Are you a strict tt.? says Joe.
Not taking anything between drinks, says I.
Last night the James Joyce Society of Washington held its first Bloomsday celebration at Garvin's Grill. Bloomsday, as you knew of course, is June 16, 1904, a day in the life of one Leopold Bloom, citizen of Dublin, husband and father, cuckold and thinker of thoughts. The single day takes up all 783 pages of "Ulysses," proclaimed by many to be Joyce's masterwork.
Bloomsday has for years been duly noted by the International Joyce Society, this time in Albuquerque, N.M., and it is there that most of the scholars from the Washington branch have gone this week. It is an academic session, with readings of papers and knowledgeable smiles at arcane witticisms.
Not so at Garvin's.
Here, we had music and poetry, ballads and laughter and draft beer and just a touch of "Finnegan's Wake" . . .
Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousendsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs . . .
Ray Lane, a local free-lance writer, and some of his friends put together the party, which featured the voices of Art Sands, Spence Hay, Rev. Vincent Donovan, Mary Lou Martin and Anita Oberright, the banjo of Paul McDonald, the penny flute of Wendy Morrison and the flashing fiddle of Terry O'Neil.
What did they do? What do you do about James Joyce? Well, they read his hilarious parody of a small-town newspaper wedding story to the accompaniment of a sweet ballad. They sang songs of the Uprising. They sang "Love's Old Sweet Song," a Joyce favorite.
Then they veered off into Yeats and O'Casey and general Irishness.
It was great fun, and some guy in the back row kept trying to start a round of "Danny Boy," and the people, 100 of them at the very least, Celts all, with their steep foreheads and brown, candid eyes, clapped along with the reels and jigs.
It was fun, but they didn't really steam up Joyce's glasses. They hardly got the wraps off him. Oh, what they could have read us.Oh, how they could have had us whooping in laughter or silent with remembering or simply bedazzled with the glittering gush of words.
In liver gravy Bloom mashed mashed potatoes. Love and war someone is. Ben Dollard's famous. Night he ran round to us to borrow a dress suit for that concert. Trousers tight as drum on him. Musical porkers. Molly did laugh when he went out. Threw herself back across the bed, screaming, kicking. With all his belongings on show. O, saints above . . .
Or this nugget from Molly Bloom's famous soliloquy, pored over avidly by generations of schoolboys who would have to wait another 20 years before they could find the humor in it:
. . . I hate that confession when I used to go to Father Corrigan he touched me father and what harm if he did where and I said on the canal bank like a fool but whereabouts on your person my child on the leg behind high up was it yes rather high up was it where you sit down yes O Lord couldnt he say bottom right out and have done with it . . . .
In New York and Bowton and Chicago and San Francisco they have been doing Bloomsday for years. Here and there a radio station actually reads the things aloud.It takes 32 hours. The Washington society, which has been going for only a few months, is hoping to work up something for Joyce's birthday in February. It is a very easygoing society.
Bloom at a funeral:
Well it is a long rest. Feel no more. It's the moment you feel. Must be damned unpleasant. Can't believe it at first. Mistake must be: someone else. Try the house opposite. Wait, I wanted to, I haven't yet. Then darkened deathchamber. Light they want. Whispering around you. Would you like to see a priest? Then rambling and wandering. Delirium all you hid all you life . . .
And Stephen Dedalus, Joyce's persona, the hero of his earlier book, a stiff-necked young independent who refused his mother's dying wish that he kneel at her bedside, views death another way:
She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death.
Agengite of inwit. Inwit's agenbite.
On, the passages. The rolling surf of words. Right to the last page.
. . . and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yest and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.