In my many years of Bloomsday readings, I’ve neglected to tell you about my first run-in with the text.
It was more years ago than I’ll ever admit, when I had recently moved to New York, and had almost immediately found myself a nice new literary teenage boyfriend. We had only been dating a few weeks when he had given me a copy of Ulysses with the naughty bits highlighted (I later learnt that this was a hand-me-down from his brother, and he had never read much Joyce beyond Portrait, but if you’re a teenage boy looking to get laid, let me assure you that this will do it).
I wanted to impress him, because that’s what you do to teenage boyfriends, so I took him to a staged reading of Dubliners at a bar with a pinhole-sized black-box theatre in the the back. This event didn’t come particularly recommended to me, but in was in the Village Voice, and on Avenue B, so I felt it would be sufficiently edgy enough.
We arrived surprised to find a two-drink minimum required to attend. Now, we were neither seasoned nor legal drinkers, so we ordered four draft beers up front and downed them within a few minutes, to hide future evidence of any wrongdoing. Admittedly, the reading wasn’t so great as I recall– black turtlenecks, very somber, very serious, a deathly production. But two pints down amateur gullets coupled with the snoozer of a show worked its magic, and midway through Eveline (the fourth story in), my guy began snoring.
I spent some time kicking him awake before succumbing myself, and the next thing that entered my consciousness was the polite applause of the audience as the show was wrapping. And while these years later I have better judgment for those who hope to become laid by me, and a more acclimated constitution for a few pints, I remain convinced that it was a shit performance, and not beyond my then-inchoate acumen. At least, we can hope.