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UD’s currently cooling down…

… after her long Bloomsday night at Guapo’s Restaurant.

So long that she left before the thing was over. It’s still going on even as I blog. But — hot city, hot restaurant. Had to get some air.

Here are notes on the experience, direct and unedited from UD‘s journal of the event…


16 June 2010

Bloomsday 2010. Did not drink enough (only had a sip of Nalewka) to get through this four-hour thing (I’m reading from Lestrygonians and Sirens), so must start in on that when I get to Guapo’s.

Maybe the booze will lighten this rather tense, heavy feeling I’ve got. Feel as though instead of being in my life, doing one thing, then another, flowflowflow, I’m a bit blocked. My strange silent days in an empty house outside of which immense summer storms rage (La Kid’s vacationing at the Outer Banks, Mr UD‘s at a conference in Utah , the dog is in the kennel) are pleasant, but the very placidity of it makes this – joining humanity around the Tenleytown metro – quite a wrench. Heart pounds, rear feels plugged.

… I’m very conscious of my essential absurdity. (Other people don’t seem to have this problem.) I expect other people to perceive this absurdity and laugh at it. This makes me nervous.


Upstairs at Guapo’s. Every seat is taken! Margaritas and chips all around, and everyone’s leafing through their copy of Ulysses.

Throughout the event, the 1967 black and white film of Ulysses plays silently on a screen behind the readers. It was a good idea to do this — The fumbling sincerity of that account of the book has a sweetness that lightens the night.

And here’s Courtney, once my student, now my friend, who drove in from Baltimore for this. She’s brought another friend with her. I’m very moved that Courtney’s gone to this trouble.

The readers preceding me are all fine, but as always there’s the accent problem. We’re Americans, and if we try to be Irish we’ll be ridiculous… On the other hand, our hard American edges aren’t right for this lilting prose…

And one of the readers is doing Molly’s voice wrong — has her as a rasping harridan. Molly’s a singer, and a good one, and must have a pleasant speaking voice as well.

One of the readers, when he finishes, goes around to all the tables handing out a ten-question Bloomsday quiz. First question: When was Ulysses allowed to be published in Ireland? Damned if I know.


I feel very warm, although my table mates assure me that it’s air conditioned up here. Booze does that to me. Also nerves.


My turn! Hoopsa girlagirl! Hoopsa!

I drag my bones up to the mike – some readers sit, some stand… I decide to stand! What the hell! Go all out! In order to get through Sirens I have to sing M’appari as Simon Dedalus would have! I have to fart loudly and repeatedly! Let’s let it rip!

The crowd was quiet for me, so that was a good sign right there. And I did do accents a little – softened my hard American voice into a vaguely British/Irish something… And I went ahead and sang out that way high COME! at the end of Simon’s performance. Held it for a long time, too, and that seemed to work…


The audience applauded a lot when I finished, and one guy even called out Bravo, which made my plugged-up heavy feeling go completely away …




From an email UD just got from her colleague, Christopher Griffin, who stayed at the event until the end:

Dear Margaret:

Well done on your vivid dramatic reading of “Sirens.”  After you left, there were some missing readers, so Robert Aubry Davis filled in for two of them.    When we got to “Penelope,” the reader was missing, so the MC called for Margaret Soltan. When you did not respond, Rebecca Boggs came up and did a fantastic reading.

The winner was Robert Aubry Davis, so he came up to pick some prizes.  The first runner-up was
you, but since you were not present, Coilin Owens was the next runner-up, so he picked a prize.  I figured that you deserved a token, so I went up saying that I represented you and would like to pick an item for you.  So I picked the best of what was left, which was a picture of Joyce’s face on Ireland. I will drop it off to your mailbox or office door sometime next week.

Margaret Soltan, June 16, 2010 10:02PM
Posted in: james joyce

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9 Responses to “UD’s currently cooling down…”

  1. Eric the Read Says:

    Congratulations, UD! Sounds like fun. Maybe in a few years when my kids are old enough for babysitters I can go to one of them.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Thanks, Eric.

  3. Steven Riddle Says:

    Dear UD,

    I read this account with fascination and then with bubbling excitement. Coilin Owens? Coilin Owens? I don’t know where you live, and I won’t ask, but I suspect that this is the man who so long ago introduced ME to Ulysses (and the Wake, and any number of other Joycean delights). It’s always nice to hear news of those for whom you have the highest regard. Thank you.

    Oh, and congratulations–I wish I could have been in a place that had actually ever heard of Ulysses. Instead, I started off our staff meeting with an introduction of “Stately plump Buck Mulligan,” the fate of Oliver St. John Gogarty, and a vague warning about offending great (or even not-so-great) writers. You WILL be remembered.





  4. Frances Eby Says:

    Wow. Too bad you didn’t stay; you could have taken the whole thing and said, “In your face losers!!” I understand your leaving; we Rapp/Eby/Soltans are very delicate when it comes to our physical comfort level. 😀


    Your Sis

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Steven: Thank you! Yes, this place has certainly heard of Ulysses. There were about 120 people there last night, all of them reading their copies of the book as we presented our excerpts. Very wonderful.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Thanks, Sis.

  7. University Diaries » Courtney Climbs Says:

    […] Courtney was at Guapo’s to cheer UD on, you may recall, on Bloomsday, when UD did some molto dramatic Ulysses readings. […]

  8. University Diaries » “Throughout his life, Joyce considered his birthday to be an auspicious day, and he often contrived to make it … Says:

    […] And this year a group of Washington DC Joyceans is contriving to make it special by doing another reading (they did one on Bloomsday too, natch). […]

  9. University Diaries » Bloomsday at the Beach Says:

    […] who usually takes part in Washington’s Bloomsday reading, is this year at Rehoboth […]

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