Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
I don't know where you live, but here in the Midwest, we have finally gotten some beautiful weather. It's mid-60s and gorgeous today. Too bad it might snow tomorrow.

All this cold weather has been great for reading and cozy nights, but I am more than ready for summer!

After my rough experience with James Joyce last year, I can admit that I was dreading this step on the 100 Best Novels journey. 

Ok, ok, before all you Joyce lovers start up again, you should know that I now realize I should have used some sort of guide when I read Ulysses. My fault there. I'll have to try again when I am older, wiser, and ready to hold Joyce in one hand and a companion guide in the other. I can assure you, that will be many years from now.

With all that in mind, I tentatively approached A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I have approached the Modern Library list with a very loose top-to-bottom approach. Portrait is #4. The time had come. I had given myself enough space after Ulysses and figured it better to get it over with quickly than dread it for months or even years to come.

Despite all my trepidation, Joyce surprised me.

I actually enjoyed Portrait

The story flows in a much more narrative tone. Joyce's depth is still there, but far more understandable to the mere mortal. Goodreads describes this book as a transitional one "between the realism of Joyce's Dubliners and the symbolism of Ulysses." Having not read Dubliners, I cannot confirm that completely, but it makes total sense from my perspective.

The plot of Portrait is widely suspected to be a mainly autobiographical account of Joyce's school days. Serving as a sort of prequel to Ulysses, the story follows young Stephan Dedalus as he comes of age.

The book deals largely with Stephan's relationship with faith and religion. This is an issue that we see rise again in Ulysses. I find Joyce's relationship with this issue particularly interesting, largely due to my own faith.

While this certainly is not a book I am likely to pick up again for a fun read, I am grateful to have Joyce at least somewhat redeemed in my opinion. I was feeling like a bit of a literary failure after totally missing the boat on Ulysses. Lesson learned. Some authors just need a second chance.

Pages: 329
Date Completed: February 28, 2014

Have you read any of Joyce's work? What is your opinion on his books?

1 comment:

  1. I read Dubliners for English class. It's a collection of short stories, and even though I usually like short stories, I thought it was kind of boring. But maybe I should have been more patient.