Dubliners by James Joyce was my selected book for the latest Classics Club #CCSpin.
This was my first attempt at reading Joyce, who I felt somewhat nervous about tackling, so I felt fortunate that my first would be a slim volume of short stories.
Over the years I have read quite a bit of Irish literature.
From the glorious short stories of William Trevor to Anne Enright and Colm Toibin’s painful stories about growing up in Irish families.
I also read Frank McCourt’s desperate coming of age memoir, Angela’s Ashes when it first came out.
Furthermore thanks to writers like Roddy Doyle, Emma Donoghue, Colum McCann, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald I appreciate that the Irish seem to have this weird love/hate thing going on with misery, bleakness and grinding poverty.
All this is to let you know that I knew what to expect from Joyce as far as godforsaken, woeful Irish stories goes. Joyce even declared it as his intent in the afterword written by J.I.M. Stewart in the back of my copy of Dubliners –
My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country…I have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness.
Joyce was very successful in realising his intent!
I have no problem with stories that highlight the miserable existence of the human experience. I don’t need everything to be rosy and positive and uplifting. But right now, misery stories are not working for me no matter how wonderfully well they are written.
And so I struggled my way through Dubliners. I felt completely weighed down by words and phrases like –
- mourning mood
- agitated and pained
- melancholy (Joyce’s favourite word in this collection)
- note of menace
- dull resentment
- tears of remorse started to his eyes
- full of smouldering anger and revengefulness
- coloured with shame and vexation and disappointment
- he was outcast from life’s feast
It was relentless and hopeless and just so joyless. Even the elegantly wrought sentences were tinged with such sadness and despair that it made me wonder how on earth the Irish continue on with anything at all!
Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.
My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself into my bosom.
He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her.
Writing appreciation 5/5 but personal enjoyment only 3/5.
How did you go with your CC Spin book?
My previous spins:
- #1 The Magnificent Ambersons with Cat @Tell Me A Story.
- #2 Tess of the D’Urbervilles with JoAnn @Lakeside Musings & Several Four Many.
- #3 My Cousin Rachel.
- #4 The Brothers Karamazov with Bree who also read a Dostoyevsky novel for this spin. I gave up on this chunkster about halfway through, then I lost the bok during our move earlier in the year…serendipity, I say!
- #5 The Odyssey with Plethora of Books. This one was a bit of a cheat as I had started it for another readalong, but struggled to finish. I added it to my list to motivate me to finish it. When no. 20 spun up it seemed like the gods had decreed it so!
- #6 No Name by Wilkie Collins with Melbourne on My Mind.
- #7 Silent Spring by Rachel Carson with Booker Talk – my first classic non-fiction spin.
- #8 Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh has been my one and only dud Spin read so far.
- #9 The Great World by David Malouf my first Australian classic spin.
- #10 A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark.
- #11 So Big by Edna Ferber with Christy where we both experienced the joy of rediscovering a forgotten award winning classic.