Zoom and Bloom: How I tried to fill Pete Buttigieg’s shoes on Bloomsday

Frank McNally: On a Ulysses talk that brought him virtually from Phoenix Park to New York

Ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg sent a nice letter, regretting his inability to attend and praising Joyce as “the great epicist of the everyday”. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg sent a nice letter, regretting his inability to attend and praising Joyce as “the great epicist of the everyday”. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

I spent most of Tuesday worrying about a transatlantic Bloomsday talk I had to give later, via Zoom.  It was for the Irish American Bar Association of New York (IABANY). And as usual, I was regretting the character weakness that had led me to accept the invitation. But I had been the victim of flattery by event organiser Janet Walsh who, apologising for the short notice, admitted frankly: “We were trying to get Pete Buttigieg”.

In case readers have forgotten the world before coronavirus, I’ll remind you that as recently as February, “Mayor Pete” was front-runner to be the Democrats’ presidential candidate. However briefly, the dizzying prospect arose that Donald Trump might be replaced in November by a man who has read Ulysses. And not just read it, but who calls it the book that has most influenced his life.

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