Friday, October 26, 2012

Dubliners by James Joyce

Dubliners by James Joyce is a collection of short stories all set in (or near?) Dublin, Ireland. James Joyce is not an unfamous author, obviously. To be honest, when I picked up the book, the most I knew was that the author was famous, and that he was Irish. As I just moved to (and this was news to me) a city that boasts a decent amount of Irish heritage, I decided to pick it up. It helped that it cost a mere 3 dollars, and there was nothing else in the store I was interested in and could afford.

When I started reading the book, I didn't have high hopes. I am, overall, not a fan of short stories and I tend to shy away from books with a heavy dialect, and I wasn't sure how the writing would reflect the speech of the people.

I was more than pleasantly surprised. I read the 224 pages with more speed than I've read anything in quite some time. The stories were published in 1914 and they definitely reflected the era. Because of the time frame of the stories there were certain hurdles for me when it came to the culture and the slang the characters used, but after the first couple of stories I was able to grasp more and more given the context. There was absolutely no dialect issue. It was more like reading a regency type romance, only with a more authentic feel.

Some of the stories grabbed my attention very quickly, while some piqued my interest just enough to lead me along until BAM! the story was over and I was left confused as to the point.
This was, until I called a friend of mine and explained to her my issue with the sudden conclusion or swift change in plot line, and she kindly explained to me that James Joyce was a stream of consciousness writer. Taking that into consideration, I've realized that he was absolutely BRILLIANT at it. I'm sure everyone else knew, but with this new outlook the stories meant so much more to me. 

The first story in this collection was the one that really grabbed me and changed my early prediction that I wouldn't enjoy the rest. The way that Joyce writes, within a few paragraphs you feel some sort of connection to the character. You may not understand what the story is doing, but you know that you feel a certain way about the person you're reading about. In Sisters  the story is roughly about a boy who has lost a good friend, and his observations of the adults around him and their dealings with the death of a priest.

All of the stories in Dubliners center around emotions to an extent and how the characters react to the immediate situations around them. There were times when this was extremely poetic, and times where it was confusing, or just plain sad. This is a very melancholy collection, though that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, honestly.

Eveline, a story about a woman getting ready to leave the country with her fiance, really caught me. It was a story based almost strictly on emotion, and the way in which Joyce writes led me to feel as if I was impacted by what the character was feeling just as much if not more than she was. Sometimes, when I read books or stories that come from a male author but about a female character, I can really tell that the author has never had ovaries but James Joyce does not fall into this category.

In the story Counterparts, I really didn't enjoy the main character at all. He was annoying, whiny, and abusive. The story itself was great, but Joyce was quite able to illicit some angry emotions from me. On the other hand, A Painful Case, in which a character is quite moral and finds that it didn't end the way he thought it would, I really wanted to reach out to everyone involved and make them feel better.

The longest story, The Dead, was the last and maybe most confusing of them all. It wasn't like the others in the way that it confused me, where I wasn't sure where the story was going or I wasn't able to discern terms through context. It was confusing because the point of the story really didn't come out until the last page or so, but the story itself was about 20 pages long. So the entire time I was confused as to what Joyce was leading up to.

All in all- since this is my first time with the author, I could definitly see myself reading more. I'm not sure that I am ready to jump into Ulysses right now, but I plan on putting more Joyce on my plate in the future.  

Specs on the Book:

My copy was published in 1961 by Viking Press
Page Length: 224
ISBN: None
Where can you get a copy: Amazon has many types, including a quite affordable copy for the Kindle

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