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Old 10-20-2004, 01:49 PM   #1
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James Joyce

Anyone here a Joyce fan? I think above any other writer, James Joyce has spoken to me and inspired me to keep learning. A glance at Finnegan's Wake will throw most people off of their balance, and a lot of people will dismiss it. I've looked at parts of it, and I don't believe anyone will ever fully explore it's multifaceted and obscenely complex language games. But it's so much fun to try.

But of Joyce's more "accessible" works, and I use that term very loosely, what do you enjoy? I'm currently in the process of reading Ulysses, but I think I'm going to have to take a break from it. The workload for this semester is a bit frustrating, especially when I'm supposed to be working on two papers for conferences beyond what I'm required to do in class. But I will have to say that, though more difficult and subtle, I prefer Joyce's Stream-of-Consciousness more than other modernist writers like Woolf. Don't get me wrong, I think Woolf is fantastic. But Joyce is a bit more demanding. There is an obvious logic in the internal monologue of Clarissa Dalloway, these events remind her of this person, this reminds he of Peter, Peter was around when Susan was around, etc. With Joyce it's like watching a rapid montage and getting more sensory input. You have to stop and think about what's going on externally to follow the book. Beyond internal monologue, the structure of Ulysses really blows my mind, too. First of all, there's the fact that each chapter is linked to an episode of Homer's Odyssey. But it's not like watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? where the literary allusions simply beat you over the head. (I love that movie, again, don't get me wrong ). You have to work at it. Just as you have to work at reading it. The varying perspectives and styles. It's interesting (and I guess obvious) that modernism, especially Joyce's aesthetic principle, sort of anticipates postmodernism. The idea of pastiche, for example. You've got drama, prose, verse, and multiple variations thereof within this one novel. I need to finish this so badly.

Everyone should read something out of Dubliners. Anyone interested in urban life at the turn of the century, in Irish culture, anything. It's funny to think of how controversial this book was at the time. It's an unbiased view of the city, not glossing over the bad, but not really condemning it, either. Interesting that he put together the character of the city of Dublin itself so meticulously, and then would proceed to go into self-imposed exile from Ireland afterwards. Didn't stop him from writing, but I'm sure there was more about Dublin that could have been said.

Of the stories, I think that four really stand out for me. "The Sisters" is chilling, and sets the tone for the book. The notion of death being introduced so early one could be alarming, but mortality is a big part of the collection. Childhood relationships are also introduced here, and carry throughout. Here, the boy loses his mentor figure, and has to face death. The idea of being alone with a corpse, hearing nothing but silence while surrounded by loud and almost trivial chatter. It's just bloody brilliant. The child and adult theme is explored in a rather, um, different light in An Encounter. The language used here is so indirect, but not obtruse. I had a hard time following this one initially, but once I realized the fact that it was about two boys meeting and old pervert, I felt really stupid for not picking up on it. It's so subtle. And disturbing. But Joyce was writing about real people.

Structurally, the book follows characters of different ages in ascending order. It's almost a meditation on growing up as much as it is on life in Dublin city. After these initial tales of children, we move to the transitional phase between childhood and young adulthood with "Araby". This is a wonderful little tale of disillusionment. The boy idealizes his friend's sister, and so many things about romance and love, only to have it all shattered by the realization of just how empty "adult" life can be. This one I can relate to. In ways this story always reminds me of U2. The equation of the girl with God, the sexual and the divine. But I digress.

Ultimately, and almost invariably held as such, the greatest work of Dubliners is the final story, "The Dead". Wow. It is impossible in my estimation to overemphasize the profound nature of this story. The cold imagery, Gabriel's confrontation with the three women, and then the epiphany. It's one of the more complex and universal ones in the whole book. The idea of never knowing someone, even someone you think you love but you realize can never really love you. Also, the imagery of the snow falling across Ireland, covering everyone, the living and the dead, the inevitability of loss and death. Just... damn. John Huston's film is worth checking out.

But my favorite work of Joyce's is undoubtedly A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Here you can already see so many of the ideas that would be further explored in Ulysses. Games with structure and language are abundant, but more accessible than they would be in later work. Stephen's five phases of life: Childhood, religion, recklessness, repentance, and liberation are all presented with different language. The childhood begins with incomplete sentences and nonsense, eventually evolving into a reflection of life in school. The relgious teenage years are full of foreboding religious instruction, and the language of sermons fills many pages. It is finally during his liberation period, when he frees himself to follow the life of an artist, that the language becomes poetic and breathaking. Read his description of the girl in the waves. Wow. I think this is possibly Joyce's most positive work as well.

Anyway, I had more complete and thorough thoughts than this, but I doubt anybody will read all of this as it is. Just wanted to say I love Joyce, and see if anyone else was on the same wavelength.
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Old 10-20-2004, 02:38 PM   #2
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My favorite of his short stories is "Araby." When we read it in school, no one else liked it except me. Joyce is definitely a challenge because of the stream-of-consciousness writing style, but I think the other reason people are wary of his work is because it's not hearts and flowers. There's heartache, disappointment, tough lessons learned, things don't always turn out the way you'd like them to. Maybe his stuff is a little too real with tails of child abuse, alcoholism, financial ruin, jilted lovers and so on. I do enjoy it and am working my way up to reading "Ulysses."
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Old 10-20-2004, 06:20 PM   #3
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for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

If anything truly spoke to me, that had to be it. Just the ups and downs that he goes through trying to pinpoint his identity and role in the world really touched me.
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Old 10-20-2004, 06:29 PM   #4
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Ulysses is the only Joyce work I have read, but I would love to read as many of the others as possible. It was a terrific book. So difficult, though! But for me, it was more about enjoying the ride and the moment than trying to make sure I understood everything. I wish I could have read it in a class or with other people so I could bounce ideas off of and ask questions of other people, but nevertheless, I loved it. It is one of the few books I am eager to read again.

Note to self: READ MORE JAMES JOYCE!

And I read everything you wrote, UL. Interesting thoughts!
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Old 10-20-2004, 07:57 PM   #5
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I read Portrait and loved it. want to read Ulysses but it seems like it would be quite hard. verdict anyone?
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Old 10-20-2004, 07:59 PM   #6
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ok, i've only read the stories in dubliners.

i tried to read ulysess and couldn't do it.

john huston did a good job making 'the dead' into a movie.
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Old 10-20-2004, 08:01 PM   #7
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fucking hell.

are they trying to ruin things?
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Old 10-20-2004, 08:04 PM   #8
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Originally posted by IWasBored
fucking hell.

are they trying to ruin things?
Having trouble figuring out this referes to.

I'm reading through this again, and it looks like all I did was a lot of summary and presentation of technique. Oh well, technique is a lot of what appeals to me about Joyce. And the sheer believability.
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Old 10-20-2004, 08:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by HeartlandGirl



Note to self: READ MORE JAMES JOYCE!

And I read everything you wrote, UL. Interesting thoughts!
Thanks, and yes you should. Having read Ulysses, Portrait will seem like reading Dr. Seuss. And Dubliners will be a picture book.

That doesnt' mean there's not a lot of meaning there, but stylistically they are infinitely more accessible. Portrait really doesn't take long to read, it's only 2 or 3 hundred pages. Dubliners can be read one story at a time. But if you're just gonna cherry-pick Dubliners, I recommend

The Sisters
An Encounter
Araby
Ivy Day in the Committee Room
The Dead

Having read Ulysses, it's probably best to go to Portrait so you can fully understand Stephan Daedalus.
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:27 PM   #10
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After I had started Ulysses, one of my friends said I really should have started with Portrait. Alas! But at least I could read that, then eventually go back to Ulysses, which I need to do anyway.

Thanks for your recommendations from Dubliners; they have been duly noted. Right now I've just begun The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, so I'll be busy for awhile. Perhaps after that I can make my way through some more Joyce.
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:29 PM   #11
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Originally posted by UnforgettableLemon


Having trouble figuring out this referes to.

I'm reading through this again, and it looks like all I did was a lot of summary and presentation of technique. Oh well, technique is a lot of what appeals to me about Joyce. And the sheer believability.


you can't figure it out because it didn't belong in this thread.

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Old 10-21-2004, 09:31 PM   #12
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Note, is it strange to respond to my own thread about sophisticated literature with a "der" smilie? Do I care?
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:34 PM   #13
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Originally posted by UnforgettableLemon


Note, is it strange to respond to my own thread about sophisticated literature with a "der" smilie? Do I care?



speaking of things that don't relate to this thread, i think you'll get this reference:

OMG !!!! a sImPlE PLAnN R ON LENO !!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:37 PM   #14
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that was NOT necessary
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:38 PM   #15
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that was the worst song i have ever heard.

i now return this thread to it's original topic.

finnegan's wake scares me.
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