Bloomsday: A Free Lit Lark at the Hammer

Fans gather to celebrate "Ulysses" and the life of James Joyce.

There are as many book-oriented bashes around Southern California as there are pages in a particularly plump novel, and each has its own distinctive character and set of must-dos.

One general theme of our local literary gatherings is "lots of books, lots of authors, lots of panels," which, all in all, is a fabulous, full-bodied theme. You get a wide taste of tones, and tomes, by strolling the booths and lining up for the writer Q&As and surveying the out-sized scene.

Then, every so often, on the rarest of occasions, you have a party like Bloomsday, which comes back around every June 16. It's a literary happening, and all about the written word, and it unfolds at a major venue, too: the Hammer Museum.

But here's the twist: Bloomsday is only about one book — "Ulysses" — and its author, James Joyce. It's a super-concentrated bibliophile love-in, with the heat of a thousand suns pointed at a singular, and seminal, work.

Or the foam of a hundred Guinnesses, perhaps. Guinness is the drink of choice during the Thursday, June 16 party, which will include "dramatic readings" from "Ulysses" in the Westwood museum's Billy Wilder Theatre and music straight from the fair shores of Jame Joyce's homeland, Ireland.

Rattle the Knee is stirring up the spirited sounds, if you so want to lift your heels a bit. And a commissioned piece from Patrick Gutman will summon the soul of the 1922 novel, a work so unorthodox and genre-defying that the whole of literature just up and changed forever, without a glance backward.

While this annual cèilidh is free, parking below will cost a few bucks, as will your Guinness. Being moved by words that are just about a century-old, however, requires no brandishing of the wallet or showing of the cash.

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