For years now, James Joyce’s Ulysses has been in a Mexican standoff with Tolstoy’s War and Peace and DFW’s Infinite Jest, each vying for the title of Most Abandoned Novel. Ulysses is the shortest of the three, but that’s like saying Scary was the most talented of the Spice Girls. The book is notoriously tricky—Joyce himself said, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” And Joyce has indeed been immortalized: today, June 16, is Bloomsday, a yearly celebration of the author and his decidedly difficult magnum opus. Even if you haven’t read the book, there are a few ways you can celebrate:
Eat a pork kidney for breakfast: If Ulysses had a smell, it would be that of burnt pork kidney. In the first chapter of Bloom’s journey, he cooks one for breakfast, but burns it while trying to explain the idea of reincarnation to his simple-minded wife. All of this sounds terrible and heartburn-inducing, but what were you expecting, Watership Down?
Dress up like James Joyce. Isn’t it lucky that Harry Potter and James Joyce wear pretty much the same style of eyeglasses? And if you don’t have a Potter costume to repurpose, just dust off the plastic 3-D glasses you got at the Deathly Hallows midnight premiere, pluck the fedora from the head of That Guy Who Always Wears a Fedora (you know where to find him), put on something tweed, and demand—DEMAND!—to be taken seriously.
Drink (or not). Unlike his creator, who was known to enjoy a pint or eight of beer, Bloom abstains from alcohol. In fact, one of the funniest scenes in Ulysses is when Bloom, who is stone-cold sober, tries to scientifically explain a hanged man’s erection to a group of sloshed Dubliners at a pub. Unsurprisingly, they think he’s weird. So if you want to pay tribute to Bloom, well…that’s another way, I suppose. But if you want to show your respect without finding yourself on the wrong end of a can of pepper spray, just ask the bartender for a “James Joyce”:
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
(And if you’re staying for another round, check out our list of 11 more literary-inspired cocktails.)
If all goes according to plan, your tweed will be starting to itch and you’ll have a pork kidney-induced stomachache. Congratulations; that’s what it feels like to actually read Ulysses!
How will you be celebrating Bloomsday?