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Bloomsday Eve Letter

June 15, 2020

Dear ______,


“There comes a time in the life of every man when his thoughts turn to his final Bloomsday.”

Is it that time for me yet? I haven’t done anything with my life but stuff my brain and drink Coca-Cola. Is that all there will be? I won’t ask this about you, I can’t believe there is a final anything for women. Death is such a male thing, that kind of drama. So puffed-up and vulgar and ultimately stinky. Look at the poems of Emily Dickinson: you never really believe she could die, it’s just a flirtation. You know she’s still out there. While Walt Whitman has definitely gone to ground, he’s under our bootsoles for sure, just take a look. Sylvia Plath… well she is dead, very. So I guess at least suicide can take the ladies, though commoner among men. I won’t speculate as to why.

What I mean by all that is that it is so good to be back with you, even in my imagination, on one side of this communication, in this particular situation. Bloomsday Eve! Yay. But what kind of Bloomsday in 2020? No, let’s give a cold shoulder to The Times. We love them not. We laugh at them. We laugh and we mock and they cannot touch us. Remember how it used to be? We never cared for the times, we just had our times. But that was long ago.

Bloomsday is a card that I take out of my pocket once a year to look at and it says YOU ARE ALIVE. But from year to year I never know if it will still say that. Maybe tomorrow it won’t, and I will realize that I have already had my last true Bloomsday. News of my demise would not surprise me.

But no one ever said that you could meet Bloomsday without apprehension, anxiety, melancholy, and terror. The unhappiness of the day is unique to the day and to be cherished for itself. But then that breaks like a fever and leaves you somewhere else, not usual but remembered and maybe where you belong. Joyce and Proust both wrote, each in his own way, to the same effect, although Proust lost out by not creating a plausible holiday. Both give readers an experience that loosens the shackles of time. Not through transcendence but the heightened imminence of literature, pushed on beyond what any before them imagined possible. Have I written that before? I probably have, but I will repeat it, because this is not a lesson or an entertainment but a letter of the heart, and the beats have to keep coming even if they sound the same.

Did I say before that Joyce was just a child playing with the doo doo of his pedestrian imagination? The reader comes along and sees him and says I can do that too how amazing! What a dumb thing to keep reading Ulysses when the whole point is that you could be writing Ulysses, or the whole point is you could be living Ulysses, or that you already are. See all the tricks Joyce uses, all the experiments he conducts, the high voltages and chemical baths he applies to poor Bloom & Co. And yet they always come out whole, these common Dubliners, these pedestrians, himself. His genius can never exceed the ordinary. It can only show us the ordinary.

Bloom endures, Stephen’s future is always ahead of him, and the stream of Molly’s consciousness is as ephemeral as the Milky Way. Time has no dominion here. Is it making or memory? Memory and imagination: the ways reality shows through the scrim of time. Do the memories of this Irishman mean more that yours or mine?

Do you ever think of those early days here in Charlottesville? I remember sitting down on the linoleum floor of the kitchen at some party, not too drunk to stand, just wanting to rest awhile, to get down a little closer to the ground, the steady holding thing.  And was it you who sat down next to me? Who appeared? You know I can write better than to say “like an angel”, that I would never use that word, but it was exactly like that, the way you appeared, like an angel, the word came from that moment and only then flew back to Bible times, then forward to treacle and slow-wits, ruined. But really it was just you, then. When you sat beside me.

If only I could remember tomorrow. Or imagine it like a memory. Maybe this is as close as I can come, a Bloomsday tomorrow. What is the path to an unfearful future, that I could cherish as much as memory and imagination? To meet the future as if its fulfillment were a promise not a threat. Like it was the morning before that party.

Now I just do this, put one word after another, into the future, towards you.

It looks like it will be a cool and cloudy day tomorrow, maybe some rain. It won’t be the same as an ordinary year, walking around town. Who will I give a potato to?

I hope you are doing okay. Obviously cancer and prison are both bad things, not to mention the news about your dog, but to look on the bright side, it is better to suffer these sorts of things concurrently rather than consecutively. No, really, I hope you are well, and I’d rather hear all about that than go on and on about Bloomsday again. But maybe you like that?

Happy Bloomsday,




From → Bloomsday

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