Nora Barnacle's house in Galway
Garrison Keillor writes:
Today is Bloomsday, and James Joyce fans all over the world are celebrating. It commemorates the day on which the events of his novel Ulysses take place. Joyce chose June 16th, 1904, for the setting because it was the day of his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife. They'd met each other randomly on Nassau Street in Dublin on June 10th, chatted a bit, and agreed to meet up later. But she stood him up on their first would-be date of June 14th. On the 15th, the 22-year-old James Joyce sent a note to her that read:
"I may be blind. I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me — if you have not forgotten me!"
They successfully met up the following day, June 16th. They went for an evening stroll around the south bank of the Liffey River in Dublin. And Joyce later chose this day for the setting of Ulysses.
Even after the novel's success, Joyce himself did not call June 16th "Bloomsday." Nor did he really celebrate the day, though publisher Sylvia Beach organized a celebratory Parisian luncheon on June 16th, 1929 — years before the book was legal in the English-speaking world.
The first modern celebration of Bloomsday was in 1954, the 50th anniversary of the fictional events in Joyce's book, and about three decades after Joyce published his novel in 1922.