used the time machine invented by Nazi scientists under the North Pole. You know, the one the Nazis developed while working on their moon and Mars programme. I mean, d’uh.


Chris Brooke 06.17.11 at 9:18 am

Ulysses, chapter 15:


THE CHIMES: Turn again, Leopold! Lord mayor of Dublin!

BLOOM: (In alderman’s gown and chain.) Electors of Arran Quay, Inns Quay,
Rotunda, Mountjoy and North Dock better run a tramline, I say, from the
cattlemarket to the river. That’s the music of the future. That’s my programme.
Cui bono? But our buccaneering Vanderdeckens in their phantom ship of

AN ELECTOR: Three times three for our future chief magistrate! ***

A few pages later Bloom is also “the world’s greatest reformer”, and “your undoubted emperor president and king chairman, the most serene and potent and very puissant ruler of this realm”, and then he sets about proclaiming the “new Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future”.

But this is in the “Circe” chapter, when everyone is very drunk.


jsm 06.17.11 at 10:38 am

23. Alan Hale? Now I’m one step away from being Lost


Nababov 06.17.11 at 11:13 am

I can see the poster.

“Who will survive the day?”

Then of course the sequels.


des von bladet 06.17.11 at 11:44 am

to anyone who wants to actually write the bloody thing and has permission from Joyce’s estate to do so.

There’s a reason Pride & Prejudice was picked?


Chris Brooke 06.17.11 at 12:45 pm

I’m not sure there are Zombies in Ulysses. There are Vampires, though:

*** She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn, in her wake. Tides, myriadislanded, within her, blood not mine, oinopa ponton, a winedark sea. Behold the handmaid of the moon. In sleep the wet sign calls her hour, bids her rise. Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghostcandled. Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes, pale vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss. ***

That’s in “Proteus”. And, later, in “Circe”:

*** STEPHEN (Gobbles, with marionette jerks. ) … All chic womans which arrive full of modesty then disrobe and squeal loud to see vampire man debauch nun very fresh young with dessous troublants. (He clocks his tongue loudly.) Ho, la la! Ce pif qu’il a!

LYNCH Vive le vampire!

THE WHORES Bravo! Parleyvoo! ***


Lee A. Arnold 06.17.11 at 1:19 pm

@33 –Thank you, that was a typo. April 11, 1936 (not 1926).


Giles Warrack 06.17.11 at 7:01 pm

Bloom wasn’t a mayor, he was a canvasser for advertisements in a newspaper. Typical WSJ


Barry Freed 06.17.11 at 9:44 pm

@Chris Brooke- She may be the vampire’s prey in that passage but She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load is as good a description as any of the ambulatory style of the typical zombie.

@Hidari: I give you the soliloquy of the zombie Molly Bloom:

the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me brains first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now brains 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath brains he said I was a flower of the mountain brains so we are flowers all a womans body brains that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today brains that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say brains and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know of Mulvey and Mr Stanhope and Hester and father and old captain Groves and the sailors playing all birds fly and I say stoop and washing up dishes they called it on the pier and the sentry in front of the governors house with the thing round his white helmet poor devil half roasted and the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs and the auctions in the morning the Greeks and the jews and the Arabs and the devil knows who else from all the ends of Europe and Duke street and the fowl market all clucking outside Larby Sharons and the poor donkeys slipping half asleep and the vague fellows in the cloaks asleep in the shade on the steps and the big wheels of the carts of the bulls and the old castle thousands of years old brains and those handsome Moors all in white and turbans like kings asking you to sit down in their little bit of a shop and Ronda with the old windows of the posadas glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens brains and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain brains when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red brains and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again brains and then he asked me would I brains to say brains my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him brains and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume brains and his heart was going like mad and brains I said brains I will BRAAAINS.


sg 06.18.11 at 1:26 am

Barry Freed at 29, thank you for the link. Looking at the picture of the zombie from the number 1 movie, “Zombie Lake,” I think it must be Eric from True Blood. Am I right, or do all blond men look the same to me?

I think a theme has suggested itself for my movie-watching over the next month…


Barry Freed 06.18.11 at 2:02 am

SG, you’re quite welcome and no, the likeness is uncanny, or should I say, dead-on. I’ll be keeping the same movie-watching theme it seems.


spyder 06.18.11 at 2:36 am

At least now, with the help of an odd computer algorithm, you can celebrate Bloomsday by walking throught Dublin without passing a pub. The purpose of this seems really quite unnecessary.


Nanker Phelge 06.18.11 at 3:51 am

When Joyce arrived in Austrian-controlled Trieste in 1904, the American consul thereabouts was 22-year-old Fiorello LaGuardia, the future mayor of New York, who remained at that post for another couple of years.

Like Leopold Bloom, LaGuardia was of Hungarian Jewish descent (on his mother’s side). Unlike Leopold Bloom, LaGuardia was raised as an Episcopalian in Arizona.


skippy 06.18.11 at 6:17 am

also, barry, that soliloquy, minus the “brains,” is the final piece of the firesign theater’s “how can you be two places at once (when you’re not anywhere at all)?”


Guido Nius 06.18.11 at 11:19 am

I am sad Joyce is not alive anymore. If he were he could inadvertently walk into a pub or other gathering place in which his words are the pretext for smugness and all round well-spirited fun. At that time he would for sure generate an amount of vomit the size of Finnegan’s Wake, amply sufficient to suffocate anybody in there. Thereby furthering progress, by the elimination of the obnoxious.


Hidari 06.18.11 at 1:18 pm


‘In the 89 years since, it has been debated over many a pint of Guinness. Now, a software developer armed with an algorithm thinks he has the answer. Rory McCann used the website OpenStreetMap to pinpoint over 1,000 pubs in the Irish capital and let his algorithm do the rest’.

For an encore could Mr McCann develop an algorithm to tell us how to walk through Dublin without passing a software developer?


Gene O'Grady 06.20.11 at 2:42 pm

I apologize for coming late, but note that I first heard the Drink Canada Dry joke from my father when we visited Canada (the land of his ancestors) in 1961 or 1962, and he indicated at the time that it was old, which knowing the sources of his humor would place it either in the second world war or the late thirties.


RobNYNY1957 06.20.11 at 4:24 pm

In the novel there is no indication that Leopold Bloom was ever Jewish. His father was a Jewish convert to Protestantism (presumably at the time he married Leopold’s Protestant mother), and Leopold converted to Catholicism to marry Molly. He thinks about his Jewish background a lot, but he does not practice Judaism (he is uncircumcised, does not keep kosher, etc., etc.), and would not be considered to be a Jew by the traditions of Protestantism, Catholicism, or modern Judaism. “Half Jewish” is closer to the mark, but still less than the full story.


Nanker Phelge 06.20.11 at 8:11 pm

All the more in common with Fiorello La Guardia. The only difference now is Arizona.


Nanker Phelge 06.22.11 at 9:04 pm

So the difference between LaGuardia and Bloom is that LaGuardia was not Catholic.

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