Oh sugar! Nearly that time of the year again.
The 16th of June.
The day that people around the planet dress up in silly costumes and do marathon readings and genteel pub crawls and celebrate James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Ulysses. The brilliant book.
The book that launched a million tea-towels (actually I’ve never seen a James Joyce tea-towel).
The so-called impossible book. The…
…the obscure one, the unreadable one, the big fat difficult one that sits unread, forlorn, not even talking to its nearest neighbours on the naughty step (a Brief History of Time still in its cellophane wrapper, next to Martin Heidegger’s laugh-a-minute Sein und Zeit, and Hegel’s picaresque romp Phenomenology of the Spirit).
Bollocks to all that. Let’s speed read the shaggin’ thing…
Of course that sounds a bit daft, but if you go with the flow you’ll soon “get” Ulysses with its multitude of voices, styles, sounds and POVs. About the only thing I don’t get is the compulsion to get dolled up in pseudo-Joycean fancy dress and eye patches.
Despite the book’s serious reputation, Joyce is mighty fun. His playful art continues to subvert and become a jumping off point for new generations artists, and all those art and design projects that have sprung up in the wake of Ulysses and Joyce’s other work.
For example, take “Ulysses Strands”, a recent project using letterpress – the original social media:
As they put it on their website, the project is:
… a series of letterpress posters designed and printed by Jamie Murphy and Mary Plunkett at Distillers Press, National College of Art and Design, based on tweet-length excerpts from Ulysses, chosen by Steve Cole. Steve is a volunteer at the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s print shop (Maryland, USA) and creator of LiberateUlysses. Together, their vision was to create a typographical exploration of the richness and complexity of Joyce’s work through variations in type, composition and colour …
I want one of those posters. See more of Jamie Murphy’s work including The Words of Master Poldy on his Salvage Press website.
Other James Joyce websites and projects exploring his work through sound and image include…
- The Big Book – a big new audio documentary by New Dublin Press, with a musical soundtrack by This Is How We Fly
- Music in the Works of James Joyce – he was both a musician and a writer
- Joyce Images – a collection illustrating Ulysses using period documents
- Ulysses Seen – Robert Berry’s graphic novel
- Joyce’s Dublin: An Exploration of “The Dead” – six-part audio podcast series about his short story “The Dead”, from the more naturalistic Dubliners collection
Or how about this new app which lets you “wrestle” with sentence fragments from Ulysses…
And, of course, Bloomsday is about a love story: the day that Joyce went out on his first outing with Nora Barnacle.
So if you still haven’t tackled the “difficult” book yet, it’s never too late to fall in love with it. Just tell yourself: Yes I said yes I will yes.