Dig Baton Rouge

Bloomsday in Baton Rouge

By Tara Bennett

For its 10th year, the Baton Rouge Irish Club (BRIC) will celebrate Bloomsday, an international Irish holiday, which celebrates the life of Irish author James Joyce, and relive the events in his novel ‘Ulysses,’ all of which took place on June 16th in Dublin in 1904.

The BRIC will be doing their own version of the literary holiday on Monday, June 16th, commemorating it with academic symposia, a display of Joyce artifacts, Irish music by Brian Breen and Pete Dawson, bagpipes, food, wine, a silent auction and general Irish merriment.

“It’s one of our main free events to expose Irish culture to the main public,” said BRIC President Joe Sullivan. “It’s gotten bigger every year.”

The word Bloomsday itself is derived from the name of the central character in the book, Leopold Bloom. The first Bloomsday celebration took place in Dublin in 1954 to celebrate the book’s 50th anniversary. For its 100th anniversary, a major five-month long festival was held in Dublin in 2004, where thousands of people gathered to enjoy the festivities.

“After it was published, Dublin threw a huge Bloomsday party marking the 50th anniversary of the book,” said Sullivan. “So after the 50th anniversary it sort of caught on and spread.”

Theatrical readings from the works of James Joyce will be performed by several actors including Jason Bayle and Dr. Michael Kutcher of the Swine Palace as well as Dave Besse and Helen Hoffpauir.

“That’s really the highlight of the whole night; the words of Joyce being read aloud to the audience by actors and academics who explain the general context about what you’re going to hear,” said Sullivan. “A lot of the readings are done with the Irish accent, which is very pleasant for the audience. They get a kick out of the accents.”

Guests to the event will get a good dose of Joyce’s background and his writing process. However, there is no requirement to read “Ulysses,” which is over 200,000 words long. To whet one’s appetite for Joyce, Sullivan recommends starting out with Joyce’s short stories.

“As a primer, I would recommend ‘The Dubliners’ first,” said Sullivan. “That’s a good reference point to get started. Next would be ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.’ Once you delve into those two, ‘Ulysses’ will be a bit more palatable I think.”

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and goes on until 9 p.m. at the Baton Rouge Gallery at City Park. Admission is free to the event. For more information visit bririshclub.com.

Can’t cram all 200,000 words of Ulysses into your noggin by Monday? Try these shorter works of James Joyce on for size:

1. The Dubliners – A collection of 15 short stories first published in 1914, they form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century. (from Wikipedia)

2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Traces the intellectual and religio-philosophical awakening of young Stephen Dedalus, a fictional alter ego of Joyce and an allusion to Daedalus, the consummate craftsman of Greek mythology. (from Wikipedia)

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