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…

Dubliners – post II

The one problem with reading a book that is written like the Dubliners is that each chapter involves a fresh mental engagement because it is not following on from what has gone before but is something different. It can make it slightly more of a struggle compared to reading a traditional novel. There is also a growing suspicion that he is writing about people based in different parts of the City and depending on where they are from there is a meaning there that would be instantly recognised by someone familiar with the City, which I am afraid I am not.

But on the positive side there is a skill in the writing here that hints and leaves gaps for you to fill in that gives you enough to expand in your mind on these short excerpts of people’s lives.

Bullet points between pages 47 – 104

Two Gallants

Two friends discuss how they have wasted time and money taking girls out to wine and dine them before seducing them. One boasts to the other that he is now able to get paid for taking the women out and tells his friend to wait until the end of his date to prove it. You sense that the price of proving it to his friend has been irreparable damage to his relationship but at the end of the night he had a gold coin in his hand.

The Boarding House
A woman separated from her drunken husband runs a boarding house with her daughter and son living there. Her daughter Polly gets involved with one of the lodgers and the mother decides that to protect her moral standing he must marry Polly so intervenes in the relationship and forces him to make that decision – one that both dread being made

A Little Cloud
Two old friends meet after a gap of eight years with one returning to Dublin with a successful career as a journalist in London under his belt. The two friends meet in an up market bar that the Dublin-based resident had been past many times but not been able to go into and as he talks of his wife and child he sows the seeds of resentment that flare up when he gets home and is left in charge of his infant son

Counterparts
A man who comes across as an alcoholic ruins his chances of keeping his job as a legal clerk after being rude to his boss and then pawns his watch to fund a drinking spree. But he ends up only half drunk, loses his reputation for a strong man after being beaten at arm wrestling by a younger man and then heads home and finding his wife out starts to beat one of his five children to make himself no doubt feel more of a man – an insightful take on that sort of abuse from the father’s side

Clay
Maria visits one of the men who she used to look after when he was a boy and tries to make it special by buying a cake that she leaves on the tram and those she is visiting try to make it memorable but the most powerful scene comes from the mistake the old maid makes singing a song calling on those who loved her to love her still

More tomorrow…

Dubliners – post II

The one problem with reading a book that is written like the Dubliners is that each chapter involves a fresh mental engagement because it is not following on from what has gone before but is something different. It can make it slightly more of a struggle compared to reading a traditional novel. There is also a growing suspicion that he is writing about people based in different parts of the City and depending on where they are from there is a meaning there that would be instantly recognised by someone familiar with the City, which I am afraid I am not.

But on the positive side there is a skill in the writing here that hints and leaves gaps for you to fill in that gives you enough to expand in your mind on these short excerpts of people’s lives.

Bullet points between pages 47 – 104

Two Gallants

Two friends discuss how they have wasted time and money taking girls out to wine and dine them before seducing them. One boasts to the other that he is now able to get paid for taking the women out and tells his friend to wait until the end of his date to prove it. You sense that the price of proving it to his friend has been irreparable damage to his relationship but at the end of the night he had a gold coin in his hand.

The Boarding House
A woman separated from her drunken husband runs a boarding house with her daughter and son living there. Her daughter Polly gets involved with one of the lodgers and the mother decides that to protect her moral standing he must marry Polly so intervenes in the relationship and forces him to make that decision – one that both dread being made

A Little Cloud
Two old friends meet after a gap of eight years with one returning to Dublin with a successful career as a journalist in London under his belt. The two friends meet in an up market bar that the Dublin-based resident had been past many times but not been able to go into and as he talks of his wife and child he sows the seeds of resentment that flare up when he gets home and is left in charge of his infant son

Counterparts
A man who comes across as an alcoholic ruins his chances of keeping his job as a legal clerk after being rude to his boss and then pawns his watch to fund a drinking spree. But he ends up only half drunk, loses his reputation for a strong man after being beaten at arm wrestling by a younger man and then heads home and finding his wife out starts to beat one of his five children to make himself no doubt feel more of a man – an insightful take on that sort of abuse from the father’s side

Clay
Maria visits one of the men who she used to look after when he was a boy and tries to make it special by buying a cake that she leaves on the tram and those she is visiting try to make it memorable but the most powerful scene comes from the mistake the old maid makes singing a song calling on those who loved her to love her still

More tomorrow…

Dubliners – Post I

This book by James Joyce is a series of fifteen stories of ordinary people in Dublin that makes you think almost of a cinematic experience with lots of different excerpts making up a commentary on a City. So far the stories seem to be told very straight without judgements being made against the characters he writes about. The plan was to read more pages but sadly I fell asleep on the train and the eyes blurred and the words…

Bullet points from pages 1 – 46

The Sisters
A young man discovers that his mentor, a priest named Flynn, has died and as a result he feels a release rather than a pressing grief and accompanied by his aunt goes to visit the sisters who cared for their brother the priest. They tell their guests that he was struggling with the priesthood and found it almost too much and then end with a story about a broken chalice, a boy having some sort of breakdown and a sense of failure.

An Encounter
Two boys, it is meant to be three but the third one fails to turn up, arrange to meet and spend the day walking across to the docks and generally having a good time mucking around and firing catapults. They are met in a field by a strange man who disturbs them with his talk of giving boys who talk to girls a good whipping and in the end the boys, who have invented pseudonyms for themselves manage to escape from him and head home

Araby
The Araby of the title is a bazaar that a girl who is idolised by a boy mentions as somewhere she would like to go. Those are her first words to him after months of him following her and walking along her path to school. His uncle promises him some money for the bazaar but forgets and gets home late but the boy gets the train and gets to the bazaar just as the final stalls are packing up and while he is there the lights start to go off

Eveline
The youngest girl in a large family is left after her mother dies with her abusive father but a sailor offers her a way out to live with him in Argentina. But as the moment of decision comes she waits on the dock side while the sailor, screaming out her name, is pushed by the crowd up the gangway

After the Race
You go from a story about Eveline to one about five young men who have money and the advantages of a good education who are meeting to have a meal when they come across an American Farley who takes them to his yacht where they play at cards and the focus of the story Jimmy loses heavily and has no idea of his losses but welcomes the rest that comes at the end of the game

More tomorrow of the various tales of Dubliners…