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Bloomsday in Williamstown

WILLIAMSTOWN – Bloomsday was recently celebrated in the town, thanks to Karl Mullen and John Strachan who planned the day, as they did last year.

This year, with one or two exceptions (they couldn’t have left out a pub!) the events were different, though they still corrresponded to places in James Joyce’s walk around Dublin.

Readers – anyone can join the group – have been meeting weekly during the spring to read Ulysses aloud for several months, so most of the group is quite familiar with this epic novel and greeted his humor at the current reading with loud, easy laughter.

Bloomsday, a ceremony that is celebrated all over the world, began on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book.

This year in Williamstown, Bloomsday was preceded by a film, In Bed with Ulysses, which was played at Images Theatre in Williamstown with a large audience in attendance. It’s an exceptional film – featuring places in Dublin that Joyce, his wife and friends visited that day, 54 years ago; still pictures of the Joyces and the various places they knew in Dublin and abroad.

There are also comments and readings from contemporary and near contemporary fans: Bennet Cerf’s son, for example, and Sylvia Beach, who first published Ulysses in France. A great love for the book clearly comes across from the participants in the movie. The film was well-attended, suggesting a wide interest in Joyce’s work.

Bloomsday itself in Williamstown began with the first reading of the book on the Mt. Hope Farm by a stream in which only a few people took a dip. The 20 or so people who began the day with a reading, then repaired to John Strachan’s lawn in front of his huge barn for a delicious breakfast of fruit and homemade bagels, which Mullen assured us were easy to make.

The next reading took place on that lawn, chairs having been set out.

In the book, Ulysses attends a funeral, and for this section, readers repaired to the cemetery for Williams College faculty, which is where the above picture was taken. New people joined the group there, many just listening.

Lunchtime found the group at a grill talking with each other and listening to recordings of songs Joyce had sung. Few people knew he had been a singer – and a very popular one – before he was a writer. His wife, in fact, wanted him to keep that profession – writing separated him from her too much.

Readers then joined the group on a patch of grass off of Spring Street and, conveniently enough, when it began to rain, there was a pub nearby and the readings continued there. An outdoor pub was the next stop for another chapter’s reading – and goodness knows there couldn’t be a place truer to Ulysses’ (or its author’s) life.

After a break for supper, Karl and John had another treat for us at the barn: the reading of a play by Carroll O’Connor, called Ulysses in Nighttown, which opened in 1958 and, later, on Broadway in 1974. Zero Mostel played Bloom in both and Burgess Meredith directed.

The reading of that play – the entire content of which was taken from the book – made all of us participants in the drama written by the genius that was Joyce.

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Posted by on June 20, 2013. Filed under Arts and Entertainment,Community Events,News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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