Thursday, June 16, 2011

James Joyce in Real Time

For those unfamiliar with the proper noun “Bloomsday,” June 16 is the date on which the entire plot of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses unfolds.  More specifically, the action begins at the dawn on June 16, 1904 and concludes around the following midnight.  With this as context, Julie Bloom’s post to the ArtsBeat blog of The New York Times is worth reproducing in its entirety:

“—Warily walking went Bloom, unconquered hero. Jingle a tinkle jaunted. Not yet. At four. What is he doing at the Ormond? Let’s hear the time.” The words may not be exactly Joycean, but they’re pretty close for 140 characters. At approximately 10:45 a.m. Eastern time this entry was the latest added to @11ysses twitter account. It’s part of the marathon project, known as “Ulysses Meets Twitter 2011,” conceived by “Stephen from Baltimore,” which invited readers of “Ulysses” to retell the great, lengthy work through tweets from start to finish within the 24-hour period that the novel’s odyssey through Dublin (on June 16, 1904) takes place.

Steve is spending today making sure the story of Stephen Dedalus develops on time. In an e-mail he wrote: “My job as ringleader was to get the Cast on stage on time, and that is happening nicely so far (as long as my home wireless doesn’t give out). I still have many more hours of cut & pasting ahead of me. So my Bloomsday will be spent largely chained to this laptop.”

We’ll check back in with him Friday to see how he thought his experiment panned out, but in the meantime, take a look at @11ysses and tell us what you think of the project.

My personal feeling is that, even if the results are not entirely up to snuff, this use of a new medium to translate Joyce’s “literary real-time” into the real-time of the physical world is admirable enough to impact our thoughts about both Joyce and the characters of his novel.

Supportive as I may be of the project, however, I see once again the stamp of slovenly disregard for accuracy that is arising with disturbing frequency on New York Times pages (physical as well as virtual).  To call Ulysses “the story of Stephen Dedalus” is tantamount to calling Homer’s Odyssey “the story of Telemachus.”  The figure of Joyce’s title is Leopold Bloom (after whom today is named);  and his is the perilous journey that parallels that of Homer’s hero.  True, in both epics we encounter the son before the father;  and, in many respects the narrative line is about how their paths converge.  Nevertheless, it seems a bit ironic that this basic fact should be ignored in a report on a new approach to Bloomsday celebration, particularly coming from a writer named Bloom!

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