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August Books 20) Dubliners, by James Joyce

Q: What is the difference between a joist and a girder?

A: Joyce wrote Ulysses and Goethe wrote Faust.

Joyce would probably have appreciated this apocryphal exchange between an Irish arts student and the manager of the building site where he was applying for a job. Not that there's a lot of laughs in Dubliners; it's an unsentimental, realistic, very recognisable set of sketches of life a hundred years ago in the capital city, which itself is a character lurking in the backgroound of the stories. It's noticeable how many of the characters are mildly dissolute young men, though Joyce does his best with others as well, and although, for instance, "The Dead" is told largely from Gabriel's point of view, the story is about the women - his aunts, the radical Miss Ivors, and his own wife Gretta who he knows less well than he thought. They are all pretty vivid sketches; "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" particularly caught my eye because of my own past activities, though in fact it's much more about the social relationships of the committee room team than about electoral politics as such. I read both Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses many years ago, and am rather ashamed that it took me until now to consume the 161 pages of measured prose in this collection; at least I have finally done so.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 21st, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
I think the end of 'The Dead' is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful things ever created by human hands. I get tingly just thinking about it.

Only Finnegan's Wake to go!
Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you FINALLY did get to it. For me this has long (like 40 years long) been a favourite book. Amplifying what altariel said, I think 'The Dead' is one of the most perfect short stories ever written in English.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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