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The Portable James Joyce by James Joyce

The Portable James Joyce (1947)

by James Joyce

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920315,140 (4.14)33
The Portable James Joyce, edited and with an introduction by Harry Levin, includes four of the six books on which Joyce's astonishing reputatuion is founded: A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man; his Collected Poems (including Chamber Music); Exiles, Joyce's only drama; and his volume of short stories, Dubliners. In addition, there is a generous sampling from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, including the famous "Anna Livia Plurabelle" episode.… (more)



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The plot and theme of James Joyce's Ulysses center on life as a journey. Joyce based the framework of his novel on the structure of one of the greatest and most influential epic poems, The Odyssey of Homer. In it Homer presented the archetypal journey of life as a heroic adventure. The protagonist, Odysseus (Roman name, Ulysses), encounters many perils–including giants, angry gods, and monsters–during his voyage home to Ithaca, Greece, after the Trojan War. In Joyce's 20th Century novel, the author also depicts life as a journey, in imitation of Homer. But Joyce presents this journey as humdrum, dreary, and uneventful. Joyce's Ulysses is a Jew of Hungarian origin, Leopold Bloom, who lives in Dublin, Ireland. His adventure consists of getting breakfast, feeding his cat, going to a funeral, doing legwork for his job, visiting pubs or restaurants, and thinking about his unfaithful wife. His activities parallel in some way the adventures of Homer's Ulysses. For example Bloom attends a funeral in a chapter entitled "Hades"; paralleling an episode in The Odyssey in which Ulysses visits Hades, the land of the dead (or Underworld) in Greek mythology. Bloom's unfaithful wife, Molly, represents the faithful wife of Ulysses, Penelope. A young aspiring writer, Stephen Dedalus, represents the son of Ulysses, Telemachus, who searches for his father. Although Dedalus is not Bloom's son, Dedalus nonetheless is depicted as searching for a father figure to replace his own drunken father.
But why, when almost everyone who has heard of this book and many others who have read Ulysses, would so many say it is "difficult"?
Perhaps it is a difficulty that is an inescapable aspect of the human condition and as such, when presented as literature, is accessible to humans. Perhaps it is a difficulty that may be overcome by simply reading the text, enjoying the story, and waiting for the moments, christened "Eureka" moments by Claudia Traudt (Instructor in the Basic Program of Liberal Education at The University of Chicago), where the text will become more understandable, part of your soul, if not less difficult.
Reading it reminds me of my own experience reading William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, another notoriously difficult book. After at least three readings and countless partial attempts one summer I found myself finally "in the zone" with the text suddenly alive and the voices of the characters, their streaming consciousnesses, clearer than ever before. "Eureka!"
This takes work and both serious reading of and listening to the text. It is a text that echoes and reechoes Homer's Odyssey. One example of this jumped out at me when references to the sea from Ulysses brought to my mind the image of Odysseus sitting on the shore of Calypso's island pining for his home. The result of reading and rereading this great text is that its fundamental humaneness comes to the fore and you can celebrate the greatness that is Joyce's Ulysses. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Dec 24, 2019 |
James Joyce
What more can I say? I would follow his words to the ends of heaven the rim of hell. I would lose many of them along the way and have to circle back and gather them stuffing them in pockets, braiding them into my hair, feeding a few to the magpies and dropping others in the path of the erudite hoping they might trip over them and become confused.
James Joyce.
( )
  Paperpuss | Feb 25, 2019 |
My desert island shelf contains all my favorite books which I have encountered since I began reading decades ago. I would want these books if I could have no others.

Joyce is protein for the brain, yoga for the mind. He makes you work, but the rewards are endless. He once wrote to a friend as he finished Finnegan's Wake, "I've got enough stuff in there to keep the professors busy until the turn of the century." He was right. --JJM, 10/10/05
  rmckeown | Sep 3, 2005 |
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Collected Poems
From Ulysses
From Finnegans Wake
Bibliographical Note
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