"The Sixteenth of June" -- A New and Engaging Novel Inspired by James Joyce's "Ulysses"

Jun 16, 2015

Today is the unofficial holiday known as Bloomsday -- a day meant to celebrate, at gatherings large and small across the globe, the life and work of the modernist Irish writer James Joyce. Why today, you ask? Because all the events related in Joyce's "Ulysses" -- seen by many readers and critics as the greatest novel ever penned in English -- take place on June 16th (and specifically on June 16th, 1904) in and around Dublin, Ireland. Tonight, therefore, Book Smart Tulsa and TU's Oklahoma Center for the Humanities will co-present their Second Annual Bloomsday Pub Crawl, from 5:30pm till 10pm, at various locations near the Guthrie Green in downtown Tulsa. At this event -- or rather, at this series of events -- lovers of literature and/or Guiness beer will gather to hear portions of "Ulysses" read aloud. Our guest on ST today will be one of those readers: Maya Lang is a New York-based writer whose first novel has just come out in paperback. And that novel is actually a vivid and entertaining tribute to "Ulysses" -- and to the book's many fans and students. Lang's "The Sixteenth of June" both re-works and re-examines Joyce's classic volume from the perspective of a trio of young adults living in contemporary Philadelphia. As was noted of Lang's book by a critic for Booklist: "Nothing is going to stop June and Michael Portman from hosting their annual Bloomsday soirée -- not even Grandma Portman’s funeral that morning. Taking place on a single day, like James Joyce’s 'Ulysses,' Lang’s clever first novel tracks three twentysomethings: the Portmans’ sons, Stephen and Leopold, and Nora, who is Leo’s fiancée as well as Stephen’s best friend. All three of them are stuck. Stephen has been trying to write his dissertation for seven years. Leo longs for a house in the suburbs and three kids, but Nora shows no signs of wanting to cap their long engagement with a wedding. And gifted Nora, who feels she doesn’t fit in with the Portmans’ privileged lifestyle, is singing jazz instead of opera and still in deep mourning for her mother, now dead for a year. They all find some resolution by the end of the day, although it isn’t necessarily the one they expected or hoped for. Despite the references to 'Ulysses,' the Portmans’ -- and the novel’s -- connection to Joyce’s work lies mostly on the surface. What matters more is the family dynamic and its currents of longing, loss, and love."