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“Dubliners” by James Joyce: a book review

I enjoyed this more now in my mid-twenties than I would have in high school, but slice-of-life naturalism in general suffers from lack of dramatic tension. It’s like, “peek-a-boo, my country this, sad hopelessness that,” and then the book is over.

Yeah, some of this is pretty writing. A lot is not. He was 22 when he wrote this.

I have no doubt that these pieces were revelatory a century ago, specifically to the Irish, but today the aspects of human nature which Joyce wanted to illuminate are well explored in popular media. We’ve had decades to dissect our lives, our wants, our needs, our faults; and the things that make us different, strong, and weak; TV, songs, writing, tales of war, science, societial constructs, and other, frankly, more accessible writings.

Your average, contemporary reader – in any country – will find this work taxing to read and self-serving. This is not fun, Sunday morning light reading. In fact, I bet if you were not made to reade Joyce in high school or college, MOST young adults or adults for that matter would never touch this stuff.

You can respect Joyce, but, and forgive me for saying this, you’re an asshole if you love his work. If you really enjoy it and own it all and think few things are better. Ha. Joyce was in love with his self at a young age, and the pretension shows through everything he ever wrote. Get over his writing, get over yourself.

“Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is the only other piece I will ever attempt by Joyce. I’ve read it is the second most easily digestible next to “Dubliners.” Avoid “Finnegan’s Wake” and “Ulysses” like the plague. Long, obnoxious, literary tomes of garbage, gargantuan experiements tinged with a pleasure for the scent of one’s own shit.

My, my, my, look how I can write – some of his work seems to exude.

How good can something be when many only happen to read it during their seventh year Master’s in English Theory and half the class still doesn’t enjoy it? With writing for such a niche of scholars and used as such a pillar of 20th Century study, how and why could the majority of readers appreciate and read such work? Don’t all authors want the largest group possible to reflect and consume their work? Am I crazy here?

Dubliners is what I would recommend to a “first-timer”: nowhere near the self-indulgence of other work, i.e. “Ulysses.” Ugh.

Pioneering a style and setting the precedent only gets you so much praise from me – the rest of your writing as to be, I don’t know, good.

2.5/5

MH

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