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Bloomsday: The Odyssey Continues

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Should you find yourself walking by the 2000 block of Delancey Place on Tuesday, June 16th you will witness a fascinating celebration that has become an annual Philadelphia tradition. The 17th annual Bloomsday occurs in front of the Rosenbach Museum & Library at 2008-10 Delancey Place just off Rittenhouse Square. Home to James Joyce’s manuscript for Ulysses, The Rosenbach Museum & Library invites well-known Philadelphians to read from the novel from noon to 7pm. Each year Bloomsday draws hundreds of neighbors, avid readers, Joyce enthusiasts and passersby whose curiosities are piqued by the festivities, the notable readers, and the draw of a unique, free event.

This year’s readers list includes The Honorable Lynne Abraham, Philadelphia District Attorney; Ann Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center; Marty Moss-Coane, host of WHYY’s Radio Times; Inga Saffron, Architecture Critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer; Kathy Sachs, Co-Curator of Cezanne and Beyond at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Wayne Spilove, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Bloomsday takes place on June 16,th the day that Ulysses’ protagonist Leopold Bloom made his fictional odyssey throughout Dublin. Ulysses – considered a literary classic—was written by James Joyce in the beginning of the last century. A modern-day version of Homer’s epic Odyssey, the novel outlines the episodic occurrences the main character encounters while going about his day in Dublin, Ireland. Unlike Homer’s Odyssey, Leopold Bloom is not the stoic hero such as Odysseus, rather a relatable man just as flawed as the rest of us. For its time, Ulysses was considered vulgar and explicit – many of the episodes involve the less savory sides of life (brothels, outhouses, masturbation, funerals…) — but critics loved the witty allusions and subtleties, and the stream-of-consciousness style of writing, which was unique in its day.

If you have not read Ulysses, you’re in for a challenge: the book has over 265,000 words (most editions are more than 400 pages) and is not an easy read (you won’t see people picking this up on their way to the Jersey shore). To help you, a one-hour crash course is being offered on Monday, June 15th at Fergie’s Pub at 1214 Sansom Street starting at 6pm. Both novices and experts will join Joyce scholar Dr. Laura Heffernan to discuss the novel.

If you’d like to attend Bloomsday and will be at the office during the day, you can keep tabs on the celebration via Twitter. The Rosenbach will live-tweet the experience (www.twitter.com/rosenbachmuseum) for the first time. These 140 characters observations will relate the event and invite readers to correspond about select Ulysses passages. Bloomsday accompanying events are scheduled throughout the month of June and include an exhibition exploring Ulysses and the economy entitled Money Matters.

What you need to know:

Bloomsday occurs on Tuesday, June 16th from noon to 7pm. It is free and open to the public. For more information visit www.rosenbach.org or call 215-732-1600.