The Irish Times view on Ulysses at 100: how to monetise James Joyce
The great novel must be shortened and updated to reflect modern Ireland’s tourist proposition
A few judicious edits, starting with that 4,000-word final sentence, could cut Ulysses in half at little cost to the non-existent plot. Photograph: Culture Club/Getty Images
Almost 100 years after its publication, James Joyce’s Ulysses has finally attained the recognition it deserves – as Ireland’s premier tourist attraction. State agencies and Irish diplomats around the world are stepping up their marketing campaigns in this centenary year, leveraging Joyce’s novel to boost visitor numbers. This is exactly what Joyce would have wanted. To maximise the book’s selling power, however, some hard decisions must be taken.
For the city-break market, the book’s length is an issue. A few judicious edits, starting with that 4,000-word final sentence, could cut Ulysses in half at little cost to the non-existent plot. “I fear those big words,” says Stephen Daedalus, “that make us so unhappy.” He’s right: remove the big words, starting with honorificabilitudinitatibus. The book’s dramatic climax – “yes I said yes I will Yes” – is actually repetitious and should be replaced with the more elegant “Absolutely”. Only Joyceans will notice these changes. Having officially run out of original things to say about the book in 1992, however, they will feel solemn delight at having new textual arcana to parse.
The bigger problem is that Ulysses fails to reflect modern Ireland’s tourist proposition. Here again tweaks must be considered. Leopold Bloom, an ad man, would be more relatable as a tech founder looking to scale his incredible startup. His Dublin-centric peregrinations should take in a day-trip on the Wild Atlantic Way. In a country of voters who get up early in the morning, the novel’s 8am start is hopelessly out of touch.
Of course, the begrudgers will complain that turning Ulysses into a tourist brochure is the antithesis of Joyce’s vision, that his co-opting by a State that long disdained him is the height of irony, that the commodification of his art is a sadly fitting act in a city where cultural spaces are closing, built heritage is being vandalised, young people cannot afford to live and the needs of the citizen cannot compete with the powerful interests of investment funds, big developers and multinationals. Anyway, let the official celebrations begin!