Happy Digital Bloomsday!


It’s June 16, the celebrated day of James Joyce’s Ulysses, during which Leopold Bloom wanders through Dublin.  June 16 is also the day on which Bloom met his wandering wife Molly.

Traditional Joyce fans attempt to read the entire Ulysses (or parts of it) in a 24-hour period on this day.  Digital celebrations also exist, including representations of Joyce’s text in both bar codes and tweets.   The tweets divide the novel into 96 15-minute sections.  For more, see this NPR story.  Book historians may prefer to celebrate this day by looking at the history of Ulysses‘s book covers here.

My heavily annotated 1946 Modern Library hardback, lovingly rebound by a marvelous librarian at UNC (the always-to-be-admired Rachel Frew), is still my favorite way of reading Joyce’s novel.

4 Responses to “Happy Digital Bloomsday!”

  1. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Happy Bloom’s Day to all, too! One of the ways Washington, DC is celebrating is with a Vintage bike ride to the US Embassy of Ireland; the embassy had invited all to celebrate at lunchtime. The Rosenbach, home to Joyce’s manuscript of Ulysses, in Philadelphia is doing its annual reading. And Politics & Prose, a well-known independent bookstore in DC, is doing its annual reading.

    Many thanks,Anna, for bringing these digital happenings to our attention.

    Books2Barcodes is a rather intriguing enterprise; I’d be interested in hearing from others what they thought about the need for books in this format–especially lengthy ones.


  2. Anna Battigelli Says:

    I looked at Books2Barcodes and couldn’t see the attraction.

    With difficult texts, such as Ulysses, that demand memory, focused attention, and easy access to all pages, to say nothing of annotation, the material book is still the best technology.

    When I think of the gifted music librarian who took pity on my tattered, annotated copy of Ulysses and bound it together again so beautifully, I see now that that episode at UNC was an important moment in my undergraduate education even though we didn’t talk much about Joyce. That kind of tacit encouragement of study would seem to be more difficult to come by for a reader of digital texts.


    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      I agree fully, Anna. I can see why the cellphone gave rise to a new sub genre of novels bearing the device’s name, but the barcode move seems odd. I also wonder how much it contributes to preservation efforts because I would think barcode reading devices might become obsolete as new technology produces an improved model.

      Your wonderful bookbinding story resonates with me and many others I suspect.

      I’ve noted an increase in popular articles and research pieces this past year discussing the continued preference for print–and the importance of it for comprehension and retention.


  3. Anna Battigelli Says:

    And there is the focused pleasure of reading the printed page, which differs from the roaming freedom of scanning digital screens. Both forms of reading have their place, but they offer readers significantly different cognitive experiences.


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