Tuesday, 16 June 2009
HAPPY BLOOMSDAY - FROM ME AND UNCLE JIMMY
Ulysses and therefore Bloomsday marks the celebration of the day – 16th June 1904 – on which James Joyce had his first outing with his future wife, Galway-woman Nora Barnacle. In the book, it was a day on which not a lot happens to Leopold Bloom but it all happens in vivid, sometimes impenetrable, Joyce-speak.
And before you ask, no, I haven’t read it all – just bits. On the centenary of Bloomsday in 2004, at Nora Barnacle’s House on Bowling Green, I read aloud an extract that may have been about sex or may have been about the river but, either way, it was beautiful prose. One hundred readers read from Ulysses that day. (Click on the blurry image above to see my commemorative cert.)
Declan Kiberd’s new book on Joyce looks fascinating: Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Living. In the Sunday Times magazine of the 7th of June, he wrote interestingly on the notion of bohemians with reference to Joyce. (If it was an extract from the new book, it didn’t say so.):
‘The Bohemians were arrogant,’ Kiberd said. ‘They saw Soho, Montmartre and Greenwich Village as spheres of sublimation, in which ideas and feelings now denied in everyday life could alone be enjoyed...“Culture” was now a separate sphere, disconnected from everyday life.’ Kiberd goes on to say that, ‘A healthy art arises from life and always returns to it.’ One good reason that those of us who practice art full time need to embrace healthy doses of real life, removed from our isolated desks, in order to write truthful fiction and/or produce good art. For me that means family life - the day to day of raising three kids and keeping a home, and a relationship, alive and happy.
Joyce himself said: “The ordinary is the proper domain of the artist. The extraordinary can safely be left to journalists.”
Joyce’s mother was a Murray from Chapelizod. My mother’s maiden name is Murray and her people were from Chapelizod – well, more accurately, the Strawberry Beds. My great-grandfather was notoriously secretive about his origins and I often entertain the (admittedly somewhat fanciful) notion that he was too embarrassed by his relative James Joyce’s writing to want to be associated with him. Yes, I am related to Joyce. If only in my fictional little mind...