Bloomsday Comes to Sag Harbor (For Real)

James Joyce
James Joyce

Three years ago, when I first heard Canio’s Books put out a bit of buzz looking for fellow Joyceans to celebrate Bloomsday in Sag Harbor, the entire notion seemed to me like an impossible dream.

After all, how many people in a seaside resort spend their spare time marveling over the facets of James Joyce’s impossible prose?

On that Bloomsday in 2013, I wandered the streets of Sag Harbor alone, marveling at the changes that had come to my little town, which I vacated back in 2007 when life there just began to get unbearable. No one in all of Sag Harbor seemed to be celebrating Bloomsday.

But this year, lead by stalwart Joycean Joseph Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group, and the wonderful performance artist Kate Mueth of the Neo-Political Cowgirls, Harborites packed into Canio’s Books on June 16 to share the joy of deciphering the density of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

We all nodded in rapt amazement that such a thing as Bloomsday in the Harbor had come to pass, agreeing with Joe’s assertions about why we should still continue to read Joyce — again and again — while Kate brought down the house with her dramatic reading of “Penelope,” the final chapter in “Ulysses.”

I read aloud the story I wrote in 2013 about the changes afoot in Sag Harbor, and my heart stuck in my throat when I realized how much has changed about Sag Harbor, yet again, in the short years since it was written.

There’s talk afoot that next Bloomsday, East End newspaper editors and reporters and such may put together a reading of the “Aeolus” chapter of “Ulysses,” which takes place in a newspaper office. Any of you newspaper people out there who find this idea tantalizing should contact Joe Shaw and keep his faith alive through next Bloomsday.

This Bloomsday at Canio’s Books was a brief glimmer of something sweet and special that I hope will continue and grow throughout the years. Thank you to Kathryn Szoka and Maryann Calendrille at Canio’s for continuing to hold a candle aloft for literature in a place that seems nearly consumed by commerce.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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