James Joyce (1882 – 1941) was an Irish writer most famous for his borderline incomprehensible Ulysses project, which features a stream of consciousness stye of rambling. He also perfected the short story, which is where Dubliners (1914) steps in – 15 of them in total, most of which focus on a naturalistic look on middle-class life in the city at the time. It’s a historical record of sorts, then.
We read this one back in 2006 as part of our studies and enjoyed it a great deal. All these hundreds of years on and, as our further research indicated, it turns out Irish nationalism was rather fervent at the time and national identity was being taken rather seriously. As such, Joyce jolted a bunch of character revelations into the stories (no, nothing like the realisation they’re actually a robot) to create a short, sharp book which serves as a super consideration on a moment in history.
The short stories include The Sisters, An Encounter, Araby, Eveline, After the Race, and Two Gallants. These are stories about middle-class life, really. Day-to-day existence which have, amongst many literary critics, led it to be one of the writer’s most straightforward works.
The Sisters, for instance, is about the death of a local priest and how a family close to him deals with this. When compared to the mammoth complexity of Ulysses or Finnegan’s Way, it’s easy to see why. Some people have spent their entire lives looking for hidden meanings hidden amongst the pages of those novels, annotating each page at laboriously. That’s not happening in Dubliners, but this isn’t to say the stories are inferior – they’re certainly more accessible, which makes this a good starting point if you’re new to Joyce’s work.
Arguably the most famous of the lot is The Dead. In this one, central character Gabriel Conroy attends a dinner party and, during which, he has an epiphany about the nature of being. This one is actually a novella due to its size, plus it was adapted into a film by John Huston. Good on him!
In conclusion, you’ll find these lightweight stories a breeze to read through and it’s a fantastic way to discover one of the 20 century’s leading writers. If you’re then so inclined, perhaps make the jump to Ulysses… but, it’s only for the brave!
Why do you need to be brave? We’ll get round to reviewing Ulysses at some point, but you can watch the above clip (if you’ve got a spare 13 minutes) for insights on the man, myth, and legend. His stream of consciousness style of writing would later influence the likes of Monty Python, whose BBC comedy show would revolutionise TV and what we know as absurdity, surrealism, and what have you.
Thusly, Joyce offered a lot to the world and he continues to remain an enormous influence for many people. Why, without him this here blog may not even exist! Well, it might do, but it’d be a lot more serious. It’d be called Professional Man, or something, and it’d be about how professional we are. Thank you, James Joyce, for ensuring this never happened.