Each month a member of At it Again! who created the Bloomsday Survival Kit will provide an insight into the motivation and method behind their work. This month Jessica Peel-Yates reflects on ….. what’s in a name?


As a child I remember lying in the grass in the back garden and thinking about names. Would a rose smell as sweet if it were called a cabbage? Do corn flakes have more crunch when they are called Kellogg’s?

Joyce had a lot of fun with names in Ulysses. He builds stories around his characters by giving them nicknames – Leopold Bloom is Poldy, Stephen becomes the Bullockbefriending Bard. Cashel Boyle O’Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell is known as Lamppost Farrell on account of his eccentric lamppost dodging dance. When we follow the story, we absorb the jokes and become part of the world that Joyce so vividly creates.

Here at At it Again! headquarters in Dublin, we love bringing literature to life. Evoking the feelings, sensations and emotions behind the Big Books that help to shape our culture. Names help us do that. About 2 years ago, we went for a walk in Massey’s Woods in the Dublin Mountains and got chatting about the challenge of reading Ulysses. How to survive it? And how to help bring a sense of carnival to the Bloomsday celebrations in Dublin? Out popped the idea for a Bloomsday Survival Kit. It’s like a first aid kit, but with party poppers rather than plasters.

We turned our thoughts to the challenge of reducing Ulysses into a handy guide that would fit in your pocket. How to make it easier to navigate for first time readers, while at the same time making Joyceans chuckle. We came up with the idea of an interactive manual with illustrations, tips and titbits. We wanted it to feel playful, so christened it Romping through Dublin.

So then we started to think about ourselves…. Who are we? Why are we here? It felt a bit like being trapped in Ithaca – the episode in Ulysses punctuated by all those surreal questions. We devoured Ulysses’s rich pages for ideas. And there, in Nausicaa, where Bloom is on Sandymount strand flirting with young women, we found delicious tensions, whacky descriptions and naughty moments. Perfect!

“And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft! Then all melted away dewily in the grey air: all was silent. Ah! She glanced at him as she bent forward quickly, a pathetic little glance of piteous protest, of shy reproach under which he coloured like a girl He was leaning back against the rock behind. Leopold Bloom (for it is he) stands silent, with bowed head before those young guileless eyes. What a brute he had been! At it again? A fair unsullied soul had called to him and, wretch that he was, how had he answered? An utter cad he had been! He of all men!”

When was the last time you were at it again?

You can see more of our mischief at www.atitagain.ie

If you feel like leaving a comment we’d love to hear your feedback and maybe you can let us know how Ulysses inspires you.