Bloomsday Is Nigh Upon Us

Frank Budgen, illustration for 'Proteus' chapter of James Joyce's 'Ulysses'Bloomsday is this Saturday, June 16th. See you there.

I’m not privy to all of the preparations for the glorious occasion, but I sincerely hope our Bloomsday coordinator, the redoubtable Joyce scholar Janine Utell, has arranged for the above scene to be re-enacted tableau vivant-style at the conclusion of the Proteus chapter readings (around 12:45 p.m.) Like so:

Leonardo Vinci's 'The Last Supper' recreated tableau-vivant stylee at the Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach, Ca. Photograph: Monica Almeida for the New York Times, 2006The top image, a proposed illustration for Ulysses by James Joyce’s friend Frank Budgen showing Stephen Daedalus strolling Sandymount Strand with his demons in tow, just blows my mind. (Give him a six gun instead Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in 'High Noon,' Stanley Kramer Productions, 1952.of a walking stick and he could almost be Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Kane in High Noon. I’ll let you consider the implications of that comparison on your own. As a complete aside, if you can find it, you should really check out Hank Locklin’s 1968 version of the High Noon theme song. I think it surpasses Tex Ritter’s original, myself. Many of his records are sadly out of print, though he released a new one just last year. ) With this drawing Budgen seems to have anticipated the high school art class album cover design movement, distinguished by the attempt to graphically represent in the most literal way possible every idea evoked by the original in a single scene of something like a collaged cosmic consciousness. I didn’t think the movement really got underway until the 1970s, but Budgen was clearly well ahead of his time. Here’s the first example of the high school art class album cover design movement that came to mind (a record, for the record, that I own):
Steel Pulse, 'Earth Crisis,' Elektra Records, 1984. This album may not be the band's best, but check out 'Handsworth Revolution': classic!Now, perhaps I’m not being very nice to Francis. (Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes really smacks him down in her book Joyce in Art. This guy isn’t too fond of his work, either. So it’s o.k. if I get snarky, right? Right?) But Budgen knew Joyce while he was writing Ulysses and later helped provide some important insights into Joyce’s epic. We owe it to Budgen, for example, that we know Joyce had selected Odysseus as the starting point for his hero Leopold Bloom because he believed Odysseus to have been the most complete man in literature — father, son, husband, soldier, farmer, etc., etc. This and other illuminating chestnuts, such as Budgen’s Ulysses illustrations, can be found in his 1934 book James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses. Budgen’s book played a role in changing perceptions of Ulysses from puzzled bewilderment or sometimes outrage and offense, to an appreciation of it that eventually flowered into its election as the greatest novel of the twentieth century (in one poll at least. In the other, found on the same page, we get a strong sense of the individualistic free-thinking of objectivists… I also didn’t know L. Ron Hubbard was such a prolific novelist — 15 million words they say! I don’t know what the full word count of Joyce’s oeuvre is. Or Rand’s.) Budgen didn’t accomplish all of this on his own, of course, but he was there and he played a part in it.

The Rosenbach has an original drawing Budgen made of Joyce in Zurich in 1919. (I don’t know where his Ulysses illustrations are now, but you can bet I’d love to have them here.) You can see it in person as part of our current Bloomsday exhibition. It doesn’t possess the same pyrotechnics as the above Proteus illustration, but I think it makes up for that minor failing in overall artistic merit. Frank Budgen, portrait of James Joyce. Zurich, 1919. 2004.0156The Rosenbach’s Bloomsday events are free and open to all. You can order tickets for the 75th Annual Pageant of the Masters here.
1. Frank Budgen (1882-1971). Illustration for “Proteus” in James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses. New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934. Page 16.2. Monica Almeida for the New York Times, 2006.3. Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in High Noon, Stanley Kramer Productions, 1952. Still located at The Gary Cooper Home Page.4. Cover art by Neville Garrick for Earth Crisis by Steel Pulse. Elektra Records, 1984. 5. Frank Budgen (1882-1971), portrait of James Joyce. Charcoal on paper. Zurich, 1919. 2004.0156