Category: James Joyce

book of books – Dubliners


James Joyce is one of those writers that before I picked up one his books came with a certain reputation for not just being difficult but also being worshipped. A friend was telling me about ‘Bloom Day’ in Dublin where you can follow round Leopold as he does all the things he did in the 24 hours covered by the book. That sort of dedication after all these years is not the sort of thing that gets shown to just any writer.

But you have to be careful throwing the word ‘genius’ around because there would no doubt be plenty prepared to argue that if a book is almost totally inaccessible to the average reader (Ulysses) then where is the cleverness in that. Aside from that particular war of words a book like Dubliners is something that can be read by anyone and apart from a couple of references to Irish politics, particularly around the movement for independence, there are no major obstacles with this text.

Plot summary
This reminds you of a Robert Altman film with 15 stories going on but unlike something like Short Cuts there is no intention here to link the stories together. Like a patchwork of different streets and suburbs Dublin grows out of the stories of the people who live in it with the rich and the poor all represented here. The stories seem to get longer as you go through the book and ending with The Dead there is a picture completed at the end that makes you realise that whether rich or poor, religious or atheist, male or female and drunk and sober life is a struggle and what everyone wants is to find love and a safe harbour. the other attractive feature of the text is that Joyce never makes a judgement on the activities or beliefs of the characters but tells it straight handing the reader the chance to make their own judgements.

Is it well written?
It demands a fair bit of concentration to come to each chapter fresh and as a result Joyce has to pitch for your attention fifteen times. The fact he manages to do it and provoke different reactions in the reader answers the question about the success of the writing. Creative writing course tutors always talk about the importance of characters leading and shaping the story and here there are plenty of examples of how to get that process right.

Should it be read?
If Ulysses is too intimidating then this is a Joyce that can be picked up and read at leisure. Because of the nature of the separate self encapsulated chapters it makes ideal bedtime reading because you can knock off a chapter a night over a couple of weeks. I have not stumbled across anything mimicking this approach to describing a City and its people, there must be some, but for a first introduction to a living biography style it is something well worth coming into contact with.

Summary: the city of Dublin and its people come to life through these stories of rich and poor and happy and sad folk.

Version read – Penguin modern classics paperback

book of books – Dubliners


James Joyce is one of those writers that before I picked up one his books came with a certain reputation for not just being difficult but also being worshipped. A friend was telling me about ‘Bloom Day’ in Dublin where you can follow round Leopold as he does all the things he did in the 24 hours covered by the book. That sort of dedication after all these years is not the sort of thing that gets shown to just any writer.

But you have to be careful throwing the word ‘genius’ around because there would no doubt be plenty prepared to argue that if a book is almost totally inaccessible to the average reader (Ulysses) then where is the cleverness in that. Aside from that particular war of words a book like Dubliners is something that can be read by anyone and apart from a couple of references to Irish politics, particularly around the movement for independence, there are no major obstacles with this text.

Plot summary
This reminds you of a Robert Altman film with 15 stories going on but unlike something like Short Cuts there is no intention here to link the stories together. Like a patchwork of different streets and suburbs Dublin grows out of the stories of the people who live in it with the rich and the poor all represented here. The stories seem to get longer as you go through the book and ending with The Dead there is a picture completed at the end that makes you realise that whether rich or poor, religious or atheist, male or female and drunk and sober life is a struggle and what everyone wants is to find love and a safe harbour. the other attractive feature of the text is that Joyce never makes a judgement on the activities or beliefs of the characters but tells it straight handing the reader the chance to make their own judgements.

Is it well written?
It demands a fair bit of concentration to come to each chapter fresh and as a result Joyce has to pitch for your attention fifteen times. The fact he manages to do it and provoke different reactions in the reader answers the question about the success of the writing. Creative writing course tutors always talk about the importance of characters leading and shaping the story and here there are plenty of examples of how to get that process right.

Should it be read?
If Ulysses is too intimidating then this is a Joyce that can be picked up and read at leisure. Because of the nature of the separate self encapsulated chapters it makes ideal bedtime reading because you can knock off a chapter a night over a couple of weeks. I have not stumbled across anything mimicking this approach to describing a City and its people, there must be some, but for a first introduction to a living biography style it is something well worth coming into contact with.

Summary: the city of Dublin and its people come to life through these stories of rich and poor and happy and sad folk.

Version read – Penguin modern classics paperback

book of books – Dubliners


James Joyce is one of those writers that before I picked up one his books came with a certain reputation for not just being difficult but also being worshipped. A friend was telling me about ‘Bloom Day’ in Dublin where you can follow round Leopold as he does all the things he did in the 24 hours covered by the book. That sort of dedication after all these years is not the sort of thing that gets shown to just any writer.

But you have to be careful throwing the word ‘genius’ around because there would no doubt be plenty prepared to argue that if a book is almost totally inaccessible to the average reader (Ulysses) then where is the cleverness in that. Aside from that particular war of words a book like Dubliners is something that can be read by anyone and apart from a couple of references to Irish politics, particularly around the movement for independence, there are no major obstacles with this text.

Plot summary
This reminds you of a Robert Altman film with 15 stories going on but unlike something like Short Cuts there is no intention here to link the stories together. Like a patchwork of different streets and suburbs Dublin grows out of the stories of the people who live in it with the rich and the poor all represented here. The stories seem to get longer as you go through the book and ending with The Dead there is a picture completed at the end that makes you realise that whether rich or poor, religious or atheist, male or female and drunk and sober life is a struggle and what everyone wants is to find love and a safe harbour. the other attractive feature of the text is that Joyce never makes a judgement on the activities or beliefs of the characters but tells it straight handing the reader the chance to make their own judgements.

Is it well written?
It demands a fair bit of concentration to come to each chapter fresh and as a result Joyce has to pitch for your attention fifteen times. The fact he manages to do it and provoke different reactions in the reader answers the question about the success of the writing. Creative writing course tutors always talk about the importance of characters leading and shaping the story and here there are plenty of examples of how to get that process right.

Should it be read?
If Ulysses is too intimidating then this is a Joyce that can be picked up and read at leisure. Because of the nature of the separate self encapsulated chapters it makes ideal bedtime reading because you can knock off a chapter a night over a couple of weeks. I have not stumbled across anything mimicking this approach to describing a City and its people, there must be some, but for a first introduction to a living biography style it is something well worth coming into contact with.

Summary: the city of Dublin and its people come to life through these stories of rich and poor and happy and sad folk.

Version read – Penguin modern classics paperback

Dubliners – post IV

There is something wonderful about a story that has an ending that you had no way of predicting and this falls into that category. The reason it works so well is because you step into the mind of the main character of Gabriel and understand just how much it upsets him when he gets it wrong guessing what his wife Gretta is thinking.

The Dead
At a family get together the nephew of three aunts carries out his duty and carves the goose and then delivers a speech which wins applause and the affection of his aunts. The only fly in the ointment is that he has a row with a University colleague who accuses him of not loving his country. But she leaves early and as the evening draws to an end he is content at having a successful evening and starts to think lustful thoughts about his wife. Just before they leave she is captivated by a song sung badly by one the guests. Once home Gabriel’s lust is stirring and he starts to think that Gretta shares it when she unexpectedly kisses him but when pushed on the question of what she is thinking about it turns out that far from thinking about her husband she is dwelling on the memory of a boy she used to know that sang that song. He died, partly for her, and leaves Gabriel realising that he is struggling to match up and far from being a successful evening he is left feeling empty.

Review of Dubliners will follow at the weekend…

Dubliners – post IV

There is something wonderful about a story that has an ending that you had no way of predicting and this falls into that category. The reason it works so well is because you step into the mind of the main character of Gabriel and understand just how much it upsets him when he gets it wrong guessing what his wife Gretta is thinking.

The Dead
At a family get together the nephew of three aunts carries out his duty and carves the goose and then delivers a speech which wins applause and the affection of his aunts. The only fly in the ointment is that he has a row with a University colleague who accuses him of not loving his country. But she leaves early and as the evening draws to an end he is content at having a successful evening and starts to think lustful thoughts about his wife. Just before they leave she is captivated by a song sung badly by one the guests. Once home Gabriel’s lust is stirring and he starts to think that Gretta shares it when she unexpectedly kisses him but when pushed on the question of what she is thinking about it turns out that far from thinking about her husband she is dwelling on the memory of a boy she used to know that sang that song. He died, partly for her, and leaves Gabriel realising that he is struggling to match up and far from being a successful evening he is left feeling empty.

Review of Dubliners will follow at the weekend…

Dubliners – post III

It’s interesting reading this book along with another collection of short stories over lunch (Exile and the Kingdom) because in a way they are quite similar using the same settings – Dublin/Algeria – bedding down different characters in a location that rolls out like a patchwork of different suburbs which reflects back on the characters.

A Painful Case
A solitary man makes a friendship with a woman at a conference and starts seeing her in both the open and in secret walking through the park and talking with each other but one day they have a disagreement and breaks off the friendship. A couple of years passes and then he reads about the death of the lady in the paper – an account of her falling in front of a train and her daughter explaining that she had become a drinker. The man realizes that she must have been terribly lonely and then faces up to his own solitude.

Ivy Day in the Committee Room
Some canvassers for a politician meet up to report on their progress and moan about the lack of payment from the party organisation. More men come in and swell the ranks boasting about how many votes they could get and then some drinks finally turn up having been sent to appease the men and it works with them using the heat of the fire to pop the corks

A Mother

A cracking little story about a mother wanting what is right for her daughter but pushing it too far and losing it all. After her daughter has been signed up to sing for four concerts the mother becomes worried when one is cancelled and starts to get concerned that her daughter will not be paid so she demands payment otherwise she will not sing. She gets half the money just before the curtain goes up but is fobbed off in the interval and so is replaced after carrying out the threat not to perform and as a result loses not just the other half but her reputation as a reliable singer

Grace
This is the penultimate story in Dubliners and is so far the longest covering firstly the drunken escapades of Mr. Kernan, then the decision by his friends to go and repent at a religious retreat and then finally the retreat itself where Kernan starts the process of settling his accounts with God. Includes some religious banter about the Pope and Protestants and Catholics that is mild mannered and an insight into the willingness of people to mix if it is in the right circumstances

The final chapter comes tomorrow…

Dubliners – post III

It’s interesting reading this book along with another collection of short stories over lunch (Exile and the Kingdom) because in a way they are quite similar using the same settings – Dublin/Algeria – bedding down different characters in a location that rolls out like a patchwork of different suburbs which reflects back on the characters.

A Painful Case
A solitary man makes a friendship with a woman at a conference and starts seeing her in both the open and in secret walking through the park and talking with each other but one day they have a disagreement and breaks off the friendship. A couple of years passes and then he reads about the death of the lady in the paper – an account of her falling in front of a train and her daughter explaining that she had become a drinker. The man realizes that she must have been terribly lonely and then faces up to his own solitude.

Ivy Day in the Committee Room
Some canvassers for a politician meet up to report on their progress and moan about the lack of payment from the party organisation. More men come in and swell the ranks boasting about how many votes they could get and then some drinks finally turn up having been sent to appease the men and it works with them using the heat of the fire to pop the corks

A Mother

A cracking little story about a mother wanting what is right for her daughter but pushing it too far and losing it all. After her daughter has been signed up to sing for four concerts the mother becomes worried when one is cancelled and starts to get concerned that her daughter will not be paid so she demands payment otherwise she will not sing. She gets half the money just before the curtain goes up but is fobbed off in the interval and so is replaced after carrying out the threat not to perform and as a result loses not just the other half but her reputation as a reliable singer

Grace
This is the penultimate story in Dubliners and is so far the longest covering firstly the drunken escapades of Mr. Kernan, then the decision by his friends to go and repent at a religious retreat and then finally the retreat itself where Kernan starts the process of settling his accounts with God. Includes some religious banter about the Pope and Protestants and Catholics that is mild mannered and an insight into the willingness of people to mix if it is in the right circumstances

The final chapter comes tomorrow…