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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on September 6, 2012
This story is about the emergence of identity. Stephen Dedalus's consciousness is front and centre in the book as Joyce weaves together important vignettes from his life that all contribute to his hero's artistic realization. Language, as always, is vital to Joyce's understanding of how humans develop.

For instance, the first segment of the book begins with a fantastic childhood story that showcases Stephen's diction and syntactical choices--without his awareness of this fact. I enjoyed the subtle things about this part. For instance: Stephen sees his father's glasses only as "glass that his father looked at him from behind." Also, Joyce starts out the book's tacit use of Dante by rendering the regional pronunciation of "Auntie" as "Dante." That's how Stephen hears it, and that's how we do too. Another great moment is when Stephen is at boarding school and hears the gas vents "singing." He's unaware of his artistic potential, but Joyce is pointing us in that direction already.

But Joyce is not here to help us read. Rather, he wants to show us the ins-and-outs of a young boy's mind. That's a difficulty I can't blame anyone for having with his writing in general. It's something you either have to accept, deny, or shred, and then you can decide whether to read him or not. However, even if you go through those steps, you're already doing something that Joyce wanted in the first place. He's tricky that way.

In my honest opinion, a lot of people will love or hate this book. It's got dark colours throughout, gets murky when Stephen feels bad, but shines when he's on the verge of realizing himself. Joyce is destabilizing form to parallel the ups and downs of a young man's social, intellectual, and religious maturation. It's poetic that he chooses to write in this way, and particularly so for a young man. My advice is to read "Portrait" for a window into an early revelation in 20th Century English literature. If you 're happy with that, see what Virginia Woolf does with this style, and you won't be disappointed in the slightest.
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on March 8, 2013
Great Kindle edition of Joyce's first great novel, which seems unabridged and has not been "improved" by half-witted editors that regularly insist on changing Joyce's idiosyncratic punctuation, etc.

Portrait is at times sublime in its evocations of The Artist's thoughts and perceptions. Highly recommended on its own, and as an intoduction to one of Joyce's main characters in his magnum opus Ulysses.
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on November 8, 2007
If you're new to Joyce, this would the the book to start with. I definitely wouldn't start with Ulysses as that will put you off with its stream of consciousness. "Portrait" is much more user-friendly and easy to read. This novel is one of the greatest works in the English language. It is not only beautifully written but it can carry a different meaning for people at different stages of their life. Young high school students will find some themes very interesting while a man of 40 can draw new pleasure from reading it a second time. For those interested in Joyce's work, this is a good place to start, for it is easier than his other novels. This is not to say that it is an overly easy book to understand. Anyone who has read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner knows that the stream of conscienceness style of writing can at times stifle reading comprehension but for the most part give a unique, exciting view of a character. Overall, though, this is an excellent novel and worthy of anyone's effort. As I said, this is a good place to start if you're looking for a Joyce induction. Would also recommend the novels "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather and the Vonnegut book titled "Cat's Cradle"--these are something different as I don't like reading the same thing over na over.
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on July 2, 2004
Sure its pretentious, frustrating, difficult, etc., but it is also such a rewarding read. Boring sections like chapter 3 with the church sermon set up excellent ones, such as the end of Chapter 4, with Stephen's epiphany, which I must say is the most beautiful, glorious thing I have ever read. the emotion and symbolism (such as Stephen Dedalus taking flight from society much like his Greek namesake Daedalus did from an island) is simply overwhelming. I had to read this for a college english class (as well as write an essay on it) but i still enjoyed it. the stream of conciousness style may be too difficult and odd for some but i found a nice break from other literature, which is more than i can say for the similar novel To the Lighthouse by Woolf (also extremely good stylistically, but much less interesting). brilliant, but not a good introduction to joyce for those still in high school or not used to reading challenging literature. I would recommend "The Dead" to try him out first.
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on February 21, 2004
This is one of those great pieces that really divides the audience. If you read fellow reviewers' comments, one says that no-one should rate this below 4 stars while another says no-one should rate it above 1 star. Some people admit they don't get it, some people say there is nothing to get, and some dive deep into Joyce's world. What a gift!
For my own thoughts...as I rate it, I think I need to rate it more as a piece of art rather than a typical piece of literature. When I review literature, I consider character development, plot development, narrator's voice, story-telling ability, etc. With Joyce, he shows you so much and tells you so little, that it's really hard to nail alot of facts down. How old is he in the beginning? How many siblings did he have? Did he have a crush on the same girl throughout the book? Why did Dante have 2 brushes? What exactly caused his father's fall? There is just so much information that Joyce doesn't bother telling you. It's like the opposite of watching "The Wonder Years" or "Scrubs" where you get a play-by-play account of the action and a foreshadowing of what was to come.
At first I was very unnerved by his approach. I like to have a groundwork laid, and I didn't even know how old Dedalus was when the book started (I had trouble translating the Irish school system to an equivalent year here). However, the world as seen through an intelligent but vulnerable and geeky boy was fascinating. I loved the vivid accounts as seen by a child with no attempt to correct or add to this perspective by some adult voice.
As the story progresses, Joyce skips through time, apparently selecting important scenes in his young life. But he doesn't tell you they are important. He just shows them to you, like flipping through a picture book. He leaves you to draw up your own conclusions. If nothing else, it was clear that Dedalus (representing Joyce) was on a tough track. He had an artist's temperament even early on (emotionaly, extreme, caught within himself), but as his family slipped into poverty such a nature would be harder and harder to accept.
By about the middle of the book, I became completely enraptured with his use of metaphors...the images are so lovely, so perfect, so unforced that it hardly seems right to compare them with the crude, simple, ignoble ones I run into so often in literature. This mastery of words thrilled my soul, regardless of the plotline and character development; in this way, it was more like music than literature.
By the end I saw a clear progression of Dedalus' character, as is well described in the 2nd spotlight review. Not only does the complexity of the writing increase as Dedalus grows older, but his characater evolves as he tests the water in many arenas. He has gone from a pretentious child who is so vulnerable because he has no outlet and no understanding of how he is different to one who can dialog with the masters (Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, etc). He has found a home in academia and a vocabularly to express his inner worlds. He made not have found peace yet, but he has found that he has a place in this world.
However, again, I would say that the understanding you gain is more like that of glimpses gained through art than through literature. I don't know that I could ever fully understand everything he was talking about, why he was talking about, who he was referring to, etc. Therefore, I rate this highly as a masterful artistic rendering of a coming-of-age story. If you are looking for a clear fiction or biography, however, this might not be for you.
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on January 20, 2004
Every once in a while, when I happen to mention Joyce to one of my friends, I tend to get these kind of reactions: "booooring", "hard", "overpriced" "he's an idiot"
Well, every medal has two sides.
These oppinions are produced more often then not, with some kind of general recolection of thoughts that critics and publics gave to Joyce's "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's Wake"... complexity, and intelectuallnes of the "mere" book often has that kind of impact on general public.
But, be not afraid (even though I know that You do not consider yourself as a "general public"). This book is something different.
Joyce is in his early stages of hi litterarie work, just starting to experiment with the chain of tought technique, and the result is absoultely brilliant... what we have received is the most beautiful and compelling autobiography, one has written in the entire history of litterature. In a voice of Stephen Dedalus (character around whom, together with Leonard Bloom, Ulysses is built) Joyce presents his early childhood thoughts, Joyce preensets development of character that refusses as the time progresses any kind of bonding with govermenet, education, church or any other kind of institution while at the same time building his own, inside universe where things happen at his command, and by his direction.
Language is sometimes hard, and you'll catch yourself re-reading some passages with tendencie of better grasping his message, his tought, but 3/4 of the work is written in the most beutiful english you can imagine...
I strongly reccomend this book...
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on December 14, 2003
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is an autobiography novel about a Catholic boy named Stephen Dedalus going to college and his life. Stephen Dedalus goes to Clongowes Wood College in Ireland. At school, Wells is a bully who makes fun of Stephen and pushes him into a pool, so he got sick. Charles Parnell died in the novel. Father Dolan punishes Stephen by hitting his hand with a patty bat for making an excuse that he lost his glasses on purpose. Stephen was brave enough to complain to the rector saying that he shouldn't have been punished by Father Dolan. The rector said he would talk to Father Dolan and fix this situation. Stephen's classmates carried him up because he told the rector what happened and everyone thinks he's a hero.

One summer in Blackrock, Dublin, Stephen spends time with Uncle Charles and his father and they told him stories about their family history. Stephen's family has financial problems, so they moved to Dublin and Stephen transferred to Belvedere College. He begins to act in the play and plays the part of being a teacher. He receives a money award and treats his family to a nice dinner. He brought gifts to please his family and try to accept his family. Stephen has a crush on Emma by he never expresses his feelings toward her. Stephen expresses his feelings in a poem to Emma. He has his first sexual experience with a prostitute and then he feels sinful. He feels sinful that he couldn't confess to a priest about his sinful thoughts. He got accepted to the university and he feels happy because he made new friends and he felt free. Stephen confesses his sins to his friend Cranly and Cranly wants Stephen to interact more with his family about his problems. At the end, Stephen writes in his journal about his life.
The part that I liked is when Stephen went to the university because it was the part where he really started to mature and felt comfortable with his new friends. The bad part is when he felt sinful, he didn't confess to a priest at his school. The book was easy to read, but some words were difficult to understand. This book is about a boy going through life and obstacles to achieve his goals in writing, acting, and becoming an artist. I would recommend this to teenagers in high school and college students. If you're interested in this book and want to know more information about it, you should read this book.
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on October 29, 2003
This book is an interesting book about Stephen's life in college and how he had to overcome obstacles of family problems and his religious belief of God. It tells how he struggles with life in the real world. The style writing of the book was easy to read, but some of the vocabulary words were hard to understand. I liked the book because it tells about Stephen's life in college and so on. I liked the part where he stood up to the rector and told him that it was wrong for Father Dolan to punish him. I liked the part when Stephen went to the university because it was the part where he really started to mature and felt comfortable with his new friends. He felt free to write in his journal about events that happened in his life. The book was interesting talking about God (Jesus) and what happens to sinful people. The bad part of the book is when Stephen sinful for sleeping with the prostitute. He shouldn't have slept with her because there are consequences to his actions.
I would recommend this book to teenagers and adults because this book is hard to understand for younger children. I would recommend this book to college students because the book starts in college and goes on.
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on October 29, 2003
Unless you are a genius, you will not really enjoy this book with only one reading. Everything about this book is right, especially its literary structure. Joyce took about ten years writing it. At one point, it was a much longer book, but he chiseled it down to this jewel.
After my first reading, I felt a sense of accomplishment. But I knew there was more in the book than I got out of it. It was like Joyce dared me to reread it. My second reading was pure joy because I was able to grasp so much more of the book's structure than the first time around. He writes in stream-of-conscious, and understanding that is the real challenge. Events and creative language may appear random at first, but after looking at the novel's 'big picture,' you can see order.
The plot revolves around Stephen Daedalus' (James Joyce) coming of age, both as a young man and as an artist. Daedalus' personality and values contrast that of his Ireland, family, religion, etc. This is an auto-biography with plenty of artistic license. 'Stephen' was Christianity's first martyr. Daedalus was the creative genius in Greek mythology who made the Minotaur, the labyrinth, and Icarus' waxen wings. These types of detail pervade the novel. Take nothing for granted as you read.
This Penguin copy ISBN# 0451525442 has an excellent introduction. Do not start without reading an intro first. You will miss out.
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on October 29, 2003
This book is an interesting book about Stephen's life in college and how he had to overcome obstacles of family problems and his religious belief of God. It tells how he struggles with life in the real world. The style writing of the book was easy to read, but some of the vocabulary words were hard to understand. I liked the book because it tells about Stephen's life in college and so on. I liked the part where he stood up to the rector and told him that it was wrong for Father Dolan to punish him. I liked the part when Stephen went to the university because it was the part where he really started to mature and felt comfortable with his new friends. He felt free to write in his journal about events that happened in his life. The book was interesting talking about God (Jesus) and what happens to sinful people. The bad part of the book is when Stephen sinful for sleeping with the prostitute. He shouldn't have slept with her because there are consequences to his actions.
I would recommend this book to teenagers and adults because this book is hard to understand for younger children. I would recommend this book to college students because the book starts in college and goes on.
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