Diann Blakely's Reviews > yes I said yes I will Yes.: A Celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 Years of Bloomsday

yes I said yes I will Yes. by Nola Tully
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Mar 16, 2012

Read in January, 2012

A romp through the history of Bloomsday and related Joyceana, including the holiday's origin: the 24-hour span on June 16, 1904, during which the action in Ulysses takes place, YES I SAID YES I WILL YES, makes for delightful reading. Edited by Nora Tully, the volume's many treasures include an undergraduate theme written by Tennessee Williams, who didn't like ULYSSES. The more admiring Isaiah Sheffer, coordinator of the famous annual Bloomsday celebration held at the Norton Symphony Space in New York, serves here as introducer and suggests that the Irishman's painful, lifelong trouble with his eyes, as well as his passion for vocal music, means that his greatest pleasure in writing came not from the images he created but from the verbal music he composed. Sheffer believes that Joyce experienced his own creation as a viscerally immediate polyphony meant to be read aloud: "To look out...at a theatre full of hundreds of listeners, is to take in a sea of attentive and frequently smiling faces, smiling at the pleasure of a particular passage, or just smiling with a look of wild cognition that says 'Oh! Now I get it!' "

Other readers' responses, presented in sidebars and brief sections throughout YES I SAID YES I WILL YES, range from Hemingway's characteristically laconic "Joyce has a most goddamn wonderful book" to Nabokov's assertion that "in Bloom's mind and in Joyce's book the theme of sex is continually mixed and intertwined with the theme of the latrine." Virginia Woolf went further in her own writings, in the least harsh of which she says that she "is reminded all the time of some callow board school boy.... [O]ne hopes he'll grow out of it, but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely." Judging from letters in which Joyce asks Molly/Nora to refrain from washing her underwear so that he could revel in its fecal deposits...well, perhaps people were right to be afraid of Ms. Woolf.

(ending revised from piece originally published in the NASHVILLE SCENE / Village Voice Media, 2004)

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