To some it is a literary masterpiece, cluttered and idiosyncratic as the city it chronicles. To others it is the world’s longest obituary, but whatever your view, one thing is clear, and that is that 107 years after poor Paddy Dignam was finally laid to rest, James Joyce’s Ulysses remains the only book in the Anglo sphere (apart from the Bible) to have its own day.
He is gone from mortal haunts: O’Dignam, sun of our morning. Fleet was his foot on the bracken: Patrick of the beamy brow. Wail, Banba, with your wind: and wail, o ocean, with your whirlwind.
So settles the cloud of tobacco, stout and grief between Bob Doran and Alf as they spy Leopold Bloom hovering outside the chemist shop on an errand for his wife, Marion of the bountiful bosoms. Bloom, the eternal outsider, child of Abraham in an Apostolic nation, and bookish to boot.
I declare to my antimacassar if you took up a straw from the bloody floor and if you said to Bloom: Look at, Bloom. Do you see that straw? That’s a straw. Declare to my aunt he’d talk about it for an hour so he would and talk steady.
As any of my legion of drinking buddies both past and present would blearily attest, I identify strongly with Leopold Bloom.
But there is another reason Bloomsday sounds a particular note for me each June. For it was on the evening of June 16, 1996 that my good friend and drinking buddy, Alison Gooch, was run down and killed by a drunk driver on the sweeping bend of King street just south of Newtown bridge. Nineteen years and I can still hear her laugh.
(Originally posted in 2011 on Bluepepper and re-posted at Sydney Poetry)