Today is the anniversary of one of the most important dates in the history of fiction. James Joyce's novel Ulysses, one of the 20th century's most important and most controversial novels, takes place on one day: June 16, 1904. The novel tracks the day in the life of three characters, Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus, as they walk the streets of Dublin, Ireland.
Although the book is set in Dublin, the characters and events parallel Homer's Greek epic the Odyssey. But Ulysses is not written in verse nor a traditional prose style; instead, Joyce's novel employs "stream of consciousness" narration, where instead of moving in a linear fashion, the story flows from the impressions, random thoughts, sensations, and associations of the characters. In an attempt to imitate the natural flow of the characters' thoughts and dialogue, Joyce omitted conventional punctuation. This, along with the novel's many allusions to history and literature, make the novel notoriously hard to read.
Here is a brief excerpt of the opening of the novel:
STATELY, PLUMP BUCK MULLIGAN CAME FROM THE STAIRHEAD, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently-behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:--
Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:
-- Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful jesuit.
Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.
Even before Ulysses was published it stirred up controversy because of its sexual passages. And the book was banned in the United States until 1933, when a New York judge ruled that the book was not obscene.
Born in Dublin in 1882, Joyce attended Catholic schools in Ireland and earned a degree in Latin. This probably explains his selection of the name of Ulysses for his protagonist, since Ulysses is the Roman name for the main character in Homer's epic poem, while Odysseus is the Greek name (1).
June 16 is a date where fans of Joyce hold public readings of Ulysses, and in Dublin, fans retrace the steps of the book's characters.
One resource traces 365 days of "events that did not really happen." It's called The Book of Fictional Days by Bob Gordon. Gordon's book ties each day of the year to events from fiction and film.
Today's Challenge: What and When It Didn't HappenMatch each of the events below from The Book of Fictional Days with the appropriate day and month (2).
1. Billy Joe McAllister jumps off the Tallahachee Bridge.
2. James Leer shoots Poe (Professor Grady Tripp's lover's husband's dog).
3. HAL 9000 becomes operational in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
4. Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf return to Rivendell and the house of Elrond in The Hobbit.
5. Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee arrives in Camelot (1528).
6. Horton the elephant hears a small noise in Horton Hears a Who.
7. Willy Wonka gives a tour of his chocolate factory.
8. Sam Baldwin and Annie Reed meet at the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle.
A. January 12
B. February 1
C. February 14
D. February 26
E. May 1
F. May 15
G. June 3
H. June 19
Quote of the Day: Mistakes are the portals of discovery. --James Joyce
Answers: 1. G 2. D 3. A 4. E 5. H 6. F 7. B 8. C
1 - Raftery, Miriam. 100 Books That Shaped World History. San Mateo, CA: Bluewood Books, 2002.
2 - Gordon, Bob. The Book of Fictional Days: A Collection of Events That Did Not Really Happen. Korea: Tide-mark Press Ltd., 2003.