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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce

 
 
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 06:38 pm
Backstory: I read novels most of my life as my prime entertainment. And as a teenager averaged over 3 a week. Then I got on the internet and my time became consumed with all this new information about anything and everything that I could so readily access and I have read only about 3 novels in the years since.

On the 12th I decided to start reading. It's easier to go to bed reading a book than a computer screen and I thought I'd sleep better. The only book I had was James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man because someone had left it at my last apartment. I live in Costa Rica right now and can't easily find a selection of books in English so I started reading it, without having had any prior interest in the novel.

I got 40 pages into it before deciding to go pick a book to read that I actually wanted to. So I did (and finished it the night I started) and went on to others. But I can't find a lot in way of good books to read so here's my request:

If you liked this book, let me know why (without ruining the plot, if that matters) and maybe it will take on some character to me and become interesting.
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cyphercat
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:02 pm
Hmm, I remember really enjoying it... but that was, I dunno, 12 years ago at least, can't remember specifics. I'll be interested to see other opinions on it...I think I'll go find a synopsis and see if I can refresh my memory, and then check back in here...
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:23 pm
I adored it......and normally recommend it as a first Joyce for people.


It's forever since I read it...so I just had a quick look at at on Biblomania to refresh myself, and I still love it.


Robert, what do you read FOR? What do you want? And...are you speed-reading?

As I quickly revisited:

The joy of this book is in the LANGUAGE and how it is written, as well as the way it portrays the slowly growing consciousness of the young and slowly maturing Stephen, and interest in his experiences and the growth of an artist. But, again I say it is the LANGUAGE.


Remember, Joyce was pioneering a literary style....many aspects of which have become commonplace now.


Not only is there the seemingly direct expression of his consciousness and experience (not the hitherto common omniscient narrator) but he is speaking in the vernacular of his time and place (Joyce experts will know far more about this than I, if one comes along) as opposed to vernacular being a bit of a showpiece for some of the characters.

The language and the unfolding of consciousness, (the child sections, in my mind, are as wonderful as those of Dickens in David Copperfield, or Great Expectations....the only thing I can think of to compare immediately are the early sections of Cider With Rosie) to my mind, is a glorious and startling thing.


I'd have to re-read the whole thing to say a lot more...but if you are skimming for plot excitement, and not responding to the language and characterization, I'd not bother further.
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:30 pm
dlowan wrote:

Robert, what do you read FOR? What do you want? And...are you speed-reading?


Entertainment. I'm not intentionally speed reading but I'm a fast reader.

Quote:
The language and the unfolding of consciousness, (the child sections, in my mind, are as wonderful as those of Dickens in David Copperfield, or Great Expectations....the only thing I can think of to compare immediately are the early sections of Cider With Rosie) to my mind, is a glorious and startling thing.


Funny, this is what I didn't like about it. I thought the unfolding of the child's mind to be unconvincing (and that's something I like a lot when done well).

It reminded me of when adults try to make a drawing purportedly done by a child and do so badly.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:35 pm
Actually it's the only book of Joyce's I did enjoy reading.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:38 pm
I just read a random page:


The equation on the page of his scribbler began to spread out a widening tail, eyed and starred like a peacock's; and, when the eyes and stars of its indices had been eliminated, began slowly to fold itself together again. The indices appearing and disappearing were eyes opening and closing; the eyes opening and closing were stars being born and being quenched. The vast cycle of starry life bore his weary mind outward to its verge and inward to its centre, a distant music accompanying him outward and inward. What music? The music came nearer and he recalled the words, the words of Shelley's fragment upon the moon wandering companionless, pale for weariness. The stars began to crumble and a cloud of fine stardust fell through space.

The dull light fell more faintly upon the page whereon another equation began to unfold itself slowly and to spread abroad its widening tail. It was his own soul going forth to experience, unfolding itself sin by sin, spreading abroad the bale-fire of its burning stars and folding back upon itself, fading slowly, quenching its own lights and fires. They were quenched: and the cold darkness filled chaos.

A cold lucid indifference reigned in his soul. At his first violent sin he had felt a wave of vitality pass out of him and had feared to find his body or his soul maimed by the excess. Instead the vital wave had carried him on its bosom out of himself and back again when it receded: and no part of body or soul had been maimed but a dark peace had been established between them. The chaos in which his ardour extinguished itself was a cold indifferent knowledge of himself. He had sinned mortally not once but many times and he knew that, while he stood in danger of eternal damnation for the first sin alone, by every succeeding sin he multiplied his guilt and his punishment. His days and works and thoughts could make no atonement for him, the fountains of sanctifying grace having ceased to refresh his soul. At most, by an alms given to a beggar whose blessing he fled from, he might hope wearily to win for himself some measure of actual grace. Devotion had gone by the board. What did it avail to pray when he knew that his soul lusted after its own destruction? A certain pride, a certain awe, withheld him from offering to God even one prayer at night, though he knew it was in God's power to take away his life while he slept and hurl his soul hellward ere he could beg for mercy. His pride in his own sin, his loveless awe of God, told him that his offence was too grievous to be atoned for in whole or in part by a false homage to the All-seeing and All-knowing.




The writing made me go all weak at the knees. First the wonderful stuff about the equations, then that amazing evocation of Catholic guilt the poor young fella feels cos he's wanking......a feeling that must have been suffered by millions of poor young boys over the millenia. Being IN his consciousness, and the utter beauty and joy of the metaphors and the rhythm and poetry of the language do me in.


I don't know that it CAN do that if you read it really fast, it needs to be savoured.


But hey, to each their own, as I said, if you don't like it, you don't.....there's a lot of books out there.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:40 pm
dyslexia wrote:
Actually it's the only book of Joyce's I did enjoy reading.



It's my favourite....
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:42 pm
Robert Gentel wrote:
dlowan wrote:

Robert, what do you read FOR? What do you want? And...are you speed-reading?


Entertainment. I'm not intentionally speed reading but I'm a fast reader.

Quote:
The language and the unfolding of consciousness, (the child sections, in my mind, are as wonderful as those of Dickens in David Copperfield, or Great Expectations....the only thing I can think of to compare immediately are the early sections of Cider With Rosie) to my mind, is a glorious and startling thing.


Funny, this is what I didn't like about it. I thought the unfolding of the child's mind to be unconvincing (and that's something I like a lot when done well).

It reminded me of when adults try to make a drawing purportedly done by a child and do so badly.



Really? What do you think of the adolescent stuff? (I think you get there in forty pages)
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:47 pm
dlowan wrote:
dyslexia wrote:
Actually it's the only book of Joyce's I did enjoy reading.



It's my favourite....


Why did you like it Dys?
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:56 pm
dlowan wrote:
dlowan wrote:
dyslexia wrote:
Actually it's the only book of Joyce's I did enjoy reading.



It's my favourite....


Why did you like it Dys?
Partly because I was every bit as precocious as Stephen.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 07:58 pm
dyslexia wrote:
dlowan wrote:
dlowan wrote:
dyslexia wrote:
Actually it's the only book of Joyce's I did enjoy reading.



It's my favourite....


Why did you like it Dys?
Partly because I was every bit as precocious as Stephen.



Lol! I suspect Robert was too, so there's a conundrum.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 08:02 pm
I had me one a them conundrums once't . . . but the doc give me some pills, and a zinc salve, and it cleared right up . . .
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 08:04 pm
I once had a conundrum but when I started earning a decent living i bought a regular house.
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 08:24 pm
dlowan wrote:
Being IN his consciousness, and the utter beauty and joy of the metaphors and the rhythm and poetry of the language do me in.


I think this is the part I don't like as well. LOL

I don't think I like poetry in a story. Whenever an author gets too carried away with metaphors in a story I'm starting to gloss.


Quote:
I don't know that it CAN do that if you read it really fast, it needs to be savoured.


I think you are right. But I wanna read a story, or a great character. Do you think this one has either?

Quote:
Really? What do you think of the adolescent stuff? (I think you get there in forty pages)


I didn't get too deep into it. One thing that made this hard for me is the naming of the characters and the way they were introduced. I never pay much attention to names and in this case I think it makes me miss a lot as I noticed it was hard to follow who was who.

Quote:
But hey, to each their own, as I said, if you don't like it, you don't.....there's a lot of books out there.


Damn it! Not for me. I have that and a frickin' Koontz left after the horrible King I am reading (I don't know why I am going to finish this one, Dreamcatcher).
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 09:28 pm
Robert Gentel wrote:
dlowan wrote:
Being IN his consciousness, and the utter beauty and joy of the metaphors and the rhythm and poetry of the language do me in.


I think this is the part I don't like as well. LOL

I don't think I like poetry in a story. Whenever an author gets too carried away with metaphors in a story I'm starting to gloss.


Quote:
I don't know that it CAN do that if you read it really fast, it needs to be savoured.


I think you are right. But I wanna read a story, or a great character. Do you think this one has either?

Quote:
Really? What do you think of the adolescent stuff? (I think you get there in forty pages)


I didn't get too deep into it. One thing that made this hard for me is the naming of the characters and the way they were introduced. I never pay much attention to names and in this case I think it makes me miss a lot as I noticed it was hard to follow who was who.

Quote:
But hey, to each their own, as I said, if you don't like it, you don't.....there's a lot of books out there.


Damn it! Not for me. I have that and a frickin' Koontz left after the horrible King I am reading (I don't know why I am going to finish this one, Dreamcatcher).





You and the classics are gonna be a trial for me, I can tell, if you continue to post about them!!!!

I'll tell you why, in hopes that should these dialogues continue, (and I hope they do...I like 'em, though you drive me nuts) and I seem stroppy and defensive, you'll understand why.


These books are my friends!!!!! I did love Heart of Darkness, (despite its unsurprising reflection of contemporary mores....which I believe it was critiquing, and pointing out that the darkness was in all our hearts, NOT in the "savages"...wasn't it written when King Leopold of Belgium was slaughtering countless Congolese people in ruthless pursuit of an empire for his very own self just like the proper countries? Or was that later?) and I adore Portrait of the Artist.


If you continue with classics, and I hope you do, I can see that you are going to be mean to all of them!!!!

I know it's totally irrational, but there it is. :wink:




You pernickety thing you!!! How DARE you confine poetry to proper lined up poetry!!!! Does Shakespeare offend you because he mixes it all up?

You be making fences and expecting your bees to stick to them as they roam the flowers.


Perhaps if you tried NOT to gloss, but let the language in without getting all pedantic with it, that might be a fairer way to approach the reading experience? Just suspend that busy critical brain for a moment and flow with the book?


I think the way Stephen and his world is REALISED is great...and I think there is a story....certainly one that I recall enjoying....but a lot of the story is what happens in Stephen's head. I loved the evocation of his world, too.


Thing is, if you be gonna read a lot of classic novels, remember that the point of the classic novels is often the exploration of person and their interior journey, and there may not be a lot of story in the sense of a lot happening, except within the person. Some classics are good yarns, too.

You are also interested in a "great character", so the psychological novel classics ought to work for you if you are drawn to the character. But...I am wondering how you define a good story and a great character?


I find The Joyce you are reading to have both......but of course we are different people.


Re the names......mebbe if you jot down who is who on a bit of paper and use it as a bookmark????? Who is who often drives me nuts, too.

If you are not going to "get deep into it" I don't think you'll enjoy a lot of books that others enjoy, because the reward lies in the depth.



You DO or will have more access to books soon? You speak of Kindle...does that work outside the US?


You prefer not computer screens.


Would printing stuff from Bibliomania etc. be too onerous?


Second hand via Amazon is cheap, except for postage...but you'd likely pay less than I do.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 09:33 pm
I am fond of the book for these reasons: It is well written and about a young man in the process of personal discovery, a theme very strong with me. I recognize in Stephen Daedalus a kindred spirit. The author captures a world I never could have known on my own. I have not read it in many years, but it began my discovery of Joyce, particularly of Ulysses, one of my top favorite novels.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Fri 25 Apr, 2008 10:10 pm
edgarblythe wrote:
I am fond of the book for these reasons: It is well written and about a young man in the process of personal discovery, a theme very strong with me. I recognize in Stephen Daedalus a kindred spirit. The author captures a world I never could have known on my own. I have not read it in many years, but it began my discovery of Joyce, particularly of Ulysses, one of my top favorite novels.



Ok!!!


You've done it!


I'm gonna have a go at Ulysses again!!!!!
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Sat 26 Apr, 2008 06:06 am
Ulysses

Nothing I will write here can do this work justice. It took years and years for me to read it through. I always would begin with earnest intentions, then get mired in unfamiliar words, which caused me to lose track of the story line. Frustrated, I would leave off trying. Then, finally, I determined to read it through, without pausing to puzzle over words or whole sentences, simply because they were obscure. In that way, I read the whole of it. I was quite pleased to comprehend, in the end, the gist of the book. I love the language of Ulysses and the total fabric of it, and so keep a ragged copy at my desk, that I might read passages at random when a notion hits me. I would love to have the money to visit Ireland on Bloom's Day.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Sat 26 Apr, 2008 06:17 am
Fellah i know who peddles bullshit online from Ireland decided to walk across Dublin, following Bloom's path, on "Bloom's day." It fairly wore him out--of course, he thought he'd be in prime shape, because he cycles. But walking for miles and miles, hours on end, is an entirely different kettle of fish.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Sat 26 Apr, 2008 06:25 am
Setanta wrote:
Fellah i know who peddles bullshit online from Ireland decided to walk across Dublin, following Bloom's path, on "Bloom's day." It fairly wore him out--of course, he thought he'd be in prime shape, because he cycles. But walking for miles and miles, hours on end, is an entirely different kettle of fish.


I walk all day, five days a week, much of it up and down stairs. You don't daunt me, fellah.
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