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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great account of the coming of age of a poet.
"A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man" was published in 1914, Joyce's first novel. Though the hero's name is given as Stephen Dedalus, to a great extent he is Joyce, and this is autobiography, chronicling approximately the first 20 years of Joyce's life.

Joyce is famous for the difficulties of his prose, but this applies primarily to "Ulysses" and...
Published on 2 July 2009 by Guardian of the Scales

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of 'darkness' comes illumination
I also really struggled with this book. It's very static. The subject and content overall is very limited and thus the reader's imagination is not stretched.

Certainly no page-turner, this book took me weeks on end of bite-sized sittings. Strangely, nothing enthused me about the book - however, like other reviewers, I was attracted to the emotional grasp and...
Published on 24 Jun 2007 by Uncle Moley


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great account of the coming of age of a poet., 2 July 2009
"A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man" was published in 1914, Joyce's first novel. Though the hero's name is given as Stephen Dedalus, to a great extent he is Joyce, and this is autobiography, chronicling approximately the first 20 years of Joyce's life.

Joyce is famous for the difficulties of his prose, but this applies primarily to "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's Wake." "Portrait" is a relatively easy read. The opening page is perhaps the most unorthodox and difficult of the whole book, as it is an attempt to represent the consciousness of the infant Stephen. Following this is a long account of Stephen at boarding school, under the tuition of the Jesuits. Stephen is a timid, sensitive boy, ill-suited to the harsh regime of the brothers or the rough-and-tumble interaction of his schoolmates.

The main preoccupation of the book is the spiritual and sexual angst of the adolescent and post-adolescent Stephen. Though as a young boy he is religiously-inclined, the awakening of his sexual instincts leads to a prolonged internal struggle. Stephen frequently seeks the company of members of the prostitute class, and then indulges in much tortured self-recrimination.

As a previous reviewer mentioned, the sermon Stephen hears at a school retreat is incredibly powerful and vivid- detailing the infinity of horrors that await all transgressors from God's law. If churchmen really were able to speak so powerfully it is little wonder that Ireland fell so obsequiously under the Church's thumb. But Stephen openly rebels against the sexual and philosophical repression of the Church when he becomes a college student; he renounces all the ideals of his native society and avows "to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." In short, he becomes a poet.

For a first novel, "Portrait" is extremely self-important, as even the title reveals: Joyce is "The Artist," without irony. History would appear to have justified his opinion, however. In my opinion no one who intends to read "Ulysses" should do so without reading "Portrait" first. In fact, if you only intend to read one book by Joyce, I would recommend this one. It is not difficult, despite Joyce's reputation, and is a fascinating account of the coming of age of a poet, who is revealed as a young man of typical human frailties who, through pride, determination and a rejection of all surrounding influences, became the most influential, if not the most widely-read, author of the Twentieth Century.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great use of language, 2 Jan 2000
By A Customer
"Portrait of the Artist.." is perhaps one of the more accesable of James Joyces books, and also, for me one of the most enjoyable. The actual "story" of the book, is blataly autobiographical, concerning Stephen Dedalus/James Joyce's early life, at school - first encounters with women, and the enourmous inner conflict with Religion. The story is of little consequence really.. however, you've got to admire Joyce's honesty, if this truely is autobiographical. He has the irritating habit of trying to make Dedalus/Joyce seem somehow, superior, more intelligent than his peers, without actualy ever demonstrating this superiority at all. And, I'm afraid, I couldn't relate to the Religious conflict at all.. however it is an interesting insight. What does make this unique is the language, the "stream of conciousness" style, which at times, like at the end of the fourth chapter can be awesomely beautiful. It is this quality that makes Joyce worth reading. By his close observation and use of language he is sometimes able to completely transport the reader, intoxicate the reader. There is, however, an uneasy air which hangs over the works of James Joyce, and I can't quite put my finger on it...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The easy 'Ulysses'., 25 Jun 2011
This book is superbly well written. The wonderful language foreshadows the linguistic brilliance of 'Ulysses' and is nearly as enjoyable. From Stephen's private poetical musings to the description of hell to the everyday banter of Dublin, Joyce's command of English is breathtaking.
The book also has a more definite, concrete plot than its bigger brother, which makes the book more readable. Furthermore, Joyce fuses the language with the plot; when Stephen is young, the language is simple and evocative of children's thoughts, yet as he grows older , so too the language grows. This helps to make the book come alive for the reader.
There is very little wrong with this book, apart from Stephen's lengthy conversations during his university days which are, to be honest, a bit boring.
To conclude, Joyce preserves in these pages the overbearing influence of Catholic Ireland years ago, yet also provides an interesting and original semi-autobiographical account of his own youth.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flashes of wonderful genius, but no page-turner, 9 Aug 2006
Having read no Joyce before other than 'The Dubliners', which underwhelmed me slightly, I was not really expecting to enjoy 'Portrait...' madly. However, I was pleasantly surprised, and if it was a little hard going at times, the passages where Joyce really turns it on make 'Portrait' a decidedly worthwhile read.

The autobiographical novel consists of a number of disconnected episodes from the hero Stephen Dedalus' life, presented in chronological order. Though written in the third person, we are treated to an extremely personal account of Dedalus' late childhood, adolescence, and early manhood. He goes through several psychological phases as he comes to terms with the conflict between Catholicism and his own desires; as a young man myself (though not a Catholic), I certainly found a good deal to identify with.

Joyce's writing is strange. It is not obviously and consistently brilliant, as (for instance) Hemmingway or Fitzgerald. For pages, one feels a little bored as he describes grim Irish life with little attempt at entertainment or insight, but then suddenly he changes gear and nails you with something unsurpassably brilliant. As an example, I'll quote the last paragraph of chapter two - it's quite long, but should give you the idea.

"With a sudden movement she bowed his head and joined her lips to his and he read the meaning of her movements in her frank uplifted eyes. It was too much for him. He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her soflty parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips as though they were the vehicle of a vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour."

If you don't like this stuff, then I strongly advise you not to bother with 'Portrait'. Personally, I think it's about as good as anything I've read - I love the brain stuff and the last two phrases are very beautiful indeed.

In sum then, if you're after an unputdownable classic, look elsewhere: Joyce is no Dickens. If, however, you're willing to wade through some less-than-thrilling writing in order to be rewarded by moments of sparkling genius, then please give 'Portrait' a bash. It is unlikely to become a favourite, but the gems are sufficiently frequent and sufficiently brilliant to make it an excellent use of your time.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of 'darkness' comes illumination, 24 Jun 2007
I also really struggled with this book. It's very static. The subject and content overall is very limited and thus the reader's imagination is not stretched.

Certainly no page-turner, this book took me weeks on end of bite-sized sittings. Strangely, nothing enthused me about the book - however, like other reviewers, I was attracted to the emotional grasp and wonderful choice/usage of language/words in this challenging piece of work. Very much a work of art, full of bland narrative hiding behind some beautiful strokes of genius.

The autobiographical work draws attention to a young man growing up in Ireland - highlighting his struggles with his peers, Catholicism and worldly desires that lie within. This is a truly reflective book of a great artist as a boy, adolescent and man. It is very personal and expressive. A clear metamorphosis can be seen from childhood through to adulthood - almost from a caterpillar developing into a butterfly with the freedom of flight.

The last pages of this book spoke to me in a very personal and upfront way - that within the 'darkness' of everday life, an individual should have a free, clear and expressive mind to make his or her ambitions in life and not be governed by others.

Hit-and-miss, not everyone's cup of camomile.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome O life!, 9 April 2010
By 
SO I read this at the tender age of seventeen, and I couldn't have picked a better time to do it. This book is brim-full of wisdom, elegance, beauty, ideas and inspiration it's incomparable to anything else I've read.

We greet Stephen Dedalus in his early childhood and follow his strenuous journey from withdrawn child to a flourshing Young Man, and learn a lot about Joyce's own life, and Irish politics/religion all at the same time. The edition certainly has some nice facts footnoted at the back.

What's amazing about this novel though is the language and the masterly way Joyce handles it. In childhood the language is wonderfully childlike and innocent (and indded has some childish grammar mistakes) but this develops as Dedalus develops, and it makes us feel like we're growing up with him - a tactic wholly immersing and means the beautiful prose of the last few chapters really stands out. Furthermore, the knowledge Joyce himself shows off is delightful - philsophers and latin thrown around like two gold coins in a pit of beggars.

There is, however, a minor lull in the middle of the novel, when Dedalus enters religious camp (so to speak), and we too recieve the lengthy lectures about Hell and Eternity, which although are equally elegant in their style, can get a little tedious. But it must be remebered that that is the whole point of the novel; expressing the moments that shape a man (not matter how boring there are!).

But as a conclusion, this novel is a great intorduction to Joyce and is (in my humble opinion) a better read than his more famous Ulysses. Read this, for a wonderful insight into youth and experience, and for inspiration to become a similar young artist like Dedalus.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 28 Nov 2009
This is a superb book. It really should be read by anyone who wishes to cretae, to write, paint or just live beyond the politcs of every-day life. The book follows the path of Stephen Dedalus in his early years and his attempts to find significance in the world and understanding. He struggles against the domonance of religion and its authority which create feelings of extremem opression amidst his growing sexual desires. His love for words and his imagination is shown right from the beginning 'The word was beautiful: wine. It made you think of dark purple because the grapes were dark purple that grew in Greece outside houses like white temples'.

This book is partially autobiographical, though beign a novel there are clearly a number of differences. Nevertheless it does give a god indication of Joyces' htoughts and psyche as a young man, both through the story itself, and the way in which it has been written. It is a book of self-awareness and self-realization, a bildungsroman journey 'When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nest flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets'. The book leaves the reader both thoughtful and inspired. It is most definitely worth reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remains one of my favourites, 3 Jan 2011
As with other reviewers here, I studied this book as part of my education. With it I fell in love with words, there are passages in this book that beautifully convey the art of writing, the importance and beauty of words and reading in a way no other book can. The story itself is striking, honest and it is a bildungsroman so those expecting a page thriller akin to a thriller will of course not find that with this book. What you will find is a true classic and I would recommend that it be read prior to Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake as this is as stated by a previous reviewer, the most accessible of Joyce's works and will in turn provide a form of key to reading the remainder of his works, with the protagonist making an appearance in Ulysses. This book is Joyce's Bildungsroman as much as Dedalus's, as it shows the development of the mind of this writer.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the book and portal to Ulysses as well, 6 Aug 2009
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William D. Freeman "wdavidfreeman" (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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This book is considered by many to be more readable than Ulysses and Finnegans Wake but it still employs some of the same techniques as those found in the later, more challenging works. That is precisely why this recording is such a good introduction not just to this book but to the writing style of Joyce.

As with his other recordings of James Joyce books, Jim Norton--like Joyce a Dublin native--lifts the words off the page and brings to life the myriad characters in the novel while making sense of the stream-of-consciousness narrative.

If you are new to Joyce, start by viewing the 1977 film version. It is not a great movie, but is only 90 minutes and gives you a sense of what is happening. Next listen to this recording, and finally read the book. Just like that you will have learned a good deal indeed about this famous author that most find too intimidating to tackle.

After this you will also be ready to move on to Ulysses. I recommend following the same approach: view the film (set in year of production, 1967, but provides useful overview), then listen to Jim Norton's unabridged recording from Naxos and you will then be ready to read and enjoy--yes enjoy--the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Without a Plot or a Hope, 1 Nov 2013
James Joyce can write some stunningly good sentences, but too often he is needlessly wordy. He overwrites, because, as the character of Stephen Dedalus believes, there is a great meaning in the art of literature in and of itself. I disagree. Words can have meaning only if the writer uses them to express a deeper meaning. Joyce's writing is empty: it is pointless, has nothing to say, and as such the great skill of his writing is ultimately meaningless.

The result is that there's a cold, continuously morbid, unpleasant sense lurking behind every sentence. Joyce's world view is subtly perverse and loveless, as Dedalus' also is.

What's the point of writing beautifully written language when its writer cannot grasp any point to beauty other than its form in a sentence?

And this book has no plot. To have a plot you need to have a point to communicate, a conclusion of some kind towards which your characters aim. Joyce has no idea of the purpose or point of anything, and so he has no story to tell.

It's beautifully written, but has a sickness running through it, because in fact there's nothing beautiful about it. It's a great shame Joyce never found a story to believe in and truly tell.
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