James Joyce APAYM

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I can’t read this book without stimulants. It’s so dense with cusp-of-twentieth-century thinking, so encrusted with the religious world view, so blinkered with sexism and weird about race and diversity generally – and almost morbidly verbose.

But oh, get me a little high and it’s a different story. Then I have more patience with minds past, and Joyce’s prose is lambent and liquid and richly illumining. Stephen Daedalus meanders through his youth in a radiant bubble of the universal holy spirit, suspended swinging between love and fear, alternately inspired and defeated, seeking an elusive, viable faith in life itself while haunted and threatened on all sides by shame, horror, and the brute realities of the body in the world.

It’s a virtuosic debut; took fifteen years from conception to publication, and somewhere in between he was trying to publish Dubliners as well. I confess I prefer Ulysses, which I read at university (probably the best place to absorb such a tome). I’m yet to tackle Finnegan’s Wake: I’d like to get to it one day. I think as Joyce matured his mind broadened with the world’s, so I don’t reckon I’ll need aids to concentration for Finnegan’s Wake – ’tis a trip in itself, that one.

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