Sylvia Beach with James Joyce in her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Beach published "Ulysses" when others shied from its strangeness and sexuality.

Today is Bloomsday, the anniversary of Leopold Bloom's epic June 16, 1904 journey, documented in James Joyce's Ulysses. The novel, the bomb that ignited modern literature, is often declared the greatest novel of the 20th century and has made good on the author's promise that it would keep professors, and their charges, busy understanding and interpreting for years, if not forever. The specific date commemorates the first time Joyce stepped out with his future wife, Nora.

Philadelphia, not Joyce's native Dublin, not Paris where he lived for many years, is home to the original manuscipt. Noted book collector Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach bought the manuscript at auction in 1924, two years after the novel's publication, for $1,975, a bargain.

Our city does the day up right, celebrating with a lively reading by multiple local dignitatries, passionate readers, scholars and actors on the steps of the glorious Rosenbach Museum and Library, 2010 Delancey Place, one of the most beautiful blocks in the nation.

Festivies begin at noon Thursday. Readers include Mayor Nutter, Radio Times' Marty Moss-Coane and the Free Library Director Siobhan Reardon, and The Inquirer's architecture writer Inga Saffron reading with her husband, noted novelist Ken Kalfus. I'm scheduled to read at 5:05 p.m., though this literature not an exact science, and WXPN's World Cafe host David Dye (my spouse) 40 minutes later. Much music and merriment is expected, culiminating in Molly Bloom's passionate soliloquy that ends with "yes I said yes I will Yes." 

A wonderful tradition, and free to all. Imbibing most likely to follow. Join us.

--Karen Heller