By Michael Moriarty
June 16, 1904. On that day, James Joyce left his home for a date with his eventual lifetime companion Nora Barnacle, a Dublin barmaid. What happened on that day, in the imagination of this Jesuit-trained Irish genius, was a novel entitled Ulysses.
Of all the works awaiting every would-be intellectual, Ulysses has been translated into almost every language, often decoded inadequately because of the punning impossibility in its endlessly layered symbolism. Ulysses tells the story of young artist Stephen Daedalus and his all-night encounter with a chubby Jewish eccentric named Leopold Bloom. The young man's search for a father was really Mankind's search for God.
The Post-Moderns must, despite their penchant for surrendering to nothing but nihilism, which is as "Enlightened" an admission as they're about to give, and since surrendering "nothing to nihilism" is a redundancy – these Intellectual Supremacists might squirm, but if there is no God, there must be a true Napoleon around somewhere. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote Empiresque love songs to Joseph Stalin diligently enough to make that Russian psychotic a Man/God, but then Mao Zedong showed up and so swept away the hearts of French youth that Sartre switched allegiances, becoming a confirmed Maoist in his dotage.
I'm celebrating Bloomsday at home, here in Maple Ridge, a small town in British Columbia. Since my drinking days ended on February 1, 2004, I'm obliged to envision the celebrations in my living room armchair. Surrounding me are all the father figures encountered during my extraordinary 65 years of life. From my natural father, Dr. George Moriarty, a Detroit Police Surgeon whose fat frame and gourmand appetite for life was easily the equal of Bloom's, to Sir Winston Churchill, who has been my bulwark against Post-Modernity, and now my Italian adoptive father, Giuseppe Neri, distinguished retiree from the Italian Department of Education, I sit, as if at one of Dr. Moriarty's favorite "watering-holes," with the souls of my two other fathers there with us. Surrounding us are all the joyous souls who have remained or have also been created in my memory and imagination.
It's definitely "boys' night out."
In the same Broadway year I won my Tony Award for playing a flaming Brit homosexual in Find Your Way Home, Zero Mostel was appearing on Broadway in Ulyssesin Nighttown. If one man was the Post-Modern Gulliver, it was Mostel. He carried his American Communism with such pride, the "rats of the pack" such as Elia Kazan would cross the street to avoid him. Even then, Mostel's stentorian lungs would let half of uptown Manhattan know who had deigned to cross the path of American Communism's bête noire.
"You ratfink, motherf****** scum of a w****'s toe-jam, you…" Well, you get the gist. That's the scalding language the Mostel Volcano would erupt with. It's a tribute to Kazan's courage that he dwelt in Manhattan while Mostel was still alive.
At any rate, here I am jotting down my impressions, even before night falls in Western Canada. I remember Daedalus' daytime epiphanies. My favorite part is his long analysis of Shakespeare's work as mainly the theme of a Hamletesque soul settling scores. Joyce's references to the Bard's lost son Hamnet reveal how the greatest poet of all time had clearly bound his own mind and soul within his portrait of the Prince of Denmark.
Meanwhile, as Shakespeare's most openly avowed competitor, Joyce declared: "The motive behind all of literature is revenge." The only two giants that Dublin's intellectual behemoth felt even came close to his own creative stature were Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri. The score settling in The Divine Comedy is repeatedly noted by Dante scholars acquainted with the Italian poet's contemporaries – those who appear in his portraits of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Yes, many former fairweather friends of Dante appear early in the trilogy, if you know what I mean.
The name of a Shakespearean brother whom William didn't like or trust, according to Joyce, became synonymous with villainy. When I list this penchant for revenge on family members, it obviously belittles the irresistibly magnetic power of Ulysses, the siren call to all eggheads, challenging them in the ring. Shakespeare's greatest advocate, the literary critic Harold Bloom (Leopold Bloom reincarnated?) would say: "The Bard makes fools of all critics, including myself. Shakespeare invented us!"
He's the artist as God.
With no deity and heaven only a delusion, in the minds of the so-called enlightened ones, Man must do his best to become his own God.
Well, utterly unable to escape Catholic aesthetics, Joyce in Ulysses becomes a Christ meeting his almighty Father. The mysteries in Joyce's work are so couched in Christ's sayings and parables that one concludes "you can take the boy out of Jesuit school but you will never take the Jesuit out of the boy." This is further confirmed by the other adage about the Black Robes: "You can accuse a Jesuit of anything and everything, except humility."
"He who is last is first," said our Lord.
If anyone is last in anti-Semitic Dublin, it's Leopold Bloom. The insults that resonate behind his slightest appearance in any corner of Ireland's capital are painful to read.
Bloom being last, he is first in Joyce's heart.
He, Daedalus/Joyce, is not going to merely meet a father figure, he's going to spend the night with God. Where do they go? A whorehouse.
A wedding of the sacred and profane has always been my favourite idea of epiphany and obviously Joyce's as well. We spend time, if you'll remember, in a Bloom reverie while he's sitting on a toilet, smelling the rise of his own odours.
This is not a critique of Joyce, but a reverie of my own on Bloomsday. No, I'm not about to share my own corner of the profane world with you. Not yet, at any rate. As a candidate for the presidency of the United States, however, I must inform you that as a Catholic, I'm a libertarian to the point of Dionysian epiphanies. Our administration might be nicknamed Cumalot. With that scatological faux pas, the odours of my own mortality are wafting me into a questionable epiphany.
The famous Molly Bloom soliloquy comes to mind (Molly is Leopold's sexy wife): the unrelenting, phallic worship of her soul. Joyce was a patriarchal muse, all unto himself. So, while two-thirds of the Holy Trinity (Father and Son), are out gallivanting around Dublin, the Holy Ghost leads them in and out of epiphanies. That Bloom's bowel movement is one of them is a cosmic thunderblast. This is a Triune God I can really fall in love with.
Paris went mad over Joyce and his works. Joyce's secretary Samuel Beckett would, even without his own considerable genius, have been a hero in France just by dint of his association with Joyce.
I'm not at all enamoured of the French/Irish connections. My francophobia is well known to my readers. If my faith in God's cunning is correct, here is my deepest instinct about the entire Bloomsday phenomenon.
The New York Humanists – the Jewish sceptics who would still like to be considered mensches – make a great deal out of Bloomsday. The Judaic connection is obvious, but the other leftist affinity is perhaps the more important ingredient in the importance of Leopold Bloom to the Socialist Israelis of Manhattan, those who'd rather hold down the fort, so to speak, in Manhattan rather than in Tel Aviv, or write for Ramparts rather than the Jerusalem Post.
To the minds of so-called progressives, Bloom is Joyce's loving portrait of Karl Marx himself. It's that real man beneath the dialectical, Hegelian genius.
I think God asked Joyce to set the lefties up for a big fall. Yes, I think the Almighty expected that humans most prone to commit abominations or provoke their "intellectual men of action" to slaughter millions in the name of the Revolution would be intellectuals or the self-proclaimed radicals so blisteringly satirized in Tom Wolfe's Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.
God asked Joyce to build a Trojan Horse: Ulysses or, in this case, Leopold Bloom. Rather like the soldiers inside the Trojan Horse bursting out and from within the beleaguered city, or the betrayed Trojan intellects of Bloom's greatest fans, the metaphorical Greeks of the Catholic Church will set Post-Modern Man's mind ablaze. It'll be an Inferno worthy of Dante. If Joyce's own literature is revenge, then Ulysses will prove itself the equivalent of Euripides' Bacchae, that soul-chilling drama of Dionysian, cannibalistic justice wreaked upon Pentheus, King of Thebes.
Night has fallen upon my little corner of an Irish-American exile's life in Canada. I'll proofread what I've written so far, in my armchair, while enjoying the tangible presence of my father figures. I'm sure they have adventures in store for me and, with our glorious entourage, the remaining all-too-brief moments of Ulysses and Moriarty in Nighttown will be unveiled to me in the same way Daedalus' journey with Bloom flowed from Joyce's pen, reflecting his Catholic soul.
When asked if he would, after having left the Roman Catholic Church, become a Protestant, Joyce said: "I may have lost my faith, but I haven't lost my mind."
Bewilderingly, Joyce's other great work Finnegan's Wake ended with the predicate "the…" Ulysses ends, following the hero's consummation of his love for Nora, with the word "yes!" I have no doubt, and feel with absolute certainty, that in Joyce's own soul, no one ever embodied a more complete "yes!" to all of life, one any greater than the resoundingly eternal "yes!" to be found in the life of Christ.
Objections to this statement, which I can expect from the Post-Moderns, will be drowned in their own agony, when they watch their Communist Troy fall in disgrace beneath the French Revolution's delusion that Man's Intellect, in and of itself, is equal to God's omniscience.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who has appeared in the landmark television series Law and Order, the mini-series Taken, and the TV-movie The 4400. He recently starred in Pick Me Up, an episode of the Showtime TV series Masters of Horror. Michael Moriarty is also running for President of the United States in 2008 as a candidate for the Realists Party. To find out more about Moriarty's presidential campaign, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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