“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

The travels and travails of Leopold Bloom, the sort-of-but-not-really-eponymous hero of James Joyce's Ulsysses, are the subject of both the novel and the plethora of critical analyses that followed Joyce's publication of his modernist classic and continue to this day. There is even a special day, Bloomsday, timed to coincide with the date on which the book's action takes place, which sees Joyce devotees retrace Bloom's sometimes unsteady steps around the city streets of Dublin.

But aside from the lasting literary legacy of Ulysses, Joyce's indelicate anti-hero has also provided lazy writers of the world with an additional gift; a name that is just dripping with cheap, unearned, ready-made symbolism.

Bloom on screen...

Cinema is a veritable bouquet of Blooms.

Mel Brooks' 1968 debut, The Producers, stars Gene Wilder as the fearful accountant, Leo Bloom; the character was apparently explicitly named after the Ulysses protagonist, although other than that he bears little relation to his namesake. Matthew Broderick played Bloom in the 2001 Broadway adaptation and subsequent 2005 movie remake.

Another antihero with a similar name is Jake Gyllenhaal's creepy Louis Bloom in 2014 crime thriller, Nightcrawler. Here the parallels are closer, as the modern Bloom travels around Los Angeles, meeting strange characters and having odd conversations, particularly with the women he encounters. One wonders what Joyce's Bloom might have recorded, had he too been equipped with a video camera.

The 2003 film Big Fish, adapted from Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel of the same name, features a brace of Blooms. Son William (played in the movie by Billy Crudup) listens as his dying father Edward (Albert Finney, with Ewan McGregor as the younger Edward Bloom) recounts tall tales from his youth, which draw on both Ulysses and its predecessor, Homer's Odyssey, for inspiration.

Moving to the small screen, American Pie star Jason Biggs plays Larry Bloom in hit Netflix series Orange Is The New Black. Described by the OITNB Wikia site as an "egotistically selfish character [who] does things without considering the backlash he causes" and having "a vengeful attitude", he doesn't sound a million miles away from his literary namesake. (It's probably a stretch, though, to ascribe any Leopold-like attributes to The Big Bang Theory's Stuart Bloom, comic store owner and nerd's nerd, unless it be in his fascination with, and uneasiness around, women.)

...and elsewhere

There are many others. IMDB has a full list of the more than one hundred characters you can encounter across film and television that share their name with that most famous of literary gastronomes, and there are yet more in other works of art, from books to songs. One of my personal favourites is the never-seen Hollywood producer, Sheldon Bloom, from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me On A Sunday. The lyrics to his introductory tune (by Bond theme lyricist Don Black) are almost as full of comestible quirks as the original Bloom's thoughts.

It seems that, almost 100 years after the first publication of Joyce's work, the spirit of Leopold Bloom refuses to be extinguished; it has become almost a form of nominative determinism among the well-read, a shorthand to communicate both the character's moral fibre and the author's literary obeisance.

And while hidden meanings in character names is nothing new -- almost everyone in HG Wells' The Invisible Man has a name rich in hidden significance -- the preponderance of Blooms in recent times is bordering on the ridiculous. Even Joyce himself was critical of lazy writers making use of unimaginative names in their work, as his literary alter-ego Stephen Dadelus makes clear in Chapter 9, Scylla And Charybdis, with respect to Shakespeare:

“He has hidden his own name, a fair name, William, in the plays, a super here, a clown there, as a painter of old Italy set his face in a dark corner of his canvas. He has revealed it in the sonnets where there is Will in overplus. Like John O'Gaunt his name is dear to him, as dear as the coat of arms he toadied for, on a bend sable a spear or steeled argent, honorificabilitudinitatibus, dearer than his glory of greatest shakescene in the country. What's in a name? That is what we ask ourselves in childhood when we write the name that we are told is ours.”

Matthew Pennell

Designer, developer, writer, runner, gamer, devil's advocate, INTP. Senior designer for Booking.com. Founder, Refresh Cambridge.