Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts: Dubliners by James Joyce

I bought a copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when I was fifteen, read the first couple of chapters, put the book down, and never looked back. Rinse and repeat the last three steps, and that, my friends, is my history with the elusive James Joyce. When I found a copy of Dubliners and realized that I could actually UNDERSTAND the first couple of pages, I immediately bought it. The main thought running through my head: WE MEET AGAIN, JOYCE. We meet again. *Insert maniacal laughter here.*

Before I go any further with this review, let me get this off my chest. Dubliners was depressing as hell. Almost all of the characters aim for something that will lift them up from the monotony of their daily lives or set them free from commitments they surprisingly found themselves buried in, and guess what? Almost all of them fail. In Araby, a boy tries his best to make it to a night market to buy something special for a girl he likes. The ending kind of broke my heart.

I kowtow to Joyce, because he never condescended toward his readers. Dubliners might be the easiest thing-to-read a.k.a book by Joyce I’ve ever encountered, but the fact that it was written by James Joyce means that it’s still pretty freakin’ hard to get through. There was a certain short story in there about politicians (In hospitals? I have no idea what I’m talking about), and I didn’t understand a single thing. What I did understand, though, made me feel proud. I’ve gotten so used to modern authors who dumb down their books that this reading experience was pretty exciting—like the FIFA World Cup for literary nerds. Minus the hot guys.

In the entire collection, aside from Araby and The Dead, the story that really made a mark on me was Eveline. The main character, Eveline, defines a woman who is stuck in the confines of her roles as a sister and a daughter. Life is hard, but Frank, Eveline’s boyfriend, serves as the light at the end of the tunnel. Frank wants Eveline to run away with him, and she must make a crucial decision. Escape to the unknown or face the known miseries of poverty and an alcoholic father? The resolution of this short story made me put the book down, and stare up at the ceiling for a while, asking myself what I would I have done if I were in her shoes.

I actually thought I would hate this book, but I kind of liked it. Yes, the hopelessness of the characters’ lives was depressing, but it made me think. The short stories in Dubliners made me put the book down, so I could take a deep breath and think about the characters and what James Joyce is trying to tell me. Me, the reader. Me, the person. I have to say that was quite an experience.

Rating: 3/5

14 comments:

Trisha said...

A more readable Joyce? I may have to give it a whirl. I'm not on the best of terms with him either....

Trish said...

Dubliners was in my hands recently and I must say I was surprised, also, with how readable the stories were. I only got through the first few, though, but now I'm inspired to tackle the rest.

Reading Rambo said...

You have, for the first time, made me possibly interested in Joyce. It's weird...Araby sounds familiar. I think my 6th grade English teacher might have given us that to read, and it's possibly why I retain a negative impression of him (you know..because I was *11*).

The Dead! Anjelica Huston's in that movie.

Zibilee said...

You know, I have never read Joyce, and I have always been sort of scared to, but after reading that you had success with this one, I am emboldened to try this book out! I love books that pull my heartstrings and don't dumb it down for the reader. Great review today, Darlyn! I need to see if I can find this one!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I have to admit that I don't have any desire to read Joyce as he strikes me as being a big literary snob. But I applaud anyone who manages to get through one of his books and enjoy the experience!

Allie said...

I came away with some of the same thoughts-some stories were easier than others, and I enjoyed some more than others too. :)

I did like Eveline. It made my heart break a bit, but I liked it.

I have Portrait and Ulysses sitting on my shelf. I think they're going to sit there for a bit.

Nymeth said...

I've yet to have any luck with Joyce's novels, but I also liked this collection. "The Dead" is definitely a standout.

Kristi said...

I have Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on my shelf, but have yet to have the guts to crack that sucker open.

I'm glad to hear that Dubliners was more accessible. Maybe I'll give it a try before I attempt any other Joyce.

Nicola said...

Your experiences with Joyce echo mine. Couldn't bear Portrait of the Artist ... Quite liked The Dubliners. Youre review has prompted me to revisit it.

Nicola said...

Your experiences with Joyce echo mine. Couldn't bear Portrait of the Artist ... Quite liked The Dubliners. Youre review has prompted me to revisit it.

Nicola said...

Your experiences with Joyce echo mine. Couldn't bear Portrait of the Artist ... Quite liked The Dubliners. Youre review has prompted me to revisit it.

Kailana said...

Of all the classic authors, Joyce is probably the only one I can safely say I haven't read because he intimidates me. The rest of them I am just slow getting around to...

Rebecca Reid said...

I have yet to attempt any other Joyce but I really did like these stories, depressing as they are. I actually remembered reading Araby in ninth grade and I've never forgotten it. So when I found it in this volume a few years ago, I was so excited!

mel u said...

any of these stories would be perfect for Irish Short Stories Week!

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