Category: Archive

J-day: Bloomsday’s debut a quiet affair

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And the new coalition government led by Taoiseach John A. Costello planned to raise the price of butter by 5d, or 5 old pennies, per pound. Meanwhile, the sports pages reported that Ronnie Delaney had smashed the Irish record for the 880 yards.
However, only the Irish Times made a fuss of the date, which people refer to nowadays as Bloomsday, in honor of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is set on June 16, 1904. It published the second of a two-part feature by poet and dramatist Donagh MacDonagh, entitled “Joyce Country,” tracing the steps of the fictional Leopold Bloom.
Rather less respectful in tone was the famous “Cruiskeen Lawn” column, which under the headline “J-day,” outlined some of the issues that literary Dublin in general and writer Myles na gCopaleen in particular had with James Joyce. For instance, the columnist, who under his other nom-de-plume, Flann O’Brien, was a brilliant novelist in his own right, pointed to Joyce’s improper usage of both Irish and ancient Greek.
He took sideswipes at the academic interest in “Ulysses” and its sometimes obsessive nature. He wrote: “I do not wish to provoke another World War by invading American monopoly on the value of Joyce’s work.”
He added: “Persons who insist that there is a junction of Cuffe Street and Grafton Street are clearly persons with whom not to argue.”
The only reference to the anniversary of June 16, 1904 in Ireland’s two most read dailies, the Irish Independent and the Irish Press, were paid for.
Prescott’s, a dry cleaning chain, noted in a display ad in all the morning papers that the company was mentioned in the novel and had by 1904 given decades of service to Dubliners. It cited the reference, which concerned Bloom remembering to take “Molly’s Paisley shawl to Prescott’s.”
(The Prescott’s stores, alas, have not made it to the centenary, having long gone out of business.)
The Irish Press did, however, carry a report the following day about the Joyce “pilgrims” who journeyed around Dublin to commemorate Bloom’s odyssey.
It quoted one of the participant saying: “I’m surprised that there are not pilgrims here from the U.S. and France.”
This would have been unlikely given the event had been conceived and rather secretly organized by Brian O’Nolan, the real name of the pseudonymous Myles na gCopaleen and Flann O’Brien.

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