An Irish diplomat and other James Joyce enthusiasts yesterday recited their way toward the erotic conclusion of "Ulysses" in a marathon reading of the novel, scorned in its day for a sensuous final chapter.
About 12 people were at the Cafe Beaux Arts to participate in the reading that began Tuesday at noon and was scheduled to end late yesterday.
Some 25 people were at the cafe' Tuesday for the start of the marathon reading of the celebrated modernist novel, including a scene with its "antihero," Leopold Bloom, sitting on the toilet contemplating his breakfast.
Herb Guggenheim, a writer and lecturer at George Mason University, is the organizer of the event, which is in its fourth year.
The literary marathon celebrates the 83rd anniversary of "Bloomsday," or June 16, 1904, the date "Ulysses" occurs.
Contributions to the event go toward the Washington Literacy Council, a nonprofit organization that trains volunteers and provides materials to teach English-speaking adults how to read.
Kevin Dowling, a diplomat who works at the Irish Embassy, brought his home town Dublin to life when he read for the third year. "Reading 'Ulysses' aloud gives much of the sound as well as the sense of Joyce's Dublin," he said.
National Public Radio's Robert Aubry Davis gave a masterful interpretation of Stephen Daedalus' "the Irish shore," one of the most difficult passages in the book.
Joyce's masterpiece caused an uproar through much of his native Ireland because it criticized Catholicism and contained what were then considered sexually explicit passages. The work was banned for about 10 years after being published in France in 1922.
In New York, a similar reading aired on radio station WBAI threatened to raise a controversy because of a recent tightening of obscenity regulations by the Federal Communications Commission.
WBAI Program Director John Scagliotti said the station aired the seven-hour broadcast late Tuesday and yesterday without receiving complaints from either listeners or the FCC.
"The reaction has been entirely positive. If anybody has been complaining, it hasn't been to us," said station staffer Fred Kuhn.
Guggenheim, who planned to stay until the reading concluded, began the literary journey by reading, "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stair head bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed."
The sensuous final chapter is a stream-of-consciousness narrative by Molly Bloom lying in bed at night contemplating nature, love and life.
Joyce's "Ulysses" is patterned after the classic heroic epic by Homer. But Joyce's book centers around an ordinary man who does ordinary things in everyday Dublin -- who was to Joyce the hero of the modern age.