Posts Tagged ‘james joyce’

Finnegans Wake

Monday, August 10th, 2015 | Books

If you’ve read Ulysses you will know that it is full of Irish vernacular, fusions of literary styles and a fog of general confusion that makes it very difficult to follow what is going on.

Or so I thought, until I read Finnegans Wake. It turns out that Ulysses was really more of a warm-up for James Joyce. I now yearn for the comparatively clear plot of Ulysses in which, for some stretches, I could follow what was going on, without the aid of Wikipedia.

I have now finished reading Finnegans Wake and I have literally no idea what happened in it. The language seems even more esoteric, the plot even more muddled. I think there was some stuff about a butcher, who used to be a baker, but is now just a butcher, and sells liver as a special. Also one of the characters was called Anna Livia. The rest is a blur.

Even Wikipedia does not know what it is about. I went to see if I could follow by reading the plot description alongside the book and here is what the article said:

Despite the obstacles, readers and commentators have reached a broad consensus about the book’s central cast of characters and, to a lesser degree, its plot. However, a number of key details remain elusive.

Thanks for that. I don’t recommend reading it. You will probably be able to make more sense of it than I did, but maybe not that much.



Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 | Books

1914 was a simple time. Back then, you could actually work out what was happening in a James Joyce novel. This is why the description of the book includes the following helpful line.

This book holds none of the difficulties of Joyce’s later novels, such as Ulysses, yet in its way it is just as radical.

It is indeed more comprehensible. The opening dialogue of each story may not be quite as verbose as a Jane Austen novel, but you can pretty much work out what is going on within the first half of the story (the book itself being a collection of short stories).

In some ways though, this takes away a little piece of the James Joyce magic. The descriptions, by being less surreal, become a little less vivid as well.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Sunday, May 17th, 2015 | Books

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is James Joyce’s first novel. As a consequence, his literary style is still developing and as a consequence, large segments of this novel are understandable.

It follows the adventures of Stephen Dedalus, later to appear in Ulysses, throughout his young life.

The best bit is the fire and brimstone preaching. I’ve never heard a preacher having a proper go at it, so the description in this was brilliant. It goes into so much detail about how the tortures are so bad, how the flame never cools and how you never acclimatise to the torment. Scary stuff!


A Look at James Joyce and Photography

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 | Foundation, Humanism

For the June meeting of Leeds Skeptics, Georgina Binnie presented a talk “A Look at James Joyce and Photography”.

skeptics-1 skeptics-2


Thursday, July 11th, 2013 | Books

I first attempted to read Ulysses while we were in Dublin last year, as it seemed culturally appropriate, but having made it through the first part I soon found myself overwhelmed by the complexity and seamless tradition of abstract and concrete ideas expressed throughout the novel.

Not to be beaten though, I recently gave it another go. Now that I have made it all the way through, looking back on what I’ve done with my life so far, reaching the end could be the most impressive achievement.

I started off making the amateurish mistake of trying to follow the plot and work out what was going on. As Joyce darts randomly between things that are actually happing and the various thoughts that flow from each of the characters, discerning reality from imagination is a tricky business indeed.

A much better approach is to simply lay back and enjoy the language. What wondrous language it is though, a beautiful river of descriptive and colourful English in which a lexicon of over 30,000 words are employed in a novel only 265,000 words long. Joyce constantly switches between writing styles while presenting a vivid picture of life in Dublin in 1904.

It was also interesting to find out that the novel had been twice adapted into a film. Interesting, because I can’t think of a novel that would be less well suited to such an adaptation. The beautiful of Ulysses is in the language and in the picture painted in the mind of the reader – filling in the gaps surely could only damage the experience.



Friday, August 31st, 2012 | Books, Distractions

Being in Dublin and going round the generically tourist bits, you can’t help but notice there is a lot of stuff about James Joyce – he is one of the major literary figures in the country’s history after all.

So having some time to kill while we waited for our flight back, I decided to attempt to read Ulysses. I use the word attempt not to suggest I was trying to read it all in one sitting, but to suggest I was seeing if I could read it at all. After all, Elina had said she struggled, and her language skills are significantly beyond my own.

I’ve so far made it through the first part, of which there are three, but the first is much shorter. Even that has been hard going – I had to head over to Wikipedia at regular intervals to check my understanding matched up with theirs! I seem to be roughly following though, so all is well.