Literary Corner Cafe

Sunday, December 30, 2007

James Joyce and Dubliners

Here at Literary Corner Cafe, the other editors and I have been reading the fifteen short stories contained in Dubliners by James Joyce. None of us had read this book before, though some of us had read Ulysses, and now we wonder why we ignored Dubliners for so long.

Dubliners contains some of the most evocative and beautiful short stories ever written. We know some readers who have avoided Dubliners because they were forced to read Ulysses in school and found it either hard going or didn't like the (then) postmodernist writing style. To those people we would say - please be assured Dubliners is very, very different.

Dubliners is written in a very straightforward, realistic style. Joyce's intention in writing these marvelous stories, at least in part, was to give us a realistic view of middle class Dublin in the early twentieth century - and he certainly succeeds spectacularly.

The stories remind us of the view of Limerick presented in Frank McCourt's equally marvelous memoir, Angela's Ashes, however the people who populate the pages of Angela's Ashes are far poorer (in a monetary, though perhaps not a spiritual, sense) than those who populate the pages of Dubliners, the time period and city are different, and the stories in Dubliners have more of a haunting, melancholic feel and lack the humor of Angela's Ashes. These comments are not in any way a criticism of either book, however. We've found both to be superlative, with a writing style that perfectly suits the subject matter.

Here at Literary Corner Cafe, we've been very impressed by the way Joyce begins his stories with child protagonists and then ages them through the final, beautiful, haunting story, "The Dead." This is a story every lover of literature needs to read, even if he or she skips the ones preceeding it.

Dubliners was written when Joyce was only twenty-five-years-old. It's hard to believe anyone that young could write so spectacularly, but then we knew Joyce was an exception - and a genius. Ulysses shows us that genius in full flower. Dubliners shows us that genius as it's just beginning to blossom.

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