Fate afforded me a stay in Dublin during the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, 2013, and my mind’s eye envisioned a sit on Sandymount Strand, where Gerty McDowell (see Ulysses, episode 13) would surely grant me a peek at her underthings, accompanied by fireworks, both outward and inward. (Readers may remember that this was the passage most vigorously attacked as pornographic.) Alas, there were no fireworks this year (outwardly, anyway), and Sandymount Strand turns out to be the most disconsolate stretch of flat beach I’ve seen in a while.With all due respect to my mind’s eye, it got this one wrong, and Gerty is no doubt happily making Irish breakfast for her one true man, and showing her panties to him alone.
The hope of glimpsing Gerty’s lingerie soon paled in importance, in favor of a greater boon — a rediscovery of literary Dublin. The Odyssey Club is committed to implementing literary events worldwide, but we are unlikely to suggest one for Dublin soon, as the field is more than adequately, indeed magnificently, covered by the locals. Instead, we take it as an inspiration and a model, contenting ourselves on this outing with an overview of some of the delights proffered on the Liffey’s banks for fans of the “litera-tour”.
The bill of fare begins with James Joyce, of course, and Odyssey recalls with satisfaction that our namesake, both as book and as trip, forms the basis for the piece of writing most closely associated with the city, Joyce’s Ulysses. The James Joyce Center, 35 North Great James Street is the place to begin (consult the map in their website at http://www.jamesjoyce.ie). Informative exhibits (I didn’t know he was a fine singer, for instance), a surrealistic (or “stream of consciousness”) mural, the door from No. 7 Eccles Street, and a non-stop video loop of the Huston/Huston film of “The Dead”. (News flash: the knocker from the Eccles 7 door, which languished for years in the private collection of a piratical American, has been located, re-purchased, and is on its way back to Dublin to be placed back in its proper place, on the door originally part of the house at No. 7 Eccles Street! Whew!)
The walking tours are the chief matter, however. Off season (and St. Paddy’s Day, albeit honored, is still off season) there’s a “Circular” Tour (with a live guide) on Saturdays that features “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Ulysses, and Dubliners, an audio-guide (pre-recorded) showcasing Dubliners alone, and another featuring the Lestrygonian section (8) of Ulysses — also available as a self-guiding map. From April to October, a live tour featuring Ulysses and another on Dubliners are in rotation with the “Circular Tour” on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Private tours may be arranged at will. The center shop also offers a music CD, “Classical Ulysses”, which can’t help but remind us of our own musical memento for travelers, Voices in Bratislava.
But with all due respect to the great snake-expelling saint (sic), the best time to go would not be St. Patrick’s Day but “Bloomsday”, June 16, which you may recall is the day immortalized in Ulysses. It rivals the great snake handler’s birthday itself as a day symbolic of Dublin’s charms. And it’s surely warmer!