The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Bloomsday!

All around the world folks are gathering to celebrate Bloomsday, that day in 1904 when Leo Bloom and Stephen Dedalus had all sorts of wacky adventures around Dublin in James Joyce's Ulysses. Having skimmed the book, read the jacket copy and heard the book mentioned somewhere, I felt compelled to express my love for Ulysses in several old Almanac cartoons.

This was from about ten years ago when Ulysses was named the Novel of the Century by a panel of experts. It's scanned from an old copy, as I gave the original to someone.

And this one is probably more helpful, as it reduces Ulysses down into more easily digestible form. It's accurate enough for classroom use, so feel free to crib from it, but please provide attribution. 

The only Joyce work I've really read is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, though I've read a good bit of Dubliners. We read PotAaaYM in 11th grade and I enjoyed it well enough, with help from a good English teacher. I've tried Finnegan's Wake a few times without success. It's one of those works you can only approach after a good bit of preparation, study, exercise, dieting and psychic purging I guess, and I'm not yet worthy. You can't just plunge in and let it wash over you, which is how I read Gravity's Rainbow and most of the rest of Thomas Pynchon. After 3 or 4 times swimming through it, Gravity's Rainbow made perfect sense. No it didn't, but it became less obscure. The first few times I just enjoyed the jokes, songs and vivid scenes and didn't worry too much. Actually, I only read it the first time after I heard that Pynchon, a notorious recluse, sent the vaudeville comic Professor Irwin Corey to pick up the National Book Award he won for Gravity's Rainbow and I thought, hey, that book's bound to be a hoot. If I was braver I'd do a cartoon about Gravity's Rainbow, but not yet. I'll wait for my 15th read through, which won't happen till sometime in 2035 at my present rate.

Meanwhile, happy Bloomsday, and if you go on any epic pubcrawls, let me know.


Mike said...

Brilliant Cliff Notes. If I thought the old curmudgeon who guided us through Ulysses in college had email, I'd pop him off a copy. Meanwhile, a gen-you-wine limerick by Oliver St. John Gogarty, the poet-physician-prankster who lived with Joyce in that tower had has come down to us greatly diminished in the form of Buck Mulligan.

There is a young man named Joyce,
Who possesses a sweet tenor voice.
He goes down to the kips
With a psalm on his lips,
And biddeth the harlots rejoice.

(The "kips" are brothels. Gogarty also penned the famous limerick that ends "They argued all night over who had the right to do what and with which and to whom.")

Ponto said...

I would've enjoyed "Ulysses" much more if I had realized that there was scrapple content in it - I never made it past Bloom's breakfast kidneys.

gilda92 said...

Try the short stories in The Dubliners, especially the one called The Dead. John Houston made a really good movie of that one. Starred Angelica Houston.
Happy Bloomsday!

Mike said...

As a young man, I wanted to make references to the Wake, but the farther I got from college, the less I wanted to tackle it. I'm glad I read Ulysses (senior year in high school, then senior year in college), but there's no need to punish yourself. I had the same response to "The Brothers Karamazov." Though I like Dostoevsky, I read about 75 pages and said, "Hey, I'm not in school anymore. I don't have to do this."

The fact that you read Pynchon lets you off the hook forevermore. In fact, if you read Pynchon and then also read the Wake, it says something not terribly nice about you, I think. It's too late to be valedictorian. Relax!

richardcthompson said...

Or, if you read Pynchon and Finnegan's Wake make sure there's something in between to keep your head from exploding. Me, I read Mo Willems to keep my head intact.

And I think I'm more familiar with Gogarty's works, though I didn't know his name, than Joyce's.