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That durrty book

Posted by David Mehegan  June 16, 2008 11:56 AM

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Joyce.jpg
Himself

James Joyce would probably be amused and amazed that his novel, "Ulysses," would still, 75 years after a U.S. court ruled that it is not obscene, cause more disquiet in the United States than it does even in Ireland.

Today's New York Times reports that tonight's Symphony Space production of the work, with music and readings, will not be broadcast on radio station WBAI, as it has been for several years, out of concern that some of the explicit language in the novel could get the station in trouble with the FCC. The station plans its own production with readings, and its manager says the delicate passages will be broadcast late at night, when sensitive ears will presumably be safely asleep.

Today is Bloomsday, widely celebrated in Ireland, the day (June 16, 1904) on which the action (and reflection) of the novel takes place in the city of Dublin. (It's also my son's birthday, though his mother and I didn't think of that at the time). But no matter how deeply and fully assimilated "Ulysses" has become in the pantheon of modern English literature, there will always be officials who might want to challenge it on grounds of offense against decency.

But you wouldn't think there would be more such uneasiness in America than in Ireland, where the Catholic bishops were once so powerful that they could have books banned as recently at the 1960s. Irish TV and radio are planning a huge menu of programming, covering just about every conceivable aspect of the novel, and we don't detect in the proud display of the lineup any squeamishness about the naughty words to be found therein.


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