Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dublin A-Bloom Wandering the Streets Made Famous by James Joyce

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dublin A-Bloom Wandering the Streets Made Famous by James Joyce

Article excerpt

TO BE IN DUBLIN'S fair city for Bloomsday - yes, I thought, yes, to visit there on June 16 and traverse the very streets Leopold Bloom walks in James Joyce's "Ulysses," yes what an adventure that would be yes.


I read the book for the first time more than 30 years ago, and every year, I've quietly celebrated the day the tale takes place. I'm by no means a Joycean scholar, but I like the book and the people in it. So in this, the 90th anniversary year, I headed to Dublin to celebrate in the company of others of a like mind.

On the 50th anniversary of Bloomsday, in 1954, aficionados held the first official celebration in Dublin, and there has been an all-out party planned every consecutive year since 1982. One day is not enough time to appreciate all the Joyce-related sites in and around Dublin, so I stayed for five.

Here is a chronological account of my Joycean holiday: Sunday, June 12

After a nap to counteract my early morning arrival, I set out on a walk to no place in particular and with no map in hand. Accidentally, I ended up at Davy Byrne's pub on Duke Street.

Bloom referred to the place as "a moral pub" and he enjoyed a Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of Burgundy there. I endured stringy baked chicken and potatoes in an excessively floral atmosphere. Still, I was infused with a sense of place and am glad I stopped in.

I next presented myself at the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) station and announced at the ticket booth that I wanted to go see the water. I'd read that the train runs along the coastal route, but I couldn't remember whether I was supposed to go south or north. (You've heard of Wrong Way Corrigan?)

The ticket seller sent me north, to Howth. There, I enjoyed an ice cream cone in sight of the sea. Howth Head is where, among the rhododendrons, Leopold Bloom proposed to Molly, so I was in the right place at the right time after all.

Back in Dublin, I got off the train, and promptly got lost. I like to get lost when I travel, so I headed off. After a few blocks, I was standing in front of Sweny's Chemist Shop on Lincoln Place, where Bloom bought a bar of lemon soap for four pence.

Comparison shopping was out of the question, as the place was closed. MONDAY JUNE 13

After a look at the Book of Kells, after a well-spent 45 minutes viewing "The Dublin Experience," after a stroll from Grafton Street to St. Stephen's Green, I slathered on some sunscreen (yes!) and again boarded a DART train, this time heading south to Bray.

The young James Joyce lived in Bray with his family from 1888 to 1891. I went there because it's on the ocean, and to see firsthand "the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale," as Joyce described it in "Ulysses."

Just down the shore from that snout, I sat eating fish and chips, watching people swim and soak up the sun. A shop clerk I talked with later said Bray had seen no sun for three years.

I hopped back on the DART and made the all-important pilgrimage to Sandycove, to see the Martello Tower where Joyce lived for a week. Though his stay was short, the place impressed him sufficiently to feature it in the opening scene of the book.

The tower houses the James Joyce Museum (admission $2.85), a quiet place where you can look at photographs, letters, assorted documents and various first editions of Joyce's works. A death mask and a plaster cast of the mask are on display. Upstairs is a mock-up of the round room (complete with imaginary black panther) as it may have looked when Joyce stayed at the tower.

After you delight in the museum, you may climb the winding staircase to the top of the tower, mount the round gun rest and pretend to be "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan. …

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