Monday, January 3, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
by James Joyce
James Joyce has always been a very intimidating author for me. His books Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are infamous for how difficult they are to read. I decided to start with Dubliners and see how that went before diving into another one of his and I’m glad I did. Even though I approached it with trepidation, I really enjoyed it.
I’m sure I’m not supposed to say this, but Dubliners reminded me of Maeve Binchy’s short story collections. Her books, The Return Journey and London Transports, give glimpses of the lives of Irish and English people going about their daily lives and this book does the same. Both Dubliners and Binchy’s collections give readers well-written characters that they care about by the end of the story. The difference, of course, is that Joyce’s writing it much more poetic, but still, they have a similar feel.
It’s odd to think about how controversial this book was when it was first released. Its content seems so tame compared with today’s standards, but at the time publishers were turning him down because it was too “lewd” because there were references to drunks, etc.
I think my two favorites in the selection were “A Little Cloud,” a grass-is-always-greener story, and “The Dead.” To me, Joyce managed to blend the three vital elements of a great short story: good characters, an interesting look at their lives and beautiful prose.
Here are a few examples of Joyce’s wonderful way with words…
“A dull resentment against his life awoke within him.”
“But we are living in a skeptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generations, educated or hyper-educated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belong to an older day. “
“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
If you’ve been thinking of trying this author out, but aren’t sure where to start, I’d pick this one up and go from there.