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James Joyce (Oxford Lives S) Paperback – October 20, 1983

ISBN-13: 978-0195033816 ISBN-10: 0195033817 Edition: Revised

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Lives S
  • Paperback: 887 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (October 20, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195033817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195033816
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although several biographers have thrown themselves into the breach since this magisterial book first appeared in 1959, none have come close to matching the late Richard Ellmann's achievement. To be fair, Ellmann does have some distinct advantages. For starters, there's his deep mastery of the Irish milieu--demonstrated not only in this volume but in his books on Yeats and Wilde. He's also an admirable stylist himself--graceful, witty, and happily unintimidated by his brilliant subjects. But in addition, Ellmann seems to have an uncanny grasp on Joyce's personality: his reverence for the Irishman's literary accomplishment is always balanced by a kind of bemused affection for his faults. Whether Joyce is putting the finishing touches on Ulysses, falling down drunk in the streets of Trieste, or talking dirty to his future wife via the postal service, Ellmann's account always shows us a genius and a human being--a daunting enough task for a fiction writer, let alone the poor, fact-fettered biographer.

Review


"The genius of Ellmann's James Joyce is its abundance of detail--its wealth of anecdotes and letters, recovered conversations, and poems. It's a pleasure to salute this masterly book as it marches past again."--Newsweek



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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This book is a treasure.
Geoffrey Philp
Richard Ellmann's biography is the most definitive and complete examination of James Joyce that has been written.
R. DelParto
This expertise is demonstrated in this, the definative work on Joyce and his work.
M. A Newman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Welch (philostrate@hotmail.com) on January 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've just finished reading this masterful biography, and it has had the magical effect of making me forget all others. This is a simply splendid book -- a life of the greatest writer of the 20th Century that is so scrupulously detailed that one leaves it feeling you personally know and like the subject. Joyce is presented to us from all sides -- as friend, husband, father, drinker, raconteur and most importantly, writer; a man with unparalleled control of the English language and no control of life or money. One measure of the book's genius is that it makes you feel quite close to Joyce toward the end -- as he gets ever blinder and broker, his energy used up by a book he knows will go unread and a daughter who is slowly succumbing to mental illness.
I think of this book now almost as part of the Joyce canon. I'm not sure you can really know Joyce without knowing Ellmann's Joyce, too.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on October 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Richard Ellmann's biography is the most definitive and complete examination of James Joyce that has been written. This extensive work examines Joyce's life from his birth to his death. Ellmann's narrative derives from Joyce's letters as well as accounts from Joyce's brother, Stanislaus. The book is most revealing in offering an understanding of the process it took for Joyce to come up with his most monumental works, ULYSSES AND FINNEGANS WAKE. Ellmann states that Joyce intentionally made it difficult for anyone to understand what he wrote. He wanted to keep his critics, academics and scholars, guessing of what significance his nonsensical gibberish creation represented. In addition, Ellmann intertwines events that occurred in Joyce's life that show how they closely resemble the characters in the works he produced, such as his early work, A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN.

James Joyce most likely can be considered a "starving artist." He would go without a new pair of shoes until they wore down to the soles, but looked debonair and sophisticated with non-matching suits. In the beginning, he aspired to be a work within the realms of Jesuit studies, but later opted for a writing career that would take him from Trieste, Paris, and Zurich. Joyce struggled with poverty through out his life even as his most famous works were published. Monetary problems and health conditions that affected his eyesight never hindered his creative process. If he lost his eyesight, he probably would have continued to write blind. Joyce appeared to be an eccentric and stubborn man. However, Ellmann shows a caring and supporting man who loved his wife and children, and most of all, his father, John Stanislaus Joyce.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Jordan on April 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Richard Ellman was this nation's foremost Joyce scholar for almost three decades, and his great, vast biography is perhaps the best ever written of a literary figure. This book is a wonderful fusion of Ellman's unique critical vision and rigorous biographical technique. Beyond his obviously deep understanding of the subject, Ellman writes in an engaging, eloquent prose that kept me interested for the 750-page sprawl of the book. Going in, I was a vague admirer of Joyce's work; coming out, I felt ready to go forth to encounter for the millionth time the farthest reaches of his fiction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Clyde Phillips on July 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Don't let the size of the book (including 67 pages of footnotes) daunt you; this is a beautifully written account of one of the most enigmatic figures in literature that combines precise scholarship with a straightforward narrative style into a model for the biographic form. Scholars of Joyce have undoubtedly read and re-read this book; however, for those readers who are just now approaching Joyce, or for those readers who have been frightened by the prospect, this biography will make the introduction painless as well as pleasant. Ellmann's biography treats every aspect of Joyce's life including family, friends, and the creative processs that resulted in his masterpieces. As Ellmann remarks in his preface: "In working over these pages, I have felt all my affection for him [Joyce] renewed." The reader of this judicious work will close the final page with this same sentiment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on October 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
In all things about James Joyce, no one has exhibited more of an acute understanding of the man and his works than Richard Ellmann. He is the bridge by which readers who have not read Joyce or do not understand what they have read by him to the inner workings of the artist and his life.

This biography, "James Joyce" has been around for decades, virtually unchallenged. He presents to the reader all the facets of Joyce's life and personality. This is no mere star-gazing. Along with all the great things about Joyce, he also examines his weakness: his superstitions, his drinking, his occasional selfishnes, his sexual complexities, and his failure to really take care of his family. We get to see Joyce in all his dimensions and from several perspectives. That makes this book not only the best biography of James Joyce but one of the classic biographies of all time.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Min Sun Yee on June 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Richard Ellmann's biography of James Joyce is hands down among the three best or the best biography written in the 20th century. For anyone with a serious interest in Joyce or his writings, will truly enjoy getting to know Joyce and his writings through this book.

I've read maybe a few thousand reviews of other titles on this website but this is the first book I've felt I needed to comment on. I comment mainly because I noted that two reviewers gave this book "4 stars". What unmitigated gall!
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