For the Love of Bloomsday

How I finally learned to appreciate Molly Bloom from Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ the sixth time I read the book

Today, June 16th, is Bloomsday, and if you happen to go to Dublin you will find yourself lost in the middle of an epic Edwardian madness that celebrates the existence of one of the most famous books in human history; one of the most acclaimed books of all time; one of the books… Well, really one of the least-read books too. Because there is an undeniable fact: If we go back to the time of its publication, 101 years ago, far more people (critics, regular readers) have acclaimed, revered, admired and hated James Joyce’s monstrous masterpiece, Ulysses, than those who have actually read its 700+ pages.

Everyone knows it, or at least almost everyone who has ever heard of the book: Ulysses takes place from 8 am on June 16, 1904 until early the next day. And hence, we know as Bloomsday the celebration of what the protagonists, Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold’s wife Molly did, thought and failed to do. From the 12th of June to the 18th The James Joyce Centre is hosting a festival: City tours, art exhibitions, theatre,  streets performances, whatever you can imagine is happening in Dublin right now, all related to Ulysses: people dressed in period clothing, and the vast majority beginning their celebration with the same breakfast of champions that Leopold Bloom enjoyed that morning:

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” Blah, blah, blah… And from then on, Dubliners and tourists will attack the city’s pubs as if they found the answer and solution to all their life’s problems in each one of them… and surely more than one of them will.


Bloomsday 2016 – Photography by Ruth Medjber

It would be stupid and a complete waste of time to review a book on which thousands of reviews have been written since it was published 101 years ago. That is why I want to dedicate these paragraphs to also celebrate the power that certain events can have in a person’s life, to the point of achieving transcendence in history. Nothing I write about Ulysses is a secret. except, my own experiences, reflections and take on Molly Bloom’s character and how and why it has changed over the years..

I have battled (read) Ulysses six times in my life. Twice in my 20’s, three times in my 30’s and twice now, in my almost dying 40’s. And it was always the same: I’d get breathlessly into chapter 18 to be faced with the soliloquy of this woman Marion “Molly” Bloom, who has every reason not to sleep. I have approached this chapter in so many ways, going along with Molly’s stream of consciousness but always feeling distant; I never generated an empathy towards her, nor her sexual reflections, childhood or for the simple fact of putting up with a boring idiot like Leopold Bloom as a husband made me feel comfortable with her.

Or maybe it was the simple fact of having spent the whole afternoon having wild sex with her annoying and superficial lover,  Hugh “Blazes” Boylan and the Latino macho in me criticizing her while leaving aside Leopold’s despicable acts, like masturbating in front of some young ladies and, well, enjoying it. I always criticized Molly for complaining, for crying, for being proud, for being… discreet but at the same time openly… perverse? Though maybe it wasn’t hate. Maybe she reminded me of many women gathered in one. So Molly was sort of a female nuclear bomb very difficult to digest in the final pages of a dense-and-only-for-masochists book. Oppenheimer would have loved her.

What is a woman?
Scenes from the 2015 Bizarre Bloomsday Brunch, brought to you by Happenings. Photography by Ruth Medjber //

Nowadays, in this age of pronouns, complex genders, and people who even identify as aliens (and maybe they are), old questions like What is a woman? Seems dangerously difficult to answer. But James Joyce got the answer, precisely, on June 16, 1904. The book he wrote for almost eight years takes place on the date he had sex for the first time with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.  She was 20 years old, he was 18. They had only met a week before. And I don’t want to put weird stuff in my head regarding what could have happened that night, but at least for young James, it had to be something way beyond ordinary sex. Without a doubt, that night, Nora taught him what it was to be a woman. And she continued to do so for the rest of their life.

She was his muse, his support. She put up with and for him, the same way Molly did with Leopold. Molly could have done so many things in her life. And so she reflects on her soliloquy. A great opera singer, but she took the path of so many other women: she dedicated herself to her man, to her home, and far below the chain of priorities, lost her dreams and ambitions  in the kitchen and motherhood. Now, Molly is returning to opera and will soon have a big concert in Belfast. And yes, she decides to fuck Blazes Boylan, who is a businessman who is managing the details of the concert.

It took me years to empathize with Molly. And stop seeing her as the woman who is in bed, with her husband who has just arrived from a strange day and whom she cheated on with another man. The same husband who knows that she has been unfaithful and doesn’t have the balls to face her.

And this is the kind of timeless complexities that human couples will always have to deal with. Whatever gender they are.

In order to get closer to Molly I needed something in my life, a certain growth, maturity and real love; this being, for the first time, putting my ego aside and allowing myself to listen to everything a woman wanted to tell me and I, even more needed to understand, so that Molly she will gradually jump out of the book to become a real woman and not just a fictional character.

The journey, described as wild as it is poetic by Molly, is the journey of a woman’s life, not only contemporary, but of all ages. The journey of challenges, of struggles, of giving, of giving love, of causing-solving-dealing with all sorts of problems, of accepting to accompany a man and often remain under his shadow.

So if James Joyce proved anything, it’s that he was not only a genius in redefining modern literature by creating an immortal day on which the most ordinary characters in literature demonstrated that every second of our existence is filled with complex majesty and that our mind can take us to heaven, hell and places in between at the same time, while doing things as ordinary as having a beer or cheating on our partner. But above all, he did pay attention and understood almost at a molecular level how lucky he was to have a woman like Nora by his side. That was the real Homeric Odyssey.

So during this Bloomsday, I celebrate all women. And I raise my beer and share a toast to the great, complex and wonderful Molly Bloom.

And if personally, you ask me, what is a woman? In my case, she has a name: Natalia… Thank you for showing me the way.


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Dr. Carlos Flores

Dr. Carlos Flores is a Venezuelan reporter and author of cult classics La moda del suicidio, Temporada Caníbal and Unisex. He's been editor-in-chief of several Venezuelan newspapers and magazines, a former Newsweek En Espanol correspondent, and contributor writer for HuffPost's Voces. Now that he's sick of being a broke reporter hunted by the Chavista regime, he's turned into a screenwriter and is developing a couple of series that will make him rich and even more famous.

2 thoughts on “For the Love of Bloomsday

  • June 16, 2023 at 10:30 am

    Very nice piece, Dr. Flores.


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