The magic of James Joyce on Bloomsday + “Love May Fail” by Matthew Quick


Today is Bloomsday. If you are a kindred spirit literary nerd, you know what that means. If you don’t, let me explain a little bit of this special day to you.

It was June 16th, and a few, wee hours of June 17th, where James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom took his journey through Dublin in Ulysses, one of the greatest works of literature ever written, in my humble opinion. Hard and challenging, but very worth the sweat.

For those that don’t know, Ulysses is a wondrous novel, more than slightly mad and reeling, centering mainly around Leopold Bloom (although other characters play parts, as well). Each ‘episode’ of the book corresponds with Homer’s Odyssey, but the book is filled with puzzles and enigmas, wordplay and lexiconic experiments. Written in stream-of-consciousness style, Ulysses was both confusing and scandalous when it was first published.

Like I said, it is a tough read, but worth the effort if you have the time to put into it.

Around the world, the literary nerds of different cities celebrate Bloomsday in different ways, all centered around Bloom’s adventures. I would love to be reading my beat up copy of Ulysses with a pint of Guinness in my hand, but I have to work and transport my kids from place to place. So, instead, I will fill your day with quotes from this momentous piece of literary wonder.

“Secrets, silent, stony
sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their
tyranny: tyrants, willing to be dethroned.”

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

“Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”

“To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher.”

“It is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as to be born.”

“Shut you eyes and see”

The last one is my favorite, and is related to Stephen Daedalus (the other protagonist of Ulysses), not Leopold Bloom, but kind of gets me through the tough things. Shut your eyes and trust that you know what you know.

So, there’s my little ode to Ulysses, and to James Joyce.

Okay, onto a lovely story by Matthew Quick, Love May Fail.

Can a newly single, aspiring feminist find redemption, hope, and love in this world? That’s the question of Matthew Quick’s new novel, Love May Fail.

The Premise

In the opening scene of Love May Fail, Portia Kane is looking back on her life in embarrassment. She’s hiding in her closet, ready to kill her husband, a pornographer who she knows is sleeping around. But she doesn’t kill him when she confronts him with a very young (but legal) girl, instead deciding to leave. And there’s only one place to go when your lost: home. And home for Portia is South Jersey.

Back home, Portia hears the fate of the man who inspired her life, her high school English teacher, and she decides that her fate is tied up in his own. She sets off to save him, and to save herself in the process.

With the help of an ex-heroin addict, a little boy with a love of heavy metal, a couple of nuns, and her hoarder mother, Portia sets off to make her world a better place. With divine intervention, fate, coincidence, and a little Jersey heavy metal, they might just do it.

My Thoughts

I love books like this. Connections, finding yourself, luck, love, and hope.

The story is contrived and contrite, but smart at the same time. Quick does a wonderful job bringing together a fantastic cast of characters, some who cannot be helped, but most who are willing to help themselves to make their lives and their worlds a little better.

Love May Fail a great summer read, especially if you’re lucky enough to be heading for the Jersey Shore for vacation. I give it 3.5 stars.


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