Today in History: Bloomsday

“It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, speeding, sustained, to come, don’t spin it out too long long breath he breath long life, soaring high, high resplendent, aflame, crowned, high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of the ethereal bosom, high, of the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessnessnessness …”—James Joyce, Ulysses, “Wandering Rocks”

On June 16, 1904, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle had their first date. They later married. To commemorate this, Joyce set this date as the date during which the events in his novel Ulysses take place. The novel covers an ordinary day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an ordinary Dubliner. The closing chapter is written from inside the thoughts of Molly Bloom (Leopold’s wife) as she falls asleep, and the last words of the novel are seen in the image at top.

Joyce and his future wife met on June 10 on Nassau Street in Dublin. He spotted her and struck up a conversation. She thought he was a Swedish sailor, with his blue eyes and yachting cap. He asked her out on a date and they agreed to meet on June 14, but she stood him up. He wrote a dejected note and they decided to meet on June 16. On June 16, they strolled together at Ringsend in Dublin. That was all, but they were a couple from that day on.

In his great biography of Joyce, Richard Ellmann wrote, “To set Ulysses on this date was Joyce’s most eloquent if indirect tribute to Nora, a recognition of the determining effect upon his life of his attachment to her. On June 16, as he would afterwards realize, he entered into a relation with the world around him … ”

Joyce died in 1941, and Nora died in 1951. Ellmann: “Sometimes interviewers questioned her about great writers she had known … when asked about André Gide, she remarked, ‘ Sure, if you’ve been married to the greatest writer in the world, you don’t remember all the little fellows.'”

For lovers of the novel, which was published in 1922, June 16 is forever “Bloomsday,”

On June 16, 1954, the 50th “anniversary” of the fictional events (and nonfictional meeting of Joyce and Nora), several Dublin writers held the first “Bloomsday” celebration. Brian O’Nolan (aka Flann O’Brien and also aka Myles-na-gCopaleen) helped (dis)organize the events that day.

* * * *
The recording that listeners know as “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan was made on this date in 1965.

* * * *
Vicki Brown died 25 years ago today. Mel Allen died 20 years ago today. Tony Gwynn died two years ago today.

* * * *
Stan Laurel was born on this date in 1890. Irving Penn was born in 1917 on this date. Katharine Graham was born on this date in 1917 as well. Erich Segal was born on this date in 1937. The Ultimate Warrior was born on this date in 1959. Tupac Shakur was born on this date in 1971.

* * * *
Joyce Carol Oates, the great novelist, essayist, and Twitterer, is 79 today. Joan Van Ark is 73. Roberto Durán is 65 today.

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  1. Pleasant Street · June 16, 2016

    The 16th is my wedding anniversary

    Liked by 1 person

  2. angloswiss · June 16, 2016

    I really should finish Ulysses. I read half of it many years ago, but it did not really pack my interest. It is not an easy piece of literature to digest, but perhaps now being a golden oldie with more time, I might make it through the many pages. Somehow I think I missed the point somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · June 16, 2016

      I had a great guide in graduate school. So I was able to live in Ulysses for a little while. I have not yet been to Dublin.


  3. Julie · June 16, 2016

    Great image. Do you know the story behind it?

    Liked by 1 person

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