Monday, June 16, 2014

BLOOMSDAY ~ June 16, 1904
Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on June 16th in Dublin, Ireland, and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses. 16 June was the date of Joyce's first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, when they walked to the Dublin village of Ringsend.

I particularly remember one of the earlier chapters entitled "Proteus." It took place at the beach. The character experimented with selective sense deprivation in order to enhance another. So when he covered his eyes, his hearing improved. And when he covered his ears, his vision became more acute. It represents to me how many people who excel in one area may be seriously deficient in another. That's a lesson we frequently forget with our Puritanical standards for politicians.

One of my best courses sophomore year at Yale was a Saybrook seminar on epics with A. Bartlett Giamatti. We read the Iliad, Don Quixote, and James Joyce’ Ulysses among other works. Bart told us that it was essential to organize thoughts on paper. Unlike the popular expression that: “I know what I mean – I just can’t write it down;” he said that if you can’t organize your thoughts on paper, then you really don’t know what you mean. He later became President of Yale, and afterwards, baseball commissioner. He died –literally of a broken heart— during the Pete Rose controversy. I wrote some good papers for his class. Years later I saw him at a reception at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, when he had just become President of Yale. Before I introduced myself, he said: “I remember you. You’re a good writer.” Perhaps that was merely PR— but it was gracious of him. (By the way he was the father of the actor Paul Giamatti of Sideways fame.)

In May 1996 I visited James Joyce’s home in Dublin now owned by his great nephew. I was part of the entertainment for a group of Texans from Dallas who had rented one of the grand restored and renovated castles on the edge of the Pale, the defensive ring around Dublin; hence the expression “beyond the pale” meaning outside the limits of culture and civilization.

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Titian in the Frari (Venezia)