On Centennary Cyber Monday, for the third consecutive year, I eavesdropped again on the celebrations of FestivalBloomsday Montréal from afar. One event I espied announced
1:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Afternoon academic panels at McGill (680 Sherbrooke Street West 10th floor). Join us for a panel entitled, Many Minds Make Light Work: Ulysses Reading Groups Around the World, featuring Elizabeth Salerno (joining us remotely from New York), Kevin Wright, and Jamie Salomon (both in person).
I found that, generally, the presenters spoke not academically but personally. That is the most appropriate way for a reader of Ulysses to speak, presuming that we all play the role of Bloom in our lives if we love the book.
Elizabeth Salerno’s readership of the Bloom liturgy began “personally,” if a New York diner can be considered an intimate venue [DING! –Orders up. Eleven, thirty-two]. The reading she conceived of with another librarian co-conspirator eventuated in an official New York Public Library program. That was fitting because it follows William York Tindall’s tradition. Tindall is said to have introduced the first official readings of Ulysses as a professor at Columbia University. By necessity, Tindall’s class read the text at the 42nd Street Library (“between the lions,” as they all say) where a copy was chained to a table around which his undergraduates clustered.
Librarian Salerno then forged a joint venture by combining forces with the FestivalMontréal Ulysses Reading Group under the excitation of Jaime Salomon. Mr. Salomon may be devoted to the book, as are few others, crafting his own digital maps (shared for maximum “oogling”), charts, and analyses into a perhaps previously uncharted accountancy of Joyce’s novel. If a word cloud floated over the novena of his discussion, “RABBIT HOLE” would dominate the cumulus position and “BOUNCE HOUSE” the stratus (since it strung far across the Q&As).
Omitted from the announcement about the event was a tribulation of translation, as discussed by Geraldina Mendez. She also moderated the session. Geraldina leads a multi-national online reading group that spans many Spanish dialects. Nations mentioned included Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Catalan Spain, and Canada. I follow the group on social media in my halting Español turisto and attest there are also readers from Columbia, Brazil, Uraguay, and the US among those active. I have an acquaintance who translated Spanish for a US hospital complex. “Translated” is the term I need to use; the hospital forbade employees from interpreting patients’ statements. Differences among the idioms of Spanish speakers of the Western Hemisphere are so variant that the results could be deadly. This is a personal challenge for the leader of translation readers: Find the Translation with the Same Meaning for All Readers.
The final bit of my report is also personal– for me. This was the truly academic but comprehensible presentation of Dr. Kevin Wright, long
recognized for teaching the Joycean canon and illuminating the mysteries for lunkheads such as I. Here was a brief, entertaining, and easily understandable overview of Finnegans Wake. One can’t get past the name of the reading group without noting the wit and wonder that this reading cherishes. These Brothers and Sisters of Anna Livia Plurabelle name themselves “The Boaters and Sifters of ALP”
Kevin relieved neophytes of Finnegans Night terrors by holding up a candle to the origin of Finnegans Wake in Joyce’s observation of differences and contradictions among the Christian Evangelists. He then explored the influence of Giambattista Vico’s four stages of the recursive cycle; the 10 words and 1001 letters of thunder; and Giordano Bruno’s coincidence of contraries.
Best of all was Kevin’s discussion of the Tunc page from The Book of Kells as a perfect representation of divinity among thieves, life, death, recursiveness, and resurrection.
I have read Finnegan twice, once with Campbell and Robinson, then recoursing with finwake.com. I might now start again, among boaters and sifters this time if I can.