Bloomsday: Celebrate James Joyce


WILLIAMSTOWN -- It was Bloomsday in Williamstown on Sunday.

For those unaware of this unofficial "holiday", Bloomsday refers to a day that celebrates the novel "Ulysses" by Irish author James Joyce. "Ulysses" is considered one of the greatest novels in the English language.

In a nutshell, "Ulysses" tells the story of a day in the life of the novel's hero, Leonard Bloom. That day is June 16, 1904. Since 1954, Joyce fans have celebrated June 16 as "Bloomsday."

This is the third year that a coterie of Berkshire literary fans have celebrated, according to one of the founders of the local event, John Strachan.

Strachan and the day's other co-founder, Karl Mullen, a native of Dublin, prefer to call themselves "co-conspirators" in the light-hearted spirit of the day.

Throughout the world, the methods by which Joyce fans celebrate Bloomsday vary.

In Williamstown, the event entails visiting sites in the town that correspond roughly with similar sites in Dublin. The celebrants read various passages from the novel as they visit each site.

In Williamstown, for example, said Strachan, the day began on Sunday with an optional swim in the river at Mount Holyoke Park, which corresponds with an opening scene in the book that took place on the shore of another body of water, Dublin Bay.

The readers then moved on to several other site where they read passeges from the novel.

Mullin added that a few years ago, the group discovered that Don Gifford, who wrote "Ulysses Annotated", was a Williams College professor.

"Ulysses Annotated" is a near-encyclopedic examination of the novel. Gifford died in 2000.

"He's buried in Williamstown, so one of our stops is at his gravesite to do a reading," said Mullen.

The event has been attracting 60 to 70 people annually, said Strachan. Celebrants may attend as many or as few of the day's events as they wish, he said.

All are welcome, said Mullen.

Linda Giancolo of Lee, who attended Sunday with her husband, Ron, said she was impressed by the welcoming manner of the group.

"It's a very warm atmosphere, very welcoming," she said.

The Giancolos have also attended the Bloomsday event in Dublin, she said.

Mullen said the event has attracted people from New York City and Boston. One of the reasons they enjoy the Williamstown event, he said, is that the Bloomsday events in larger cities have actors reading or performing passages in the book.

"Here, we have ordinary people doing the readings," he said. "We would never turn an actor away, but we want to be as inclusive as possible."

To learn more about Bloomsday in Williamstown, go to the website of the same name. Next year's event is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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