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Dubliners by James Joyce

 

 

 

 

 

A beautifully produced edition of James Joyce’s classic collection, with a newly commissioned introduction by Colm Toibin, the author of “Brooklyn”

From short, lyrical stories to the novella-length masterpiece which concludes this collection, James Joyce presents Dublin to the world in this groundbreaking collection”–“as alive with feeling as it was when first published in 1914. In these lyrical, electrifying tales, readers meet a cast of characters who seek success, love, and redemption

 

 

My Review

These wonderful stories within the Dubliners will stand the test of time and provide a wonderful eye-opening glimpse a retrospective look through the keyhole of life’s in Dublin. The introduction to this new edition adequately describes ‘Dubliners’ by the writer Colm Toibin.

“That idea of shabby, solitary and secretive lives-men moving alone, their lives half fueled by alcohol, men trapped in their work, living in a mean boarding house, or in bare rooms, men with some education but scant hope- makes its way into the core of the stories at the center of Dubliners- ‘Two Gallants’, ‘The Boarding House’, ‘A Little Cloud’, ‘Counterparts’, ‘A Painful Case’ and ‘Grace’.

As he drew these men, offered them little comfort and tiny moments of possibility, Joyce was concerned not with some dark vision he had of mankind and our fate in the world but rather with the individual self he named and made in all its particularity and privacy. The Self’s deep preoccupations, the isolation of the individual consciousness, which keeps so much concealed, were what he wished to dramatize. The self ready to feel fear or remorse, contempt or disloyalty, bravery or timidity; the self ready to notice everything except that there was no escape from the self, or indeed from the dilapidated city; these were his subjects.”

“Dubliners shows a city filled with the colors and shades of autumn and winter. It offers images powerful enough to be repudiated with real comic energy in Ulysses.”

Taken from a great introduction written by Colm Toibin in the new edition published by Canongate Books. Purchase @ www.canongate.tv/dubliners

James Joyce wrote in a letter to a publisher in May 1906 what he had in mind when he composed the stories:

My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to be the center of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order. I have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to alter in the presentiment, still more to deform, whatever he has seen and heard.

I have reviewed the short stories that I liked the most and provided excerpts.

The Boarding House

Mrs Mooney determined and forbearing marries a man that turns out to be a drunkard and who spiraled them headlong into debt. She departs the relationship and set up a business of her own a boarding house. She was referred to as ‘Madam.’ Her cunning character, firmness and sternness testified to the fact that she was not to be melded with.

She had a son and daughter. Jack was known to be of hard character and Polly a girl slim of nineteen years of age. Polly must have been quite attractive as her mother seems to have been, and still is in this story, trying to keep her from the clutches of keen men’s hands and eyes.

Mrs Mooney had gathered knowledge of a certain situation in her midst right under her nose. She observed their body language and flirtations, and waited for her moment to descend upon the guilt parties. This excerpt describes her way of dealing with matters.

“She dealt with moral problems as a clever deals with meat.”

She feels this as a case of abused hospitality in her house. There is only reparation she seeks from one person.

Due to the statement.

  “Dublin is such a small city everyone know everyone else’s business.”

It’s clear the pressures people felt in a rather small and religious environment.

Free smiling and bad behavior between families and loved ones travels amongst the citizens.

This story provides a little peak into the keyhole of working families riddled with troubles and shows how some women were of strong character and independent businesswomen in a Dublin that had many poor people in strife struggling to get by with politics and religion.

This are very human characters with fears and flaws they have regard for honor and what others may think of their behavior. I would love to know of the outcome of the two parties concerned and how it all paned out over the years.

 

The Sisters

The main character a young man  was long time friend with a priest who becomes ill and dies and we hear of his struggle to come to terms with loss and death issue. Paralysis and the feeling of it, he mentions…

 

   “He had often said to me.” I am not long for this world, and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.”      

 

On his day of burial they talk with the priests presence of his loosing grip with himself and possible his faith and the decline of his mental state.

This story looks at loss and belief and the behaviour of some from the community and their regard for religion, the priest and the community as a whole.

 “In the dark of my room I imagined that I saw again the heavy grey face of the paralytic. I drew the blankets over my head and tried to think of Christmas. But the Gary face still followed me. It murmured; and I understood that it desired to confess something. I felt my soul receding into some pleasant and vicious region; and there again I found it waiting for me. It began to confess to me in a murmuring voice and I wondered why it smiled continually and why the lips were so moist with spittle.

But then I remembered that I had died of paralysis and I felt that I too was smiling feebly as if to absolve the simoniac of his sin.”

 

 An Encounter

A story of youth and adventure. One particular boy loves to escape in American wild west

fiction while under the influence of a more religious way.

During the summer holiday they have a little meeting of fun a few pals in arms, they stroll to the dockside to the barges. This excerpt describes some of what they see..

   “We pleased ourselves with the spectacle of Dublin’s commerce- the barges signalled from far away by their curls of wooly smoke, the brown fishing fleet beyond Ringsend, the big-white sailing-vessel which was being discharged on the opposite quay.”

They encounter upon a strange man who talks of greatness of youth to them and being a schoolboy of literature and girls. The boys make up names for themselves and tread careful with this strange encounter. One boy feels singled out as the other get more attention. When it’s all over their encounter they do return safely from their little adventure.

 

“A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under it’s influence, difference of culture and constitution were waived. We banded ourselves together, some bodly, some in jest and some almost in fear: and of the number of these latter, the reluctant Indians who were afraid to seem studious or lacking in robustness, I was one. The adventures related in the literature of the wild west were remote from my nature but, at least, they opened dots of escape. I liked better some American detective (novels) stories which were traversed from time to time by unkempt fierce and beautiful girls. Though there was nothing wrong in these stories and though their intention was sometimes literary they were circulated secretly at school.”

 

“But when the restraining influence of the school was at a distance I began to hunger again for wild sensations, for the escape which those chronicles of disorder alone seemed to offer me.”

 

 

Araby

A story of a boys infatuation of a neighbor a young girl. He does not know how to deal with his feelings or how to communicate with her what he feels. He must attend and  unexpected invite to a bazaar at Araby. As someone tries to hinder him and delay him from getting there he finds he also needs to practice patience with the matter. His uncle eventually manages to release him to his meeting but with some delay. When he does arrive to the bazaar most things have closed for business  and it seems the lovely girl of his keen eye has either stood him up or was he too late?

 

“When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown somber the space of sky above us was the color of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odors arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness. When we returned to the street light from the kitchen windows had filled the areas.”   

 

“Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to poor itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”

 

“The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.”

 

Eveline

 

Eveline just over nineteen has plenty of duties and responsibilities in her home, taking care of the plunger siblings and her father filling her mothers job. She fears at times due to her fathers violence in the past with her mother. She wishes to be free and marry with a love far from this duty. When she comes to the crunch and planning her departure from this family of hers she finds that her life with these duties was not wholly miserable and undesirable.

At the back of her mind and in her heart she feels she has some responsibility and remembers her talk with her promises and her dead mothers wishes.

When push comes to shove, when she is at the brink of departure and needs to make a decision will she flee to Buenos Ayres by sea with her love Frank or stay at home with her family?

 

“Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaving her head against  the window curtain, inhaling the odor of dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could  hear a street organ playing. She knew the air. Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could…..

   As she mused the pitiful vision of her mothers life laid it spell on the very quick of her being- that life commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her mother’s voice saying constantly with foolish insistence:

   -Derevaun Seraun!

      Derevaun Seraun!.”

 

 

“A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand:

-come!

All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.

-“Come!” “

 

Two Gallants

 

This story opens up with a wonderful paragraph..

 “The grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city and a mild warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily colored crowd. Like illuminated pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape and hue increasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging increasing murmur.”

Two friends have a bet on their chance with a woman. One friend is different from the other in character and has had more experience with women in the past or so he says as he is still single.

 “This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by ad a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long enough with friends and with girls.

He knew what those friends were worth: he knew the girls too. Experience had embittered his heart against the world. But all hope had not left him. He felt better after having eaten than he had felt before, less weary of his life, less vanquished in spirit. He might yet be able to settle down in some smug corner and live happily if he could only come across some good simple-minded girl with a little of the ready.”

 

Little Cloud

 

A young man feels the hard times in Dublin. He is to go to London and work for a press. It seems a friend makes him feel envy and jealous due to his freedom from ties and travels of the world for work. He is stuck in the house with a woman and child in debt. Furniture on rental and is having feelings of melancholy in not being free and in more wealthier shores.

 

A Painful Case

 

Man with no companions, nor friends, church nor creed. He is quite a lonely chap. Possibly by choice. In this story he does find some glitter in the eye of a girl. They strike up a familiarity and meet regularly. He finds some possible a kind of happiness but he chooses to break it off.

He feels regret in his breaking off and the pain with the loss of the love.

Time passes and matters worsen for him, news of a painful case comes to his knowledge.

 

“While they talked he tried to fix her permanently in his memory. When he learned that the young girl beside her was her daughter he judged her to be a year or so younger than himself. Her face, which must have been handsome, had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongly marked features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze began with a defiant swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil asserted itself quickly, this half-disclosed nature fell again under the reign of prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain fulness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.”

 

The Dead

“A look of perplexity appeared on Gabriel’s face. It was true that he wrote a literary column every Wednesday in the Daily Express, for which he was paid fifteen shillings. But that did not make him a West Briton surely. The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry cheque. He loved to feel the covers and turn over the pages of newly printed books. Nearly every day when his teaching in the college was ended he used to wander down the quays to the second-hand booksellers, to Hickey’s on Bachelor’s Walk, to Webb’s or Massey’s on Aston’s Quay, or to O’Clohissy’s in the by-street. He did know how to meet her charge. He wanted to say that literature was above politics.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 23 July 2012

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