It’s Bloomsday again (well, not quite yet in California, but certainly in Dublin), and I want to add my personal little contribution to the tributes being paid to James Joyce and his Ulysses all over the media.

I read Ulysses in one sitting, on a flight from Los Angeles to New York on a DC-6 in the 1950s (the flight took about nine hours then). I laughed all the way across the continent — I found it to be the second-funniest long book I had ever read, after Don Quixote. What made me laugh was, above all, Joyce’s way with the English language, to the extent that I still consider, after all these years (and one or two rereadings), the English language to be the book’s true protagonist.

I have since read two other books that I also feel to be books about language: Albert Cohen’s Belle du Seigneur about French, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante‘s Tres Tristes Tigres about Spanish.

One of these days I’ll try to expand on what I mean.

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