June 2002

Jessa Crispin


How to Throw a Bloomsday Party

James Joyce is seen as being impenetrable, incomprehensible, and just plain obtuse. Having fallen in love with Ulysses when forced to read it for a James Joyce class, I tend to disagree. I find it passionate, dirty, and funny as all hell. Last year I celebrated Bloomsday in an English pub with some people who got the dirty jokes and some who didn't. This year I thought I'd help others start their own Bloomsday tradition that didn't include listening to very dry readings by sober men who think Joyce is very serious. So this June 16th, gather some friends, alcohol, a few copies of Ulysses and dive in.

1. Provide food and drink.
What you serve for food will depend on your comfort and commitment level. You could do something as simple as Irish cheeses and bread or as complex as a full meal. If you want (and are ready for) something complex, your best bets will be with lamb, corned beef (more of an Irish-American thing, but everyone will think it's authentic), and/or an assortment of root vegetables. If you'd like to stay true to the book, you could brace yourself and buy organ meats, but it's probably best to fake it a bit.

Drink is easy as you have much to choose from. Either buy or ask your guests to bring one of the following: Irish whiskey, a few kinds of beers (Guinness for those who can drink it and Kilkenny for those who can't), ciders (for the lightweights), and tea to help people walk again.

2. Have copies of Ulysses handy.
Not everyone will have a copy of their own to bring, so stop by a library or a used bookstore and clean them out.

3. Practice your Irish brogue.
Or better yet, don't.

4. Decide which parts are readable.
You can't just open Ulysses to a random page and start reading. You may get a page full of sentence fragments or you may get the question and answers section. Good bets for reading would be Cyclops, Leopold's musings on organ meats, Nighttown, the Gertie incident, and Molly's chapter. Which brings us to:

5. If you're going to read the Molly chapter, be sure to prepare.
If you don't know this already, there is no punctuation in the final chapter. This makes it nearly impossible to read if you don't think ahead. Either make photocopies of the pages or, if you're a heathen, mark in the book your own commas and periods. Don't just jump into it, thinking you'll figure it out as you're reading. Especially if you've been drinking.

6. Go first.
You're the host. You'll be prepared. Therefore, you should read first to get things going. Take a deep breath and a large swig of whiskey. Then just read.

7. Research always helps.

Irish Foods: