andrew burke





Bloomsday Halifax: Aeolus at the Nova Centre

Posted on: 2024-07-03

I'm describing my big Bloomsday Halifax project by writing up what I did for each episode. This is the seventh in the series, covering Episode 7 of "Ulysses": "Aeolus".

"Aeolus" named after the God of Winds in "Ulysses" is the first chapter I found really fun to read. The plot is pretty basic: Bloom visits the offices of the Freeman's Journal newspaper to discuss some ads he's been canvassing, while Stephen has a conversation nearby about literary forms; Stephen and his friends then go for lunch and Stephen tells a nominally funny story. What's fun about the chapter is that the fact that it's at a newspaper office invades the narrative voice itself. Every few paragraphs the narration is interrupted by a headline. Here you can see what it looks like in the book:

A hardcover copy of Ulysses showing text interspersed with headlines

It turns out that at the time newspapers didn't just have main headlines for stories, but would stick smaller sub-headlines inside articles, just like Joyce does here. But they usually didn't have as much fun with it as Joyce does: he starts pretty normally, mimicking newspaper style ("IN THE HEART OF THE HIBERNIAN METROPOLIS"), but then gradually gets more allusive and elliptical ("CLEVER, VERY") and finally just gets wacky ("SOPHIST WALLOPS HAUGHTY HELEN SQUARE ON PROBOSCIS. SPARTANS GNASH MOLARS. ITHACANS VOW PEN IS CHAMP.")

The way that the location of the narrative intrudes into and becomes a meta-commentary on the text feels very ahead of its time. The medium becomes the message, and it feels much more postmodernist than modernist.

The choice of Halifax location for this episode always felt obvious to me: the Nova Centre is right on top of where the old Chronicle Herald offices used to be. When I moved to Halifax in 2008, the building was still standing, looming empty across from the Foggy Goggle and the Economy Shoe Shop on Argyle street. This whole part of town has now been transformed into something bigger and shinier.

As for the "intrusion" of the book into real life for this location, I had really hoped to get the big TV screens in Rogers Square on Grafton to cycle through the headlines from the chapter, even if just for one hour on Sunday. I managed to work some connections to get the email address of the person in charge of this—but alas they never got back to me. So instead I faked it for the background image:

The screens in Rogers Square under the Halifax Convention Centre with headlines on them

Since there wouldn't be any special A/V here, I decided to have another printed prop available. I had already created something likely for one of the virtual collectible items here:

a vintage engraving of an ad proof for 'The House of Keyes'

The crossed keys image was generated by Dall-E, and I was able to add some more decorative fonts in various sizes and styles. It turns out advertisements of the time loved to use what would look to us like a jarring mix of fonts, so I ran with that, mixing "Sugar Boats One", Bodoni 72 Smallcaps, and of course Hoefler Text. I then went out to Staples and found a pad of onion paper, which made a rough approximation of the thin paper they used to use for print proofs. I printed two to a page and tried to cut smoothly but non-rectilinearly, like a busy professional with shears would have. It final product ended up coming out pretty well:

A physical printout of an advertising proof reading 'House of Keyes'

The next question was where to stash it? I had considered simply hiding the sheets somewhere in Rogers Square, but I worried about them being blown away or thrown out. I ended up leaving them with instructions at The Gahan House. I had figured Bloomsday might be a bit of a pub crawl, but I ended up having even more restaurant/bars than I had expected. The Gahan House's events coordinator happened to be there when I dropped by, but he seemed busy so I just gave him the short "it's a sort of scavenger hunt" story and he seemed fine with it.

Even if it was a last-minute choice, the Gahan House turned out to be perfect. First off, it's an Irish name. Also, the chapter finishes by several people going for lunch, and the lunch at the Gahan House is quite good! Last but not least, the physical location of the main entrance and bar is almost exactly where the upstairs offices of the Chronicle-Herald would have been, both horizontally and vertically - so it's a natural place to reflect on the chapter and collect a print proof.

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