It’s hard to imagine two things more diametrically opposed: James Joyce’s dense, highly personal, joyfully discursive Ulysses and the to-the-point missives of Twitter. But a guy named Stephen Cole (@11ysses) from Federal Hill thinks their time to be linked has come—and has devised a unique way to combine them. To commemorate Bloomsday (June 16), the international celebration of Joyce’s masterwork, he wants volunteers to retell Ulysses, in—yes—140 characters or less. We’ll let him take if from here.
1. Why Ulysses? Why Twitter?
Ulysses is my favorite book, and I like the idea of Bloomsday Ulysses readings but disappointed they are so rare. I am not a Twitter aficionado. I came to it through my position in public affairs for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. “Thou Shalt Tweet Daily” is in my job description, believe it or not. I have been dabbling in this ridiculous medium to see what it offers personal expression. I created this @11ysses experiment not to promote Twitter but to have a Bloomsday reading. And to see what will happen.
2. How did you publicize it? I saw it in The New York Times and on Gawker!
Well, I was just using Twitter to publicize it until this week. Then, with the deadline for getting The Cast [of volunteer Tweeters] lined up fast approaching and only 8 tweeps volunteering so far, I panicked and sent an email to The New York Times Book section. They jumped on it the next day and the thing exploded from there. (Thank God for the remaining Power of the Press!)
3. What has the response been so far?
Since the New York Times blog post the response has been immense! We went from about 150 followers on Tuesday to 968 right now (Friday morning). And I haven't been able to go through all the emails of people from around the world who want to volunteer now.
4. Have any officials of the Joyce estate said anything to you about this?
5. What’s the best Tweet you’ve received yet?
I haven't received any Ulysses tweets yet from the volunteers; the deadline isn't till June 11 for them to get them in. (Oh yes, someone sent a batch in in German, but I can't read those so don't know if they are good or not.)
6. What do you say to those who argue that Ulysses is too dense and impenetrable?
Hey, LIFE is dense and inscrutable! Get used to it and dig in. (That's where the wonder and beauty is after all).
7. If this goes well, might you do some other books?