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Dubliners (White Seahorse Classics) Paperback – July 22, 2016
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About the Author
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist and poet. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde, and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the twentieth century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in an array of contrasting literary styles, perhaps most prominent among these the stream of consciousness technique he utilized. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, occasional journalism, and his published letters. Joyce was born in 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin—about half a mile from his mother's birthplace in Terenure—into a middle-class family on the way down. A brilliant student, he excelled at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, despite the chaotic family life imposed by his father's alcoholism and unpredictable finances. He went on to attend University College Dublin. In 1904, in his early twenties, Joyce emigrated permanently to continental Europe with his partner (and later wife) Nora Barnacle. They lived in Trieste, Paris, and Zurich. Though most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce's fictional universe centres on Dublin, and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there. Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses, he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal." As he was completing work on Dubliners in 1906, Joyce considered adding another story featuring a Jewish advertising canvasser called Leopold Bloom under the title Ulysses. Although he did not pursue the idea further at the time, he eventually commenced work on a novel using both the title and basic premise in 1914. The writing was completed in October 1921. Three more months were devoted to working on the proofs of the book before Joyce halted work shortly before his self-imposed deadline, his 40th birthday (2 February 1922). from wikipedia
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Joyce reveals to us a boy whose adventure leads to a brush with a child molester; a young woman planning to elope but choosing the safety of domestic servitude at the last minute; a boarding house proprietor who turns a blind eye as her daughter gets pregnant by one of the residents; a rage-filled clerk who craves drink and takes out his frustration on his colleagues and family; an emotionally remote man who spurns the affection of a woman and is confronted with his own loneliness when he sees her obituary in the paper. In the final story, the novella-length "The Dead," Gabriel is an educated but socially awkward character who suddenly realizes that his lack of engagement with life is profoundly crippling.
These characters don't seem to be putting their best feet forward for the reader's entertainment, but they ARE drenched in their own realities. The trappings of religion thread through the stories ("the Holy Ghost and the banshee"), as do poverty, drink, repression, fear and rage. Was this the Ireland feeling its national identity, unfurling itself after the Local Government Act set it on a liberating course to Home Rule? Dubliners is like a family portrait taken early in the morning after a long, hard night; there's no romanticizing and it may not be the whole truth, but you have to acknowledge that the shadowed eyes and weary postures have a crystalline reality. Five stars.
Linda Bulger, 2008