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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Bloomsday, America!

June 16th is the annual celebration of Leopold Bloom's doomed wanderings through Dublin in 1904, as chronicled in James Joyce's classic novel "Ulysses".  And in the 21st century, reality finally catches up with and overtakes fiction. 

In 1921 a U.S. court banned Ulysses on the grounds that some of its graphic depictions of nudity and sexuality constituted pornography under the Postal Code.  And while that decision was reversed in 1933 by a judge who could only have failed today's more rigorous selection processes for illiteracy and cretinism, the private sector came to the rescue of public morals when Apple banned an online illustrated version from its iStore last year.

However, that victory had an even shorter half-life.  A couple months later, presumably realising that it would lose it's investment completely if it maintained the ban, and that nobody would likely access anything remotely smacking of literary merit anyway, Apple decided to give it a go after all.

Still, Ulysses can still claim numerous triumphs.  We were reminded recently that the real-life tribulations of one Henry Kahn, great-grandfather of actress Dervla Kirwan, may have inspired the nightmare courtroom episode in the book.  Kahn was forbidden by the notorious Sir Frederick Falkiner from testifying on his own behalf due to Kahn's blatent, obstinate and willful Judaism.

While the "Double Castration" sentence handed down in the clearly Ulysses-inspired digression within Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" stands as a worthy literary heir (IMHO), the book's actual legacy in the field of (juris)prudence is even greater.  Aside the from the miscarriage of justice in the conduct of the Bradley Manning affair, Wisconsin's miraculously "re-elected" supreme court justice David Prosser handed down an opinion on the controversial collective bargaining bill which, according to 50% of his colleagues, was riddled with error and faulty analysis.

And so it goes.  The more things change, they more they stay the same.  Although a court in 1921 may have affected offense by the onanistic happenings in Chapter 13 of Ulysses, "Nausicca", in fact, courts invented public masturbation.

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