on 12 December 2008
Nobody else has reviewed this, so I thought I'd chip in. I've read 'Dubliners' a couple of times, although not for a few years now. But I've started listening to audiobooks when I travel, and I thought this one might be an interesting listen. The stories are excellent, and if you've not read 'Dubliners' before, you probably should. Most of them convey minor incidents in the lives of minor people, but they do so in a remarkable way. For all of Joyce's later invention & imagination, he also demonstrates here (and elsewhere, for that matter) an incredible insight into the ordinary lives of unexceptional people, and several of these stories are heartbreaking. (Some are also quite funny.)
Anyway, onto the Naxos audiobook. This six-disc set contains the all the stories, over about seven hours. The reader is Jim Norton, best known to me as Bishop Len Brennan from 'Father Ted'. I initially wondered if that was going to be a distraction, but (thankfully) it turns out that his normal reading voice is nothing like that character's distinct style. Norton does the range of characters very well, even in stories like 'Ivy Day in the Committee Room', where I never had any problems telling the multiple characters apart during lenghty dialogues. He even sings a few times! Naxos has also used some suitable music to top & tail most of the stories here, which adds suitably to the atmosphere.
Anyway, whether you've enjoyed 'Dubliners' before, or are trying to start on Joyce with his most accessible work, I can highly recommend this version. I've now bought the Naxos version of 'Finnegans Wake', in the hope that an (abridged) audio reading of that book will make it even faintly comprehensible...
I am delighted to have found such a beautifully produced complete collection enabling me to simply listen and soak up the atmosphere of James Joyce's early twentieth century Dublin.
Hearing the stories read seems to me to be the perfect way to revisit or discover them for the first time. Each story in this CD box set is introduced by a period song transferred from a 78 rpm record, setting the scene for the faultless readings by Jim Norton to make a completely captivating whole.
The stories vary considerably, from the simply melancholic to, for example, 'Counterparts' which chillingly depicts drunkenness, menace and violence. They have all the resonance of a sad song telling of a love lost, a missed opportunity, the 'if only' or 'what might have been'.
This set contains two triple CD cases. Inside Part One there is a 12 page booklet which includes a useful description of the context of the stories and the struggle Joyce had to get them published. The Part Two booklet contains additional notes by Roger Marsh. Each booklet also contains several photographs of Dublin past, and the details of each track and timings.
Dubliners Part 1 CD contains: The Sisters, An Encounter, Araby, Eveline, After the Race, Two Gallants, The Boarding House, A Little Cloud, Counterparts and Clay.
Dubliners Part 2 CD contains: A Painful Case, Ivy Day in the Committee Room, A Mother, Grace, and The Dead.
Worth every penny, many times over!
Joyce's collection of 15 stories takes the reader through the various strata of Dublin society of the early years of the twentieth century. The prose is of a uniformly high standard, though some of the pieces are too fragmentary and unresolved to be fully satisfying. When Joyce does tell a story, though, he tells it excellently, making me rather regret that he didn't use standard prose and story-telling techniques more often.
The sum of the collection is greater than its individual parts, however, so that even the shorter character sketches add something to the reader's understanding of Dublin and its citizens. Despite the wide range of class and circumstance Joyce addresses, each one has a sense of total authenticity, of a deep understanding of how this society intermixes. There is a common theme running throughout, of people trapped, either by circumstance or because of decisions they have made, and many of the stories focus on a moment in the central characters' lives when they become aware of their trap. Drunkenness, violence and the stifling stranglehold of the Catholic church all play their part in showing a society where aspiration is a rare commodity, usually thwarted. I understand some of the stories were considered shocking at the time for their language and sexual content. Given the relative mildness of them to modern eyes, this fact in itself casts another light on how socially restricted the society was at the time of writing.
The prose is somewhat understated, with Joyce relying more on the penetrating examination of character rather than any flamboyancy of language or stylistic quirks, and that works well for me. He achieves a depth of characterisation with few words, acknowledging his reader's ability to interpret and understand without the need to have everything spelled out. Just occasionally, this left me floundering a little in the couple of stories where he is addressing contemporary Irish politics or mores, but I accept that's my weakness rather than his. In the stories where he is addressing more fundamental aspects of human nature, I appreciated his rather sparing style greatly.
Overall, I found the fully developed stories excellent, while the ones that are primarily character sketches are interesting if not wholly satisfying. However, as a collection, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, the weaker parts being more than compensated for by the stronger.
on 1 October 2015
Joyce was 40 yrs old when Ulysses was published, it is a day in the life of a husband and father of Joyce's age (at publication). Joyce loved Dublin and Ireland and though the book was written on the European continent - he wanted to memorialize his birth home (Ireland). The framework of Ulysses is Homer's Odyssey - The Roman Ulysses: 1 Telemachus, 2 Nestor, 3 Proteus, 4 Calypso, 5 Lotus Eaters, 6 Hades, 7 Aeolus, 8 Lestrygonians, 9 Scylla And Charybdis, 10 Wandering Rocks, 11 Sirens, 12 Cyclops, 13 Nausicca, 14 Oxen Of The Sun, 15 Circe, 16 Eumaeus, 17 Ithaca, and 18 Penelope.
Ulysses is the tale of a Modern-day Odysseus, Leopold Bloom in his personal existential/sexual quest. The conclusion of this quest is the quintessential affirmation of humanity, the fundamental family unit - the father, mother, son, and daughter. Like Odysseus, absent from Penelope, traveling the world, for many long years, Leopold Bloom is also absent from his Penelope (in Dublin). Like a traveler (Odysseus), Bloom is sexually absent (abstinent) from Molly “10 years, 5 months and 18 days” (736). Unlike Odysseus, the obstacles Bloom faces are psychological (modern) - internal travails instead of Odysseus' external travails. Bloom's only son’s death has become a psychological barrier; as Molly reflects: “we were never the same since” (778). Yet Bloom is optimistic throughout the work - in regard to the possibility of another child, again Molly: ”Ill give him one more chance” (780). Affirmatively (as we grow to know Molly) we find she has given and is willing to continue to give Bloom “one more chance”. Through the course of the (Dublin) day, Bloom experiences “deep frustration, humiliation, fear, punishment and catharsis” (Herring, p.74). Bloom needs to lead himself back, out of self-deception, fantasy, and frustration to Molly’s (and his marriage) bed.
Bloom’s travails come in the Circe chapter and it is imperative (for Joyce) that as readers, we recognize Joyce’s change from Homer's Odyssey - this is Joyce's major rework, deviating from his Greek predecessor. For Odysseus: insight, understanding, enlightenment, and all importantly direction come to Odysseus in his journey to the (ancient Greek) Underworld. For Bloom, the Hades chapter or “the other world” represents an “emptiness of mind”; Joyce was a man grounded (and devoted) to the present world of man's consciousness and unconsciousness. In Ulysses enlightenment comes in the Circe chapter: described though the Joycean technique of hallucination or the discoveries of the "unconscious mind”. Joyce's Circe chapter (a surrealistic one-act Ibsen-like play) is where Bloom finds self-possession - (Joyce makes) Bloom encounter his own psycho-sexual existential questions, rather than finding life's answers in the dead ghosts of his life (the ancient Greek Hades chapter of the dead past).
In the Circe chapter, Bloom confronts and overcomes every major obstacle in his existential/sexual quest: the Molly he serves in Calypso reappears as Bello the whoremistress, Molly’s letter from Boylan and his from Martha are reworked into a series of seductive letters ending in a trial, his sexual infidelities beginning with Lotty Clarke and ending with Gerty McDowell are relived (importantly balanced by Molly’s infidelities) and reconciled, and lastly, Bloom triumphs over whore, Virgin-Goddess, and most importantly himself. Joyce equanimously gives both Molly and Bloom extramarital sexual infidelities - infidelities known by each of the other (as early as the Calypso chapter) Bloom was conscious of what was to come. Of course there will be resolution in marriage, for Molly only needs to feel that Bloom is willing. As we read, Bloom has undergone the travails of his own mind and has emerged Victorious. He has succeeded in his psycho-sexual existential quest. He has arrived at Molly’s bed. Self-possessed. Victorious. Eager.
Molly "I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him...then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down in to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. (END)".
After publishing Ulysses, Joyce began FINNEGANS WAKE (FW) - Joyce largely stepped out of one work into his next (and last work). The change Joyce made in FW was instead of using Homer's Ulysses as a framework - FW's framework is Giambattista Vico's "La Scienza Nuova's" 4 cyclic stages of history.
Joyce realized that he ended Ulysses wrongly (not in accordance with the Universe) in Molly's bed - Joyce corrects his mistake in FINNEGANS WAKE by incorporating Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation."HCE day" similar to Bloomsday (roughly 24 hrs): Chronologically FW starts with memories "book I:3" of HCE arrested in front of his gated refuge (from MaMaLuJo) unable to enter, unlike Bloom HCE does not enter through the back door, instead HCE is arrested in hours before dawn. Then memories "book I:4" HCE's psychological musings of past travails/guilts (living death, underworld excursion Ulysses ch Hades) while incarcerated in early hours of morning. Followed by memories "book I:2" HCE walks home through Phoenix Park accosted for the time of day (12 noon) which threatens (real/unreal memories, Ulysses ch Nausicaa) his innocent well-being. These 3 chapters in FW are Joyce's major rework to incorporate Vico's revelation of restart/recirculation into FW, Joyce rewrites 3 chapters of Ulysses: When He is denied Her front door, He is in Hell (on earth), when released (from Hell) His odyssey to Her begins again (with His ever-present accompanying internal travails) for She always knows when He is worthy of Her acceptance (their Paradise).
Then "book I:1" Finnegan's afternoon wake at HCE's tavern and retelling memories (books I:2-4). Inside HCE's tavern (his ship) his patrons talk about his family (Norwegian Captain and the Tailor's Daughter), truthful letters (ALP) and fabricated stories (books I:5-8 & II:3); while the children (Shaun, Shem and Iseult) are in and out of the family tavern/home all day taking their lessons (book II:2) and playing about with their friends (Shem's closing dream, book II:1); HCE, as proprietor, defends himself with a self-deprecating apologia before his intoxicated collapse late night (book II:3). HCE dreams on his tavern floor (book II:4); then dreams in his bed (books III:1-3); before intercourse with his wife ALP (book III:4). HCE & ALP's lovemaking dissolution dream (book IV) to awaken to a new day, Joycean Nirvana is attained by ALP's (& HCE's) awaiting Joyce's God "thunderclap" at the beginning of FW's "book I".
FW is aural (oral) history like Homer's Odessey and Celtic folktales - when one pronounces (phonology) FW's words (aloud) there are more languages than just English; also, when one reads (morphology) FW's words almost all the words are "portmanteaus / neologisms" which gives each of FW's "poly-syncretic" words many meanings (universal impermanence, Heisenberg uncertainty/obscurity), each FW syncretic sentence dozens of possible messages, each FW syncretic paragraph hundreds of possible readings, Joyce's rendering of a more expansive English language and multiplicating universal book with coalescing syncretic themes/stories (that responds/opens to each reader's inquiries). Joyce schooled in Christian Jesuit metaphysics (pushed down into the mindfulness of human consciousness) breathes in the spirit of expansive Celtic (Irish) democratic community tavern life where man's stories of life are told. Tavern life teaches the evolution of Joyce's ten "thunderclaps" (one hundred lettered words) pushing man's (technologic) evolution forward from cave man's tales to modern tv media tales: Indra's thunder upheavals: 1) Emergent human technologies (wheel, cloth, etc.), 2) Women's social/stratifying clothing (i.e. civilization's divisions), 3) Effeminate clerical social control (Buddha, Lao-Tze, Christ, Toltec seers, etc.), 4) Feudal degradation (cities/urban plight), 5) Writings disseminated (Gutenberg's press), 6) Renaissance (blooming informed culture), 7) Radio (instantaneous information), 8) Film (disseminated culture), 9) Reciprocating Engine (democratized travel), 10) TV (instantaneous global media culture). Inside the tavern man learns of the purely human (animal) fall, taken down by another human(s) - like animal taken down on the African savanna. A granular reading of FW can render FW as an updated John Milton's Paradise Lost (regurgitated knowledge from the tree, to affirm man's damnation); however, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859 and Joyce in FW book II clearly walks Shaun, Shem and Iseult through their earthly evolutionary lifetime travails, our mortality is a consequence of Life's evolution. Every page of FW speaks to man's (unconscious biological survival, conscious "racing competitive" social, contemplative aspirational personal) evolution and to Life recirculating (West meets Dzogchen East a "meeting of metaphysical minds") that binds humanity together into the future. Dzogchen (beyond all dualistic polarities) the heart of human consciousness - Joyce's underlying (subcutaneous) arguments refute the "Western curse of metaphysical/mythological damnation", the curse does not exist in the Eastern mind. Like "counting the number of angels on the head of a pin" (Aquinas 1270) Joyce provides a granular/expansive reading of FW as a "defense against all Western adversity" for our conscious and unconscious Western travails. HCE's angst is caused by his community that imposes a Western curse (damnation) upon him that man is not guilty of...to experience Joycean Nirvana, a defense against this man-made guilt is required - for as Zoroaster revealed cosmogonic dualism, evil is mixed with good in man's everyday universal travails (even the Dalai Lama must defend Nirvana rigorously from the most populous authoritarian state in human history).
Joyce's FW celebrates the Joys of Christian/Buddhist diversity of humanity (expansive human consciousness: Gnostic Norwegian Captain, Shem, Archdruid), Brahma (Finnegan, HCE, Shaun), Divine Women (ALP, Iseult, Nuvoletta), his family - and the Sufferings of the inescapable "evil" of Shiva (Buckley), the debilitating harmful sterile intrusive authoritarian institutionalizing damnation (MaMaLuJo, St. Patrick) by Augustine, the manufactured clerical corruptions identified by Luther et al. (since 367 AD) and the burdens of "survival of the fittest" anxiety (modern commerce) met with a Dzogchen Buddhist stance. The (innocent infant) Norwegian Captain (Krishna, HCE), occasionally defensive (Shiva, HCE), though concretized (Brahma, HCE) by community family life (MaMaLuJo) - through spirits (drink) HCE accesses his spirituality (dreams) and through spiritual (cutting through) love-making with ALP (direct approach) they access (their Krishnas), unification with the Unmanifest. Joyce was a Prophet who consumed Man's conscious and spiritual "thoughts and dreams, history and gossip, efforts and failings" - to reveal the joys (Nirvana) and sufferings (Samsara) of Mankind.
Joyce's FW message: Christian/Buddhist omniscient compassion (Christ/Krishna) is eternally joyful and recirculating. Affirmative family (HCE/Brahma, ALP/Divine woman & children) existentiality: life's biological evolution (sex), modern survival (money), constraining community (Dharma, social evolution) are constantly assaulted by inescapable "aggressive insidious vile" corrupt soul(less/sucking) ossified demonic antipathetic attacks. Joycean Nirvana is attained via the Christian/Buddhist affirmative middle way, "beyond polar opposites" the path of Christ/Buddha.