20 April 2017

Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

Trade paperback, 317 pages
Published 1993 (originally 1914)

Previously read April 2005
Acquired June 2014

Reread November 2014
Dubliners by James Joyce

At the end of my course on British literature 1890-1950, I polled my students on the best and worst of the readings they had done. I lost those notes, unfortunately, but I did write down one of them for posterity: "Dubliners cut across all the necessary themes literature may demand. It helped me understand life better." She's not wrong.

I first read "The Dead" as a high school senior, and liked it so much that it inspired me to pick up all of Dubliners in college, and of course I had to reread it to teach it. On each iteration, I like it more, and I understand it more. The whole book is excellent, but "The Dead" is a masterpiece, and you could probably argue that Joyce singlehandedly changed the direction of the short story in English. So much that's meaningful comes together in "The Dead": it's all about connection, imagining the other, projecting desire, recognizing the self, and experiencing epiphany. It's sort of uplifting and sad at the same time. Joyce captures humanity as it is in a way few others do. I look forward to reading Dubliners again and again. Hopefully it will allow me too to understand life better.

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