“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.
Kidneys were in his mind as he moved about the kitchen softly, righting her breakfast things on the humpy tray. Gelid light and air were in the kitchen but out of doors gentle summer morning everywhere. Made him feel a bit peckish.” (James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922)
Ulysses, James Joyce’s crass, brash, and poignant modernist novel, takes place over one day, June 16th, in and around Dublin, Ireland, following the exploits and misadventures of Leopold and Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, the latter appearing previously in another Joyce novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Began in 1914 and published in 1922, infamous in its length and span, the vast majority of editions run 700 pages. In fact, it seems so intimidating that there is even a WikiHow page on how to read it. Yet whether you have completed the novel or not still gather each and every June 16th to celebrate the novel nonetheless, its Jewish-Catholic (it’s complicated) antihero, its author, and basically all things Irish. In Montreal, it is a five day event. Yes, Bloomsday Montreal is here again.
Atwater Library is once again opening the Bloomsday festival on June 12 with the storytelling event Curses, Dreams and the Music of the Stars, with storytellers Jan Gregory and Margaret Nicolai with accompaniment by Irish harpist Susan Palmer. This free event runs from 12:30-1:30pm. If you’re itching for more, for only 10$ you can see the film Ballymun Lullaby at Concordia’s McConnell Library building from 3:30 to 5:30 pm; a question and answer period will follow the viewing.
If you’re busy on the weekdays and can’t make it on the weekdays (boo) the weekend before Bloomsday also promises to be exciting. On Saturday, there is the annual walking tour with Ruth Rigby that runs from 10 am to 12 pm; you will be sure to learn much about the history of the Irish and Montreal while walking through the streets of the city. 15$, this is a very popular event and places are limited to 35 people only. As the night falls on Montreal, Saturday will conclude with a gala evening at Victoria Hall that costs 25$ and includes performances by the Celtic folk band The Bombadils, the Bloomsday Chorale, and many others; starting at 8pm, it is a must see for music fans, period.
Sunday’s event kicks off with the annual breakfast at EVOO that runs from 10 am to 1 pm. This is a pay on your own event, technically free if you don’t wish to buy anything, but with the promise of an Irish breakfast, who can refuse? Also running on Sunday is a “Literary speakeasy and book bootleg” run by the mysterious-sounding Quebec Writers Federation (okay, maybe not mysterious) at Brutopia Pub from 3 to 5 pm and the annual pub quiz at the Irish Embassy Pub. The annual pub quiz starts until 5 pm and goes, well, indefinitely, is hosted this year by Larissa Andrusyhyn, also includes a dramatized retelling of Molly Bloom’s story in Ulysses by actress Kathleen Fee. For 10$, it promises to be another good night.
But don’t drink too much, or else you’ll miss Monday’s sole event: Concordia University is hosting a student panel at the Henry Hall Building that runs from 10 am to 1 pm, in which you will learn about Ulysses’ author, James Joyce, and his times and culture. This event is also free and includes a light lunch with coffee.
The big day comes on June 16th, Bloomsday, and all the song and dance is put aside for reading its source text. This year, readings of the novel in four different languages (English, French, Italian, and of course, Irish) will be held for free at the Westmount library from 11 am to 4 pm, which, if you haven’t read the novel, is good practice, or perhaps a good starting point. The Westmount Library also has an interesting exhibit about the life and times of Irish poet W. B. Yeats, whose 150th birthday anniversary is this year.
Finally, we say goodbye to Bloomsday until next year with the closing festival, with the annual Jewish Public Library lecture that will start at 7:30 pm. For non-members of the JPL, this event costs 15$, for students and seniors, 10$. This year, Kevin Birmingham presents his lecture, “The Most Dangerous Book”, detailing the events surrounding Ulysses’ distribution, or, rather, lack thereof, since it was illegal to distribute or sell it in most English speaking countries, believe it or not. Birmingham’s book of the same name will be on sale and he will also be signing copies, so be sure to pick one up.
Registration is required even if the event is free, and events such as the Walking Tour fill up fast, so be sure to sign up soon. The Jewish Public Library lecture requires a separate registration with the library itself.
Bloomsday Montreal runs from June 12-15th. For more information, visit their website.