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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Paperback – February 27, 2017
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Autobiographical novel by James Joyce, published serially in The Egoist in 1914-15 and in book form in 1916; considered by many the greatest bildungsroman in the English language. The novel portrays the early years of Stephen Dedalus, who later reappeared as one of the main characters in Joyce's Ulysses (1922). Each of the novel's five sections is written in a third-person voice that reflects the age and emotional state of its protagonist, from the first childhood memories written in simple, childlike language to Stephen's final decision to leave Dublin for Paris to devote his life to art, written in abstruse, Latin-sprinkled, stream-of-consciousness prose. The novel's rich, symbolic language and brilliant use of stream-of-consciousness foreshadowed Joyce's later work. The work is a drastic revision of an earlier version entitled Stephen Hero and is the second part of Joyce's cycle of works chronicling the spiritual history of humans from Adam's Fall through the Redemption. The cycle began with the short-story collection Dubliners (1914) and continued with Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (1939). -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
1. It's extremely cheap.
2. It features a very long and immensely insightful (32-page) introduction by Jaqueline Belanger, which includes a biography, publishing background, sections on language structure, irony, etc. There are also many suggestions for further syntopic or critical reading.
3. The thing is complete and unabridged.
4. There are extensive footnotes at the end, which are keyed throughout in the text, explaining all the Latin and the extinct realia of Joyce's world.
In short, get it.
As for the work itself, it's a very good prepper for "Ulysses:" I started that novel without having done this one. Later I came back to this: much was made clearer. Don't make my mistake.
When Stephen is a baby, you get only what comes in through the five senses. When he is a young boy, you get the experience refracted through a prism of many things: his illness (for those who've read Ulysses, here is the beginning of Stephen's hydrophobia - "How cold and slimy the water had been! A fellow had once seen a big rat jump into the scum."), his poor eyesight, the radically mixed signals he's been given about religion and politics (the Christmas meal), his unfair punishment, and maybe most important of all, his father's unusual expressions (growing up with phrases like, "There's more cunning in one of those warts on his bald head than in a pack of jack foxes" how could this kid become anything but a writer?)
It is crucial to understand that Stephen's experiences are being given a certain inflection in this way when you come to the middle of the book and the sermon. You have to remember that Stephen has been far from a good Catholic boy. Among other things, he's been visting the brothels! The sermon hits him with a special intensity, so much so that it changes his life forever. Before it he's completely absorbed in the physical: food, sex, etc. After it he becomes just as absorbed in the spiritual/aesthetic world. It's the sermon that really puts him on the track to becoming an artist. One reviewer called the sermon overwrought. Well, of course it's overwrought. That's the whole point. Read it with your sense of humor turned on and keep in mind that you're getting the sermon the way you get everything else in the book: through Stephen.
After Stephen decides he doesn't want to be a priest, the idea of becoming an artist really starts to take hold. And when he sees the girl on the beach, his life is set for good. That scene has to be one of the most beautiful in all of literature. After that, Stephen develops his theory of esthetics with the help of Aristotle and Aquinas and we find ourselves moving from one conversation to another not unlike in Plato (each conversation with the appropriate inflection of college boy pomposity). In the end, Stephen asks his "father" to support him as he goes into the real world to create something. I like to think that this is an echo of the very first line in the book. The father, in one of many senses, is the moocow story. The story gave birth to Stephen's imagination and now it's the son's turn to create.
This is such a rich and beautiful book. I suppose it's possible for people to "get it" and still not like it, but I really think if you read and re-read, and maybe do a little research, the book will open up to you the way it did to me.
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