Book Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Forty years into my life and I have finally tackled a James Joyce book.  Sadly, I picked the worst time to do so.  My mind being occupied with disparate thoughts, I found it very hard to concentrate on what I was reading.  The rating reflects my state of mind more than the lack of talent of the author methinks.  That’s too bad because even with my severe lack of concentration I caught moments of brilliance like this: “She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male.”  And this: “She was tempted to see a curious appropriateness in his accident and, but that she did not wish to seem bloody-minded, would have told the gentelmen that Mr. Kernan’s tongue would not suffer by being shortened.”  And this: “Her faith was bounded by her kitchen, but, if she was put to it, she could believe also in the banshee and in the Holy Ghost.”  Brilliant stuff, that.

“Dubliners” is a series of short stories that follow various characters in and around Dublin.  I found this to be quite clever and wondered if Joyce had ruined the titles of many a collection of short stories by being so popular.  That is the only reason I can think of for there not to be a plethora of other similarly titled books: “Chicagoans” and “New Yorkers” and “Parisians” and “Lake Titicacans”.  I’m sure there are notebooks and hard drives full of similarly themed short stories in the filing cabinets and computers of many an English major just longing for a non-Joycian title.

I very distinctly remember really liking some of the short stories but cannot for the life of me remember which they were.  Everything just blended together in my mind like word salad.  Joyce is certainly not the easiest of authors to read and should certainly not be read by an individual who lacks the necessary concentration.  At some point I will have to reread the book and give it the review it deserves, but until then on to lighter fare.