“June 16 is one day in the life of Leopold Bloom in Dublin and that’s about all I understand,” Kings County District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes told The Observer on Saturday at the annual Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick’s (FSOSP) Bloomsday pub crawl.
Two years ago, FSOSP members John Burns, Declan Walsh and Jimmy Ryan decided Brooklyn needed to participate in Bloomsday—an international celebration that takes place on June 16, that date of the often-drunken exploits of Leopold Bloom chronicled by James Joyce in his novel Ulysses.
“We thought, this is preposterous that Brooklyn doesn’t have [a Bloomsday],” said Mr. Ryan. And who better to organize the day of revelry than the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a membership group devoted, rather vaguely, to “promoting the spirit of Saint Patrick.”
It was Mr. Ryan who had the idea to get the D.A., conveniently named “Joe Hynes,” involved in the festivities. “I called Joe and I said, ‘We’re reading from Ulysses,’ and he interrupted and said, ‘One of the characters is Joe Hynes, you know.’ I said, ‘That’s why I’m calling.’”
“He said, ‘I read it and I didn’t understand a word of it.’ And I said, ‘Joe, nobody does!’” Mr. Ryan told The Observer.
“One hundred years ago, I was an English lit major and I did quite well until I was asked to read Ulysses,” D.A. Hynes explained. But he didn’t need much convincing to agree to read Joe Hynes’s lines in the reenactment of the “Cyclops” scene during the pub crawl.
Pinstriped suits, bowties, reading glasses and thick paperback volumes abounded as FSOSP members and literary aficionados converged over plastic mugs of Guinness. “If you didn’t get a mug, get a mug,” Mr. Walsh announced hospitably to a crowded audience at the first of six stops—the Black Sheep Pub. “Keep the juices flowing.”
A show of hands at the beginning of the day revealed that the majority of attendees had indeed read the book in question, though some perhaps more closely than others. Mr. Ryan explained that once the FSOSP had the idea to start a Bloomsday celebration in Brooklyn, they organized a class to read the book together. While one member estimated that only about seven of the 44 current FSOSPs participated, the day saw no shortage of enthusiasm for Joyce’s text.
“Guys, there’s a slight chance I might cry,” a recent Mount Holyoke grad who just finished her thesis on Ulysses warned her companions. The three friends took a picture to send to their Joyce professor back at school.
Also in attendance were Adrian Hardiman, a justice of the Supreme Court of Ireland and his wife Yvonne Murphy, a judge of the Circuit Court.
After selected readings from the early episodes, a procession of about fifty Joyce enthusiasts hit the streets of Park Slope to march to Union Hall, led by bagpiper Garry Cheddy and with a large Irish flag in tow.
Though one of the few readers who did not adopt an Irish accent for the occasion, D.A. Hynes read Joe Hynes’s monologue admirably, and was met by calls for an encore from a supportive audience.
“Have you returned to the book in recent years?” The Observer asked the D.A. before his performance.
“No, I have not. I have a lot of better things to worry about,” Mr. Hynes responded, laughing. A novelist himself, having published what he describes as a “fact-fiction novel,” Triple Homicide, Mr. Hynes told The Observer, “My reading is a lot lighter. I like Grisham, I like a lot of crime novels.” The D.A. is currently finishing up the sequel to his first book.
The Observer headed out after the fourth stop—which included the presentation of a certificate confirming Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s protagonist, as an honorary citizen of Brooklyn, signed by Borough President Marty Markowitz—but the rest of the crew was still going strong. After all, as one seasoned audience member reminded us, the readings get dirtier as the day goes on.
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