Author: James Joyce
Published: 1991 Dover Thrift (orig. 1914)
My Rating: 3 stars
I read Dubliners thinking that it would be a good intro to James Joyce: an introduction into his style without the hefty time commitment that must necessarily go along with reading Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake instead.
Now I’m not sure. I certainly don’t understand what all the hoopla is about. Why is this collection of short stories deemed by some as being among the best in the English language? I read the stories, pondered them, verified that I had no emotional connection or intellectual appreciation welling up inside me, and then got online to find a literary cheat sheet to inform me of what I had overseen.
I’m still at a loss. I reviewed the storylines: check, got all that. I carefully read through the analysis and themes: yep, caught all those. So what am I left with? A great big ? floating above my head.
One story (A Little Cloud) I did really enjoy, but for the most part I felt that the writing was either overly obscure or overly obvious. I didn’t see many shades of grey in the presentation of themes, (perhaps why I liked A Little Cloud, it was only a little cloudy and therefore a nice balance?) which were generally pretty easy to spot: poverty; isolation; corruption in politics, religion, and money. In fact, occasionally the themes were so blatant as to be tiring.
The Dead, the final story in Dubliners, and considered by many to be the definition of a good short story, left me thinking “…and?” The climax wasn't climactic, the epiphany seemed neither ironically shallow or amazingly deep, it was just there.
The only thing I can conclude is that I simply don’t connect with James Joyce. Perhaps I don’t care about what he cares about in the way he cares about it. My ennui was not a matter of confusion, or a lack of comprehension. I’m simply not a fan. We look at the world in different ways. At least it has provided me with little Ghosts-of Dublin-Past to keep me company when I visit there in the spring...history, half-way alive.