By Kori Waring
June 16th was Bloomsday, the only internationally celebrated holiday honoring one particular work of art: James Joyce’s Ulysses. One hundred and ten years to the day after Joyce’s novel takes place, literary nerds of a certain breed congregated in cities across the world to dress up like this:
And do things like this:
And eat this for lunch:
In belated celebration of Bloomsday, I want to share a list I compiled—in a totally normal, non-obsessive way—of portmanteau words (i.e. words made by combining two or more words) that James Joyce invented for the third chapter of Ulysses (“Proteus”). For equally normal, non-obsessive reasons, I’ve organized them not alphabetically, but by parts of speech, and can tell you that of the sixty-four invented portmanteaux I counted, 55% are adjectives, 39% are nouns, 3% are verbs, and 3% are adverbs. Also, because there were so many adjectives, I broke those down by their constituent parts of speech too. Y’know. Like you do.
“…strandentwining cable of all flesh”
3+ word adjectives:
Do I have opinions about the effect these words create in “Proteus”? I do. Would those opinions take up more space than is reasonable for a blog post? They would. You don’t need me, though. Read Ulysses and decide for yourself. It has a reputation for being a tough read, and it’s true that you have to be willing to let some allusions fly over your head, but mostly Ulysses requires one thing: forget everything you know about reading fiction, and let the book teach you how to read it. I promise it’s worth the effort. James Joyce will blow your mind.
I’ll end with a quote. Stephen Dedalus thinks this in a self-deprecating way in “Proteus,” but I think in an odd, Joycean way it does a pretty good job of capturing why we read literature, and certainly why you should read Ulysses:
“When one reads these strange pages of one long gone one feels that one is at one with one who once…”
Happy Bloomsday, internet.