Bloomsday in Dublin

1. Stephen, Mary, and baby Browyn from Co. Offaly dressed up for their first Bloomsday. They ate breakfast at the Gresham. “He had the kidneys, I didn’t.” 2. Outside the James Joyce Centre, ballet dancer Eilene McLoughlin says she likes dressing up on Bloomsday to celebrate with all the old and happy souls of the bygone era. 3. The original door to 7 Eccles Street — home of Leopold Bloom — is hidden in the back patio of the Joyce Centre.

They say you shouldn’t start a novel talking about the weather, but if you’re setting your story in Dublin that’s the only way to do it. This Bloomsday, in the newly minted UNESCO City of Literature, we had all four seasons in the one day, begob!

1. The James Joyce statue on O’Connell Street with “friend.” When I asked what he thought about Bloomsday, he wrote on the wall, “Bloom is a cod.” 2. Stylish Max and Sabrina, who is the great grand niece of Joyce, pose in St. Stephen’s Green. 3. Pacelli has dressed up as James Joyce for the past ten years. I asked him if he read Ulysses and he said he did, “and finished it too.”

Bloomsday — a commemoration of the day James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place and marks the day he met Nora Barnacle — can be described as: the fetishization of an “unreadable book” by literature students, a pilgrimage, a tourist trap, a costume pasty, an exercise in kitsch, or a celebration of Edwardian Dublin, and it’s also a reason to drink in the middle of the day. In Dublin, Joyceans congregate annually at various locales, sporting straw boaters and flowered bonnets.

My fourth Bloomsday in Dublin began — on what felt like a brisk, fall day — at the Gresham Hotel at the annual Bloomsday breakfast. Everyone dressed up in Edwardian garb and feasted on kidneys (“which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine”).

1. Teacher Maura Walsh calls herself a student of Joyce. Favorite part of the day? “My burgundy and cheese sandwich at Davy Byrnes!” 2. Joyceans enjoying readers — and the brief moments of sun — at the bandstand at St. Stephen’s Green. 3. Performers outside of Davy Byrnes.

By the time I crossed the Liffey and got to St. Stephen’s Green, it was summer. Actual summer! A large crowd gathered for readings and songs, MCed by actor and director Alan Stanford.

Then I made my way to Davy Byrnes. In Ulysses, Bloom stops at the pub for a lunch of burgundy wine and gorgonzola cheese sandwiches. You can order the ‘Bloom lunch’ for a tenner, though most Joyceans stuck to the Guinness. By the end of the afternoon, it was a rainy, wintry day and we all took refuge inside.

The buzz this year was about the plans for next year, when the copyright on the big book ends (Joyce died in 1941) and Stephen Joyce’s reign comes to an end. Hopefully then the weather will be better.

–Emily Firetog is working towards an MFA at Columbia.

1. Bowler hats galore inside the pub. 2. Golda and John take shelter under a patio umbrella while enjoying their Bloomsday lunch. Earlier in the morning they went swimming at the 40 Ft in Sandycove.

1. In the back of Davy Byrnes, women celebrate Molly Bloomsday with singing and several bottles of wine. 2. Martin, Maura (she got her burgundy!), with Irish storytellers Audrey and Ron at Davy Byrnes.

1. Then I ran into Colum McCann, whose book Let the Great World Spin won the International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award 2011 the night before. Congratulations! 2. A girl buys lemon soap at Sweny’s Chemist, just like Bloom!

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