Wednesday, September 15, 2010

James Joyce, anyone?

Let's chat, shall we?  About James Joyce?  Dubliners, to be precise. I've begun reading it since I'm on an Irish Lit kick (gearing up for a trip to Ireland in March) and it's a book I already own.  It is a collection of 15 short stories, of which I've read the first four.

And I feel like I'm missing something.

They are fine short stories: interesting sketches of a moment in a Dubliner's life.  But I feel like I'm not catching that elemental meaning.  As of yet there has been nothing that has grabbed me as being wonderful...they don't feel like they are saying anything.  Or if they are, I'm clueless.

Perhaps I need more background on Joyce and his stories?
Maybe the collection has more of an overall effect, rather than each story individually?

I have a small high-school level study guide in which I've read the excerpt about Joyce and Dubliners, but I'm not sure it has helped me so much.  If anything it has made me think that Joyce was perhaps a little haughty about his writing.  I tend to get irritated when I perceive arrogance: when the symbolism is so great and the personal connection so little that extreme analysis is required in order to pull any meaning out of a book I start feeling a little rebellious.

My impression, at this point, is that Joyce was disillusioned with the church and stagnancy of Dublin, but instead of attempting to connect the reader with this opinion in some sort of personal way, he remains aloof.  As if he was derisive of the rest of Dublin that didn't escape the stifling tradition as he did.

If you have anything to say, I'd love to hear it.  Why are these stories unique?  Why are they great, a must-read? What do I need to keep in mind while reading them?


  1. I've only read two stories from Dubliners so far but I've enjoyed them.

    I recently did an in-depth post on "Araby" you might like. I pick out a lot of the elements.

    I'm jealous that you're going to Ireland! That's one place I've always wanted to visit!

  2. Thanks for directing me to your post! After going through your analysis I'm thinking that I might try re-reading the stories a few times and see if my appreciation for them changes at all.

    I liked in Araby how the bazaar was a huge deal in the boy's mind, but obviously wasn't to everyone else. We've all had times when we get wrapped up in something and then have reality crash in on us. But at the same time I didn't really feel connected to anything in the story--I didn't feel his revelation, you know?

    Thanks for commenting. Do you think that perhaps I was just reading the story too fast? Maybe they warrant a closer, slower look?

  3. I loved Dubliners when I read it. I know what you mean thought, sometimes it's difficult to find an overarching meaning when reading the stories all together. One time I wrote a paper about how each story works together to tell one overall story, starting with a sort of "birth" in the beginning, and ending with death in the last (the last story being of course "The Dead.") I think I was mostly BSing to get a good grade on the paper, which I did, haha. But I don't know, maybe there is more to that.

    On a more simple level, I liked how each story highlighted one small, every day emotion or occurrence that we usually don't pay any attention to when they happen to us.

    I'm extremely interested to see what other people say though so I hope you get some more comments here.

  4. Maybe my problem was reading it before bed when I was too tired! There's some stuff that you just have to devote more brain cells to--not necessarily in order to understand it, but to appreciate it properly.

  5. I would love to help, but this is pretty much how I've felt every time I've given Joyce a go. (Which, okay, has only been twice. But still.) Also, this:

    "[W]hen the symbolism is so great and the personal connection so little that extreme analysis is required in order to pull any meaning out of a book I start feeling a little rebellious."

    YES!! I am with you all the way.

  6. Well, Erin, I have to say that I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there responding to Joyce like this! I still have some stories to go, though, so it could change. We'll see. :)


I'd love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!