Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spicey Books

On February 2, 1922, James Joyce's 40th birthday, his publisher Sylvia Beach, gave him the most wonderful present, one he had been dreaming about for many years. She gave him his first printed copy of Ulysses, together with bunches of blue and white hydrangeas matching the color scheme of the novel’s cover – the national colors of Ireland and Israel. Later that year, the Egoist Press published a run of 2000 copies, 500 of which were burned by the US Postal Service. In 1923, the Egoist published 500 copies in a third printing – 499 of which were confiscated by English Customs. It quickly developed a reputation for being a dirty book. In fact Sylvia Beach says of one of her patrons, "And of course its reputation as a banned book helped the sales. It was saddening, however, to see such a work listed in catalogues of erotica alongside Fanny Hill, The Perfumed Garden and that everlasting Casanova, not to speak of plain pornography like Raped on the Rail. An Irish priest, purchasing Ulysses asked me, “Any other spicey books?”

Like Beach's customer the priest, the novel's heroine, Molly Bloom is a fan of spicey books. In fact, in the Calypso episode of Ulysses, where we first meet the Blooms, Molly is reading just such a book by the improbably named Paul de Kock. Bloom stares at the cover and thinks to himself, "Ruby: the Pride of the Ring. Hello. Illustration. Fierce Italian with carriagewhip. Must be Ruby pride of the on the floor naked. Sheet kindly lent." During this year's broadcast, The Calypso chapter will be heard in its entirety narrated by one of my favorite writers, the Booker Prize winning novelist Anne Enright. The fantastic playwright and performer Wallace Shawn reads Bloom in a performance that is sure to be unforgettable by all who listen in on June 16th.

During this episode, we discover that Molly has finished her book and demands another. Even though Bloom knows that Molly will be reenacting her own erotic scene in their bedroom with Blazes Boylan later that afternoon, he agrees. Later in the Wandering Rocks episode of Ulysses, we see him at a porn shop dutifully carrying out his errand. In the bookstore with its onion breathed proprietor and dingy curtain, Bloom chooses Sweets of Sin for Molly. The brilliant comedian Marc Maron, host of the WTF podcast, will describe Bloom perusing the merchandise in this the tenth chapter of the book.

Later, while lying in bed thinking about her day, Molly Bloom critics one of the dirty books purportedly written by priest, perhaps Sylvia Beach's customer coming to check out the competition. Molly says "cant be true a thing like that like some of those books he brings me the works of Master Francois Somebody supposed to be a priest about a child born out of her ear because her bumgut fell out a nice word for any priest to write and her a--e as if any fool wouldnt know what that meant." The complete two and a half hour Molly monologue will be performed live in its entirety at the end of our Radio Bloomsday broadcast by Galway native, Caraid O'Brien.

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