Michael Hall doesn't consider himself an obsessive James Joyce fan, but when he heard about a plan to tweet Ulysses over the course of 24 hours, he couldn't pass up the chance to be a part of it. "I love the idea of sitting down to get a concise idea across," the Austin-based writer and musician told Art Attack. "The idea of this sprawling tome, which is so much about language being pared down...I think James Joyce would have loved it."
Hall is one of around 75 volunteers who will tweet the 800-page-plus novel on June 16, known to bibliophiles the world over as Bloomsday. The novel takes place over the course of a single day: June 16, 1904. Commemoration usually takes the form of readings, eating gorgonzola sandwiches or, at the most extreme, dressing in period costume. Instead, Hall, along with tweeps from around the world, will be "tweading" sections of the novel, compressing eight or nine pages into four to six 140-character blips.
The project is the brainchild of Stephen Cole, a science writer in the Washington, D.C. area. Jointly inspired by the Bloomsday readings and by the social networking tool he uses for work, Cole set out to recruit tweaders. He had eight on board just a few weeks ago. Then the New York Times published an announcement on its arts blog that Cole was looking for volunteers; now, he's had to turn 20 or 30 people away.
Ulysses is universally known as the greatest novel that no one's read--Joyce's whimsical use of language, dialogue and obscure allusions pose a challenge for casual readers. Hall said he only got around to finishing it with the aid of a guide, but the reward was well worth it.
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"It changed how I thought about reading and music, and the fact that it all took place in one day blew my mind," he says. Hall said he was inspired to write a 38-minute song about a man's last living seconds after reading the book.
Sam Coronado, a junior at the University of North Texas who will also be tweeting on Bloomsday, said he fell in love with the book during a high school English seminar. "The biggest thing is that it's very playful," he says. "There's anxiety in a lot of literature from that time, but Joyce isn't as into coming up with solutions to huge problems, like T.S. Eliot was. It's just a portrait of modern life and celebrating that, even if it's just tea with your friends."
Cole is more blunt about the book's effect. "It's ruined regular novels for me," hesays.
So how will this all go down? "It could be something horrible or something very beautiful," Cole says.