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Dubliners
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2001
Little snippets of life among the Irish working class. I read this book for the first time in my early 20's. Although I enjoyed it then, I liked it even more ten years later. This is one of those books that you appreciate more when you have some life experiences to compare it with.
Good strong believable characters and a subtle writing style that let's you draw your own conclusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a wonderful collection of stories by the unique James Joyce. This book reads like impressionism on paper, painting transcendent watercolors with language. Each story is a portrait of Dublin life, but the Dublin portrayed here could have been any city in the world, full of pain, joy, laughter, sadness, regret, and Humanity. This book is the best place to start with Joyce, because the narrative hasn't developed into the ambiguity found in later works such as Ulysses. For first-timers, Dubliners is the Joycean work that is most friendly and affecting. But it's still miles away from any other author's work (Including JOyce's own).
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on June 30, 2002
Perfection is the best way to describe this classic story collection by the legendary James Joyce. Dubliners follows the lives of ordinary folks in early twentieth century Ireland. Instead of using dramatic events such as many conventional short stories do, Joyce centered his tales on what seemed to be inconsequential. This groundbreaking literary formula succeeded and Dubliners went on to become one of the most greatly praised and athologized works of all time. By focusing on the magnitude of simple things, Joyce provided writing that truly connects the reader with the character through empathy. Examples of such include Araby in which an adolescent boy seeks romance and idealizes a beautiful girl who pays him no mind, and A Painful Case that portrays a lonely man who is haunted by a relationship he had with a married woman after he hears of her untimely death.
Each story in Dubliners contains gorgeously descriptive passages and words that dance across the pages. Though the themes may be dismal and the people Joyce writes of often come up empty-handed, the reader will likely find an underlying optimism that hardship builds strength and hope will prevail.
Interestingly, Dubliners barely came to print. Years of controversy hindered the 1914 release of the book, as many publishers regarded the stories as immoral and risque. Fortunately the public embraced it, and today we should all be required to read this enduring work by one of Ireland's finest, Mr. James Joyce.
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on April 13, 2002
The first of James Joyce's books, "Dubliners" is a collection of fifteen stories written between 1904 and 1907. Joyce wrote the first of the fifteen stories in this collection, "Sisters," in Ireland in 1904. The story was published in August of that year under the pseudonym "Stephen Daedalus." Joyce wrote the last, longest and most famous of the stories, "The Dead," in Rome in 1907. The stories were published in the book known as "Dubliners" in 1914. While there are many editions of "Dubliners" in print, the definitive edition of the work is generally considered to be the corrected text prepared by Robert Scholes in consultation with Richard Ellman, Joyce's biographer. Random House publishes the Scholes edition under its Modern Library imprint and I recommend this edition.
"Dubliners" stands as one of the Ur-texts of modernism, a startlingly original collection of stories set in turn-of-the-century Dublin that began the Joycean literary project. That project subsequently moved through the increasingly difficult, and characteristically modernist, iterations of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's Wake." Like those succeeding texts, the interested reader can find thousands of pages of commentary on "Dubliners," the study of Joyce's works being akin to a Talmudic undertaking, an undertaking that can, if one chooses, occupy an entire life.
Joyce once commented that the stories of "Dubliners" constitute a "chapter of moral history" that represents the "first step towards the spiritual liberation of [Ireland]." He also said, "I call the series 'Dubliners' to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city." The stories are, in other words, inherently critical (although also, at times, appreciative) of the Dublin life that Joyce abandoned, living and writing as an expatriate in Paris, Trieste, Rome, and Zurich for nearly the entirety of his adult life.
The stories operate on two levels. On one level, the stories are realistic narratives of every day life in Dublin. On another level, however, the stories are suffused with symbolism, with recurring, allusive images of spiritual, sexual and political meanings that mark a departure from nineteenth century literary realism and make "Dubliners" an enduring, and deservedly canonical, modernist narrative.
The first story, "Sisters," begins with a striking example of the tone of the stories in "Dubliners." A young boy stands, in the evening, looking up at the shadows flickering through the window of an upstairs room where a priest is dying:
"Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word 'paralysis'. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word 'gnomon' in the Euclid and the word 'simony' in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work."
Thus, a vivid, realistic image appears in the reader's mind, but so does a collection of words that suggest meanings and themes that go far beyond the real, that capture physical and intellectual and religious undercurrents, the inner life of a young boy living in Dublin.
"Sisters" is a brilliant story, as is "The Dead" and nearly every other story in "Dubliners" (excluding, perhaps, one or two, the worst being "After the Race," a story that Joyce reluctantly included in the collection). Realistic in its narratives, richly allusive in its language and symbolism, "Dubliners" is one of a handful of story collections that truly deserves the label "classic" and should be read and studied by every serious reader.
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on March 15, 2002
Dubliners is a monument to the power of observation, elegantly translated. Speaking as someone who has tried off and on to write short fiction, Joyce's book at once inspires and devastates the creative impulse. Why bother? So many times I've felt like Little Chandler in A Little Cloud, who has a brief revelatory moment, thinks he might be able to write a poem about it, and then immediately begins to imagine the praise that the critics will heap on his fine collection. Could anything be more deeply, laughably human?
I can't imagine how anyone who likes to read and has lived among other human beings could not appreciate at least a few of the stories. For me, they're life affirming in a deeper way than any religion could be. And that's what Joyce intended. He wanted us to stop looking for redemption in some vague nether region and look as closely as we can manage at the life right here in front of our eyes. Joyce asks that we look at ourselves and see, really see, what we are, because only then can we get beyond all the fear, vanity, and self-delusion.
All the great myths weren't handed down from on high; they came from us. We have all the power. It's just a matter of using it, which is exactly what the Dubliners, and a pretty high percentage of the human race, now and forever, have not done.
There are a few stories in Dubliners that don't quite measure up, but the majority rank among the best ever written. I don't know of any literature more perfect than Araby and The Dead.
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on December 19, 2001
The first of James Joyce's books, "Dubliners" is a collection of fifteen stories written between 1904 and 1907. Joyce wrote the first of the fifteen stories in this collection, "Sisters," in Ireland in 1904. The story was published in August of that year under the pseudonym "Stephen Daedalus." Joyce wrote the last, longest and most famous of the stories, "The Dead," in Rome in 1907. The stories were published in the book known as "Dubliners" in 1914. While there are many editions of "Dubliners" in print, the definitive edition of the work is generally considered to be the corrected text prepared by Robert Scholes in consultation with Richard Ellman, Joyce's biographer. Random House publishes the Scholes edition under its Modern Library imprint and I recommend this edition.
"Dubliners" stands as one of the Ur-texts of modernism, a startlingly original collection of stories set in turn-of-the-century Dublin that began the Joycean literary project. That project subsequently moved through the increasingly difficult, and characteristically modernist, iterations of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's Wake." Like those succeeding texts, the interested reader can find thousands of pages of commentary on "Dubliners," the study of Joyce's works being akin to a Talmudic undertaking, an undertaking that can, if one chooses, occupy an entire life.
Joyce once commented that the stories of "Dubliners" constitute a "chapter of moral history" that represents the "first step towards the spiritual liberation of [Ireland]." He also said, "I call the series 'Dubliners' to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city." The stories are, in other words, inherently critical (although also, at times, appreciative) of the Dublin life that Joyce abandoned, living and writing as an expatriate in Paris, Trieste, Rome, and Zurich for nearly the entirety of his adult life.
The stories operate on two levels. On one level, the stories are realistic narratives of every day life in Dublin. On another level, however, the stories are suffused with symbolism, with recurring, allusive images of spiritual, sexual and political meanings that mark a departure from nineteenth century literary realism and make "Dubliners" an enduring, and deservedly canonical, modernist narrative.
The first story, "Sisters," begins with a striking example of the tone of the stories in "Dubliners." A young boy stands, in the evening, looking up at the shadows flickering through the window of an upstairs room where a priest is dying:
"Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word 'paralysis'. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word 'gnomon' in the Euclid and the word 'simony' in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work."
Thus, a vivid, realistic image appears in the reader's mind, but so does a collection of words that suggest meanings and themes that go far beyond the real, that capture physical and intellectual and religious undercurrents, the inner life of a young boy living in Dublin.
"Sisters" is a brilliant story, as is "The Dead" and nearly every other story in "Dubliners" (excluding, perhaps, one or two, the worst being "After the Race," a story that Joyce reluctantly included in the collection). Realistic in its narratives, richly allusive in its language and symbolism, "Dubliners" is one of a handful of story collections that truly deserves the label "classic" and should be read and studied by every serious reader.
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on December 5, 2001
I wish I could stand up here and make some pretentious claim that this is the "greatest short story collection of all time!" or something along those lines but I generally don't read short stories or short story collections. But I like James Joyce and so figured what the heck, I made it through Ulysses, this should be a cakewalk. So I read it and if you were wowed by Ulysses then this should reconfirm Joyce's genius for you and that he could do other writing besides that wacky postmodern stuff (before there really was a postmodern). If you're not a Joyce fan most of these (other than a notable handful) probably won't convert you. In essence these are Joyce's portraits of the people of Dublin and the city itself, most of these stories are character sketches, mostly following a few people around as they go about their lives. They were written over a period of time so the quality does vary a bit, the first few stories I don't find anything special but by the time you get to around "Two Gallants" the quality takes a sharp spike upward and stays there right until the end. The prose is fairly easy to follow, the worst part is deciphering all the Irish names and slang that are used liberally for obvious reasons . . . if anything it showed me how two cultures who technically speak the language can sound so different. The stories run the gamut of the "slice of life" genre, if such a thing exists, showing people from all walks of life and all classes of society, showing them as realistically as Joyce could, all their fears and foibles, warts and all. At his best he makes you live the lives of the characters and immerses you deeply into the city of Dublin, probably more than any group of short stories has ever brought a city to life. If you're still not convinced, then take this advice, buy the book for the sake of only one story, the last story in the collection, "The Dead" . . . simply put it is one of the best pieces of short fiction I have ever read. It starts off mundanely enough at a party but by the time the characters leave the party and go back to their hotel the writing becomes something almost otherworldly and Joyce starts writing some of the most evocative prose ever put on paper. If the last few pages don't send chills down your spine, then you must be dead. That's the only explanation. After that gem, everything else is just icing on the cake. Simply put, everyone should read "The Dead" and if you're the type of person whose fancy shall be struck by the rest of the stories here, so much the better.
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on March 23, 2001
The book is a series of short stories about different groups of people in Dublin, Ireland. Joyce uses these short stories to expose the social wrongs and paralysis of morals around the turn of the 20th century in Dublin. All of the stories end in tragedy, sadness, or continuation of a previous wrong. James Joyce's Dubliners was an interesting book, to say the least. At times I riveted by its description and imagery, and at other times I was lulled to sleep by its lack of movement. I also felt that the dark, almost gothic, feel of the book pushed me away. I think, though, that the main reason that I didn't enjoy the book completely was because I feel that I missed a lot of the symbolism that Joyce intended to use to prove his points. One of the main issues that Joyce addressed was the saturation of alcoholism. The characters used alcohol as a "cure-all" for their problems. I am reminded of one story in which a man literally gets fired over his alcohol addiction. He thought that he couldn't meet his deadline for work so he gave up. He decided to go to the bar and drink. For no reason; he just wanted to drink. He ended up spending all the money that he and his family had. He came home in a drunken rage and beat his kid. That is the feeling surrounding Joyce's short stories. I think that Joyce was trying to prove a point about the things that he saw as problems during the time that he spent in Dublin. I don't like the way that he went about it. Either I don't understand it fully, or I just don't like the way he did it. His stories are full of description, but the plot in each of them moves very slowly; then it all falls apart quickly at the end in a tragedy. His writing didn't grab me as I expected it would. I almost fell asleep during most of the book. Then, as I get to the end of each short story, I feel sick about the way that he ended them. But then maybe that is the point that he is trying to show: that the people are so lulled by their problems that they don't notice them until it ends in tragedy. I think that he could have gone about making his points differently, though. I don't think that he took into account the reader. Most people didn't feel as adamant about the things that Joyce is exposing as he did, and I think that he needed to keep the reader interested along the way. I think that if he went about it this way he would get his point across in a more profound and impact full way. I think that it could be possible that the symbolism that Joyce used, if that is what he was trying to do, could have just been over my head. You have the feeling throughout the book that you are missing the point of how he is trying to communicate with you. At times you feel that he is just rambling for no reason and you want to know why he is saying what he is saying. It makes you feel lost as a reader. I hated that feeling. I think that if he was going to use symbolism, he should have made the meanings of things a lot more clear. For example, at the end of the book it starts snowing and you get the feeling that the snow is supposed to mean something as a symbol of how things are going to end or what the characters are going to do next in their life, but you don't know what. You are completely at a loss for what it was supposed to mean. Well, at least I was. It could have been done better. This book is hard to understand and not very uplifting, but I must admit that the description and imagery is extraordinary, sometimes to its downfall. I also think that this book could have been more reader friendly, but I did enjoy some of parts of the book: the parts that I understood. I would recommend this book to anyone that feels like they are up to the challenge of trying to understand Joyce's mysteries in his Dubliners, but if you are looking for an easy, uplifting read stay clear of this one because you will be thoroughly disappointed as I was.
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on March 23, 2001
The book is a series of short stories about different groups of people in Dublin, Ireland. Joyce uses these short stories to expose the social wrongs and paralysis of morals around the turn of the 20th century in Dublin. All of the stories end in tragedy, sadness, or continuation of a previous wrong. James Joyce's Dubliners was an interesting book, to say the least. At times I riveted by its description and imagery, and at other times I was lulled to sleep by its lack of movement. I also felt that the dark, almost gothic, feel of the book pushed me away. I think, though, that the main reason that I didn't enjoy the book completely was because I feel that I missed a lot of the symbolism that Joyce intended to use to prove his points. One of the main issues that Joyce addressed was the saturation of alcoholism. The characters used alcohol as a "cure-all" for their problems. I am reminded of one story in which a man literally gets fired over his alcohol addiction. He thought that he couldn't meet his deadline for work so he gave up. He decided to go to the bar and drink. For no reason; he just wanted to drink. He ended up spending all the money that he and his family had. He came home in a drunken rage and beat his kid. That is the feeling surrounding Joyce's short stories. I think that Joyce was trying to prove a point about the things that he saw as problems during the time that he spent in Dublin. I don't like the way that he went about it. Either I don't understand it fully, or I just don't like the way he did it. His stories are full of description, but the plot in each of them moves very slowly; then it all falls apart quickly at the end in a tragedy. His writing didn't grab me as I expected it would. I almost fell asleep during most of the book. Then, as I get to the end of each short story, I feel sick about the way that he ended them. But then maybe that is the point that he is trying to show: that the people are so lulled by their problems that they don't notice them until it ends in tragedy. I think that he could have gone about making his points differently, though. I don't think that he took into account the reader. Most people didn't feel as adamant about the things that Joyce is exposing as he did, and I think that he needed to keep the reader interested along the way. I think that if he went about it this way he would get his point across in a more profound and impact full way. I think that it could be possible that the symbolism that Joyce used, if that is what he was trying to do, could have just been over my head. You have the feeling throughout the book that you are missing the point of how he is trying to communicate with you. At times you feel that he is just rambling for no reason and you want to know why he is saying what he is saying. It makes you feel lost as a reader. I hated that feeling. I think that if he was going to use symbolism, he should have made the meanings of things a lot more clear. For example, at the end of the book it starts snowing and you get the feeling that the snow is supposed to mean something as a symbol of how things are going to end or what the characters are going to do next in their life, but you don't know what. You are completely at a loss for what it was supposed to mean. Well, at least I was. It could have been done better. This book is hard to understand and not very uplifting, but I must admit that the description and imagery is extraordinary, sometimes to its downfall. I also think that this book could have been more reader friendly, but I did enjoy some of parts of the book: the parts that I understood. I would recommend this book to anyone that feels like they are up to the challenge of trying to understand Joyce's mysteries in his Dubliners, but if you are looking for an easy, uplifting read stay clear of this one because you will be thoroughly disappointed as I was.
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on March 23, 2001
When I first began to read this book I thought it was hard to understand, and it didn't seem very interesting. The first chapter was "The sisters." I read it carefully trying to understand everything to build a good foundation to be able to comprehend better the other chapters. But when I finally got to the second chapter, "An encounter," I realized that it had nothing to do with "The sisters." They were two completely different stories. However, the more I read the more I realized that the fifteen stories that comprise Dubliners, while different, contain many of the same themes and settings. Most of the characters in "Dubliners" belong to the middle and low Irish classes of the twentieth century. Something common among all the personages in the book is their inability to decide by themselves. The subordination to England and to the Catholic Church limits their freedom to choose how and where they want to live their lives. Most of the characters feel isolated and unworthy. In "After the Race," Jimmy feels as if he doesn't really fit in the community of the people he is living with. Irish's weaknesses and low motivation to leave the terrible situation they are in tempt them to escape from the real world through things like alcohol or dominance. In Dubliners the use of alcohol as a way of escape is very common among men. At the same time, women try to escape their situation by controlling their daughters' lives. Some examples of controlling mothers are seen in the "Boarding House" and in "Eveline." In the "Boarding House." Mrs. Mooney's (the mother) intentions are to get her daughter married to one of the clients at the boarding house regardless of her daughter's happiness. In "Eveline," the mother plays the role of an unhappy woman who forces her daughter to follow the same steps she did. The stories also have a symbolic meaning. The English dominance and the Catholic Church are sometimes exposed by symbols. For example, in "Araby," the dominance of the father over the family can be representative of the power of the English dominance and the Catholic Church over Ireland. Because of the dominance found throughout the book, the atmosphere in the novel is that of pessimism and darkness. There is a shadowy environment in most of the stories except in the last one, "the dead." The characters of "the dead" are mainly teachers. Their economical situation is better than the other characters' in the book. Christmas time and the white snow are both symbols of hope and progression. Christmas is usually associated with the birth of Jesus Christ and therefore hope. The white snow means cleanliness of the old, which would be progression. This is a novel meant to help you understand the Irish culture in the 1900's. It also will help you experience the feeling of oppression and dominance the Irish people had. Through the characters in the book you'll be able to see life from different perspectives, having always present the pressure of the twentieth century in Ireland, which is the main theme of the book.
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