Sunday, June 16, 2013

James Joyce's Leopold gets his own book for Bloomsday

James Joyce's Leopold gets his own book for Bloomsday

After bringing Ulysses to Twitter in recent years, this year's celebration will see the novel's hero get a book to himself
The Works of Master Poldy
Reprint the legend ... a preview image of The Works of Master Poldy
"… well hes beyond everything I declare somebody ought to put him in the budget if I only could remember the half of the things and write a book out of it the works of Master Poldy yes'"
This fragment of Molly Bloom's great soliloquy at the end of James Joyce's Ulysses – alluding to her husband and the novel's hero Leopold – has lain there for 90 years, just waiting for some enterprising editor to take on Mrs Bloom's memory test and produce a volume of the thoughts of Joyce's Everyman. Of course, for most of that time, the jealous guardianship of the Joyce Estate had ensured that nobody could or would do any such thing, but now that the novel is in the public domain it was only a matter of time before someone decided to give it a shot. And now they have.
The Liberate Ulysses collaborative, consisting of Dubliner Jamie Murphy and Steve Cole from Baltimore, Maryland, have been marking Bloomsday online for the past two years with what they call a "global multimedia celebration". They started in 2011 with Ulysses Meets Twitter – a project spread over 24 hours with 44 people tweeting favourite bits of Joyce's masterpiece. Last year they organised a bigger, better Twitterfest and published a set of video dialogues designed to get Joyce lovers everywhere talking about the book.
So when it emerged that they planned to mark Bloomsday 2013 by publishing "The works of Master Poldy", fans might assume they were going to Tweet Mr Bloom's wisdom to the world, or maybe produce a quick ebook. The reality is a bit more surprising than that. It turns out that Murphy is a fine letterpress printer whose Salvage Press specialises in broadsides and artists' books, and the plan is to produce Molly's imagined volume as in hand-printed letterpress in a limited edition using a mix of metal and wooden types.
The Works of Master Poldy will be produced entirely by hand in Dublin to mark this year's annual Joyce celebration in June. This is the kind of publishing that the digital age is supposed to have rendered obsolete. In fact, this is the kind of publishing that offset printing was supposed to have killed off years ago. It seems that LiberateUlysses really intend the multimedia bit in their tagline to be genuinely multi. To compliment this very traditional bit of publishing, they have been running an ongoing Twitter campaign of pre-publicity for the book. They're also engaging in that most 21st-century activity, crowdfunding. This is analogue and digital in perfect accord.
As a fan of the novel, I have some reservations about the idea of mining Ulysses as a source of aphorisms. There is a precedent of sorts in Declan Kiberd's Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce's Masterpiece, a self-help volume based on Joyce's celebration of the pleasures of the everyday. The chief difference is that Kiberd interprets, whereas Mr Poldy will give us the master's own words. What's more, LiberateUlysses can claim some kind of legitimacy on the grounds that they are finally making Molly Bloom's dream come true.
In the ongoing debate on the survival of the paper book, this project exemplifies one possible model for the future. There's something about a well-made physical object with good design, quality materials and fine printing that no digital substitute can match, and the power of the internet to help publishers find funding and markets can be harnessed to make fine editions viable. Ebooks may well win the mass market, but as long as there are people who appreciate the printer's craft, paper books are not going to go away.


Bloomsday quiz: how well do you know your Joyce?

Bloomsday, the annual celebration of Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses, is a fine day to remind yourself of his genius. Test your knowledge with our 16 questions for 16 June
Statue of James Joyce at Fluntern cemetery, Zurich
Statue of James Joyce at Fluntern cemetery, Zurich. Photograph: Sebastian Derungs/Reuters
  1. 1.What was the significance of 16 June?
  2. 2.Which playwright did Joyce hero-worship?
  3. 3.Which of the following is not a quote from Joyce?
  4. 4.What did Joyce refer to as "electricity" and "beefsteak"?
  5. 5.The framework of Finnegans Wake is based on a cyclical theory of history borrowed from which thinker?
  6. 6.Joyce is often accused of being verbose and obscure. Yet which work did he claim to have written "in a style of scrupulous meanness and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to alter in the presentment, still more to deform, whatever he has seen and heard"?
  7. 7.When was the English ban on Ulysses lifted?
  8. 8.Which author admired Joyce so much that he not only worked as his secretary but is said to have crippled his much larger feet by wearing identical shoes?
  9. 9.Which novel did Joyce call "the English Ulysses"?
  10. 10.Who was brave or foolhardy enough to edit Finnegans Wake down into a shorter edition?
  11. 11.In the Homeric parallels of Ulysses, which character is Telemachus to Bloom's Ulysses?
  12. 12.Joyce died less than two years after publishing his mammoth “night-language” dream-text, Finnegans Wake. What were his hints about his next project?
  13. 13.What is the final word in Ulysses?
  14. 14."The only demand I make of my reader," Joyce once told an interviewer, is that ...
  15. 15.The last word in Finnegans Wake is
  16. 16."I guess the man's a genius, but what a dirty mind he has, hasn't he?" Whose critical verdict?
    1. 10 James Joyce Facts in Honor of Bloomsday

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