Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Dubliners (James Joyce) (8.9/10.0)
Now, when I state a dislike of short stories in the context of a review of James Joyce, I feel guilty ... and I mean seriously guilty. Even the mention of Joyce conjures for me images of the staunch Irish Catholicism that I endured as a child and have been running from ever since. It’s enough to make me want to confess.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned ... it has been more than three years since my last short story.”
Fortunately for me, Dubliners is a bit different. First published in 1914, Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories (okay, it’s really 14 short stories and one novella) that depict middle class life in Dublin just after the turn of the twentieth century. The stories revolve primarily around topics that are near and dear to the Irish heart: death (The Sisters, A Painful Case, and (of course) The Dead), poverty (After the Race, The Boarding House, and Clay), alcohol (Counterparts and Grace), and politics (Ivy Day in the Committee Room). Now, even as I write it, that depiction sounds downright drab, but Joyce’s lyrical skills are at their peak in these stories, and every single one manages to warm your heart just as if you yourself were standing next to a peat fire in some country pub out on the cliffs of the old sod ordering a round of pints for the lads.
Between the consistency of the Dublin scene that it paints and the beautiful effect of Joyce’s lyrical prose, Dubliners is a very enjoyable read. In fact, though it was written by the same Joyce that we love and hate for Ulysses and (ugh) Finnegans Wake, Dubliners is even completely understandable! It makes me wonder what Joyce might have produced if he hadn’t grown so enamored of experimenting with form and language. Not that what he wrote wasn’t good ... I mean, the best ... oh there I go feeling guilty again. That’s what happens when you criticize the master. Does anyone have a rosary?