DUBLIN, IRELAND: James Joyce Odyssey, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle



Sweney's Pharmacy, Dublin, Ireland
My friend and fellow children's book writer Gretchen Woelfle loves to travel and most recently visited Ireland, where she spent a week in Dublin following the path of writer James Joyce. Here is her report:

Dublin is filled with treasures for tourists of many inclinations: Irish history, art, archaeology, gardens, and theater. While I sampled all these delights, my heart thrilled to literary Dublin, and to James Joyce’s presence most of all
I missed Bloomsday, the annual festival honoring June 16, 1904, the date Joyce and Nora Barnacle’s first got together and the day Leopold Bloom, the modern Ulysses,wended his way through the city. Though Bloomsday is celebrated all around the world, Dublin does it up most splendidly.
Photo poster, James Joyce Centre
My Joycean odyssey began at the James Joyce Centre, a small museum with artifacts, films, murals, and other artworks inspired by the books. And the real door of No. 7 Eccles Street, home of our fictional Leopold Bloom.
No. 7 Eccles Street preserved (James Joyce Centre)
I joined a walking tour following Bloom’s footsteps in Episode 8 of Ulysses, the Lestrygonians. It’s nearly lunchtime and Bloom is looking for a place to eat.  
Reading Ulysses where it happened
We walk across the River Liffey, stopping here and there – bronze plaques at our feet – while our guide reads excerpts from the chapter, describing friends Bloom meets, restaurants he dismisses until he settles on Davy Byrne’s pub, still in business.
Bloom's lemon soap
So is Sweney’s Pharmacy, a few blocks away, where Bloom buys a bar of lemon soap (and I bought two). It’s a Joyce non-profit ‘shrine’ now, containing the old wooden cabinets and counters that Joyce/Bloom would have seen. Boxes and bottles of vintage products still line the shelves, along with many editions of Joyce’s books.
Reading Finnegan's Wake at Sweney's Pharmacy
And there, on my last afternoon in Dublin I joined a daily reading group, this day reading from Finnegan’s Wake.  Full disclosure: I’ve never got beyond a few pages of this linguistic labyrinth. But I joined a group of men (and one woman who made us tea and biscuits). They went round the room, each reading a few paragraphs until I took a turn at the end, though I lack their lovely Irish accents.

We then spent half an hour looking at half a page of our reading, decoding all the luscious references – linguistic, historical, Biblical, and even Irish dance hall songs – that James Joyce had woven into this brief passage. English major, and literary geek that I am, I was over the moon.
Sidewalk Ulysses Plaque
And determined to return to Dublin for Bloomsday and for days and days of more walking tours and communal readings of the genius who left Dublin for the continent when he was twenty-two and spent the rest of his days immortalizing the city that, literarily, he never left.

James Joyce Centre: https://jamesjoyce.ie
Sweney’s Pharmacy: http://sweny.ie/site/
Bloomsday in Dublin: http://www.bloomsdayfestival.ie
Bloomsday around the world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomsday

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