Today is Bloomsday (June 16), the date in which James Joyce’s protagonist Leopold Bloom, in the epic Ulysses (1922), first ventured into literary existence and spoke extensively of one day in his life, the 16th of June. It is also the date that Joyce had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. In 2004, a salacious letter written from Joyce to Nora sold at Sotheby’s for a staggering £240,800. Here is one of the letters:
Dublin 2 December 1909
My love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes or fling you down under me on that softy belly of yours and fuck you up behind, like a hog riding a sow, glorying in the very stink and sweat that rises from your arse, glorying in the open shape of your upturned dress and white girlish drawers and in the confusion of your flushed cheeks and tangled hair. It allows me to burst into tears of pity and love at some slight word, to tremble with love for you at the sounding of some chord or cadence of music or to lie heads and tails with you feeling your fingers fondling and tickling my ballocks or stuck up in me behind and your hot lips sucking off my cock while my head is wedged in between your fat thighs, my hands clutching the round cushions of your bum and my tongue licking ravenously up your rank red cunt. I have taught you almost to swoon at the hearing of my voice singing or murmuring to your soul the passion and sorrow and mystery of life and at the same time have taught you to make filthy signs to me with your lips and tongue, to provoke me by obscene touches and noises, and even to do in my presence the most shameful and filthy act of the body. You remember the day you pulled up your clothes and let me lie under you looking up at you while you did it? Then you were ashamed even to meet my eyes.
You are mine, darling, mine! I love you. All I have written above is only a moment or two of brutal madness. The last drop of seed has hardly been squirted up your cunt before it is over and my true love for you, the love of my verses, the love of my eyes for your strange luring eyes, comes blowing over my soul like a wind of spices. My prick is still hot and stiff and quivering from the last brutal drive it has given you when a faint hymn is heard rising in tender pitiful worship of you from the dim cloisters of my heart.
Nora, my faithful darling, my seet-eyed blackguard schoolgirl, be my whore, my mistress, as much as you like (my little frigging mistress! My little fucking whore!) you are always my beautiful wild flower of the hedges, my dark-blue rain-drenched flower.
While some of us are at work on this dreary day, celebrations are being held around the world, evidently in Dublin, but also in Bondi, Sydney. There is live music and reading sessions and a film screening of Nora (2000), starring Ewan McGregor as Joyce.
The notorious Ulysses has claimed many victims, and is the kind of book to warrant ‘tries’, before getting through the entire thing. Famously, Marilyn Monroe devoured the book, supposedly twice. I have yet to complete it myself, though I’ve read the comic book version. The book has left great influence around the world, inspiring travel with Dublin Literary Walking Tours, which is now an i-phone app that feeds you updates on significant places from the book while walking through Dublin.