Stately, but not plump, Professor Gordon Taylor held the book aloft and intoned, "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead...," thus kicking off the 2009 Bloomsday reading of Ulysses at the University of Tulsa.
Our hair was darker when last we did a marathon reading of Ulysses at the university about twenty-five years ago. On Bloomsday 2009, the hair was grayer (well, not the students' hair), and the marathon was not a marathon but more a hundred-meter fast walk. The voices were strong though, and the words of Joyce timeless in their beauty, strength, poignancy, and wit.
The event was organized and coordinated by JJQ Managing Editor Carol Kealiher in recognition of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has generously provided a grant to the journal. A crowd of over thirty English faculty members and graduate students (and ex-faculty members and grad students, like me) gathered in the JJQ offices on 16 June to pay homage, to read, and to listen to what Joyce hath wrought. It was an enthusiastic crowd and bigger than one might have thought possible on a hot Oklahoma summer day.
After Gordon introduced us to the Buck in his yellow dressing-gown and the Bard in his secondhand breeks, Patricia Hollingsworth, Director of the University School, also read from "Telemachus." Adrian Alexander, the R. M. and Ida McFarlin Dean of the Library, read extensively from "Nestor." The "Proteus" episode was represented by only one paragraph—the one in which Stephen hears his father's voice mocking his in-laws and saying, "Jesus wept and no wonder by Christ."
A number of readers favored the "Calypso" episode, including Arlene Johnson, with her wonderful and authentic Irish accent. Doctoral candidate Matt Huculak read neatly and tidily about Bloom's neat and tidy bowel movement, while Jeff Longacre, a recent graduate, and Tabatha Hibbs, a JJQ assistant, read from "Calypso" and "Lotus Eaters," respectively. Karen Dutoi and David Chandler delivered passages from "Aeolus" and "Lestrygonians," but the chorus was not comprised solely of graduate students. Will the undergraduate [End Page 16] who read beautifully from "Scylla and Charybdis" please come forward and identify himself? And then Nick Dawson, not a graduate student but a university computer technician, read from "Wandering Rocks"—Joyce's reach is wide.
Holly Laird, the current Chair of the English Department and former editor of Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, gave the best reading of the prelude to "Sirens" that I have ever heard. Every nick, knock, clack, clock, nakkering tschink, and tschunk was precise and funny. This must have been the way Joyce wanted it done.
Then Jim Watson, holder of the Frances W. O'Hornett Chair of Literature, one of the grays, conveyed to us greetings from the founder of the JJQ, Tom Staley, now at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin. Tom had called Jim to wish him a happy birthday on the 16th and was delighted to hear that we were having a Bloomsday party. Jim then read the opening paragraph of "Cyclops."
Three young women, appropriately, read from "Nausicaa." Tara Aveilhe, Samantha Extance, and Barbara Woodfin, all grad students, captured Gerty's and Bloom's mutual excitement with great intensity and humor.
Those willing to tackle "Oxen" and "Circe" did not show, but Lars Engle, the once and future chair of the English department, bravely essayed a passage from "Eumaeus." Jackie Backer, a former graduate student, read in a beautifully flowing voice the breathtaking water passage from "Ithaca." Grad student Patrick Belk read briefly from "Penelope," and I read the final "Yes" passage. Then lunch was served—no gorgonzola and burgundy but plain midwestern fare. Everyone left happy.
The editor of the JJQ, Sean Latham, couldn't be with us because he was attending "Bloomsday at Buffalo," the James Joyce conference in New York. Too bad—he would have enjoyed it, and maybe he would have tackled one of those neglected episodes.
Grad student Samantha Extance is a talented jewelry maker, and she created several pieces relating to the various episodes of Ulysses. You can take a look at one of...