WELL, tomorrow is Bloomsday, June 16th, and it is when the world celebrate James Joyce's Ulysses by turning the day in 1904 when he set the novel (the day he first went out with the woman who shared his life) into a kind of literary feast day. It's a bit rough, though, if you're one of those people who thinks Ulysses is too hard. It's not, in fact. Everyone has got used to the idea that they can look at a Picasso without actually being clued up about how those African masks made those ladies of Avignon look the way they do, or which biblical episode is being depicted.
The first obstacle with Ulysses is the title. What does this story about a chap called Leopold Bloom, whose wife Molly is cheating on him — who meets by chance a young literary chap, Stephen Dedalus — have to do with Ulysses, also known as Odysseus, who is the hero of Homer's Odyssey?
Well, not much. Joyce said to Nabokov that the title was just "an advertisement for the book" and confessed that it had been "a terrible mistake".
Of course, Bloom is like Odysseus, simply because he wanders and, in a roundabout and symbolic way, he wants to find a way home to his wife, Molly. If you don't know where to start with Ulysses, start with Molly Bloom and go right to the end of the book. Read the last 20 pages or, better still, listen to the great Irish actress, Siobhan McKenna, reading the last part of Molly's soliloquy.
There's no punctuation, but that's the only thing that's difficult about it, and before too long (and especially if you listen to McKenna) you'll get the hang of Molly Bloom's sleepy, ruminative, randy variety of blarney.