I know that many of you are planning your summer vacations, deciding where to go and what to do and picturing yourselves on beaches or ancient cobblestones, or there may be Mouse Ears involved. Not me — I don’t tan, so I don’t go to the beach. We’re broke, so no ancient cobblestones for us. And no Mouse Ears, either. Nope, my summer vacation is going to be spent the same way a lot of my summers were spent as a kid — reading a book. But not just any book.
I was born on June 16th, which I always rather liked because it was smack in the middle of the month and the middle of the year. (Which can make it confusing when looking back and figuring out how old I was in, say, 1993.) I like that it’s during the summer. I like cake and parties and making it a special day.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered the literary significance of that day: it’s Bloomsday, the day that James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place. I’ve always thought that was great, that I had a literary birthday, perfect for the quarter Irish that I am… But have I ever read it? GOD, NO.
I was always way too intimidated to try to read it, though I’ve wanted to. And almost an obligation in a way, right? I mean, come on. It’s my birthday, I’m part Irish (though my dad acted like he was 100%), I was the worst English major EVER and should try making up for that by reading things worthy of that degree… It’s been on my list for years. I’ve even been to Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and even the original location where Sylvia Beach got in all that trouble for this very book. But seriously, this very book is very scary. (I couldn’t even make it through A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — how could I possibly think I could read Ulysses???) I wish I had taken a class on it, but I never knew of any.
Somehow all of this came up in conversation in New York last week, and my friends, who feel the same way and want to read it, too, and I decided that we were going to do it. We are going to embark on Ulysses! If we all read it together, kind of like a remote Book Club and have online discussions, we can get through this. And just a chapter a week, so it’s not too intimidating.
So next week, on Bloomsday, we are starting! I must admit, I am really, really excited about it. I’m so glad that I’m finally reading it, and reading it with my like-minded and intelligent friends. I’m going to treat it like school and highlight and make notes. And then we discuss in our little Facebook group. Oh, the modern age…
Despite a busy summer, I’ll be holed up at home a lot of the time, and you may see my with a soon to be dog-eared copy of Ulysses under my arm and looking frazzled and bewildered (though I’ll be looking smarter in about a year when we’re done). And hey, I figure if Marilyn Monroe, who was far busier than I am could read it, then what am I waiting for?
Yes I said yes I said yes!