Happy Bloomsday to everybody!
That is how a capacity crowd gathered in the Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library was greeted by Dan Hubbs, the library's adult services director, on the evening of Monday, June 16. And the crowd's response was a cheer one might have thought reserved for sporting events.
For the literary world, however, June 16, is not unlike the Super Bowl. Better known as Bloomsday, it is celebrated around the globe as the anniversary of the events taking place in James Joyce's magnum opus, "Ulysses."
It is widely considered one of the most influential works of the 20th century. Some would say it's the greatest book ever written in English.
In "Ulysses," Joyce followed his main character, Leopold Bloom, in his journeys about the city of Dublin on June 16, 1904, (also the day Joyce met his wife). With revolutionary technique, Joyce employed a stream of consciousness style and endless allusions to other works, especially Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey."
Saratoga Springs joined in the Bloomsday revelry with a stage adaptation of the book. The script was chiefly drafted by Patrick Donovan, who is spearheading a "Living Library" program.
"We decided to do this Living Library project to connect people back to literature," said Donovan, noting that libraries all too often go underutilized. "We have such a great library here, and it's got a lot of resources. If we can get people to check out this book, then the program is working."
His immediate task was to distill the 250,000 words of "Ulysses" into 1 hour and 15 minutes of performance.
"We wanted to connect the whole book through the performance," said Donovan. "And also the texture of the book " its kind of sadness and the dealing with the problems of those days " all of that got in there. But we also wanted to make sure the humor was there."