Most of the time, reading classics sort of puts me off. Growing up, that was pretty much all I read – they came “pre-approved” and I never took chances with anything else. Now that I do have a basis for comparison, I enjoy contemporary fiction so much more – and for several reasons: its actuality (in style and language, if not timeline), its variety, but most importantly, its lack of baggage. With classics – you’re expected to like them and to emit pertinent comments regarding their value. Anything less feels like frivolity, lack of substance or culture. And, in the end, contemporary lit feels rather more challenging – partly precisely because there’s no set in stone opinions that come along with it. It makes you think more.
That’s how it works for me, at any rate.

James Joyce’s little book of short stories brought on this long winded, useless comparison because I didn’t exactly enjoy reading it. Which isn’t to say I hated it – it’s more on the side of indifference. After a while the stories seemed to blend, and, looking at their titles, I’m not sure which was which anymore. My favorites though, were those that show just a glimpse of life – nothing with a particular beginning or ending – because they feel a bit like a crack in a window or an overheard conversation, like a small breach of privacy. Gabriel Conroy’s Christmas celebrations with family and friends, the 2 boys playing hooky and meeting a very strange man, the girl who wanted to leave home but backed out at the last minute.
Bigger than them all is the City – the constant character in each of the 15 stories. Turn of the century Dublin – dirty, crowded, brimming with nationalist working class, reliable, hispitable, overpowering. It is, by far, the most memorable character.
To digress a bit, for about 10 years now I’ve looked upon Dublin & Ireland as some kind of magical lands. I’ve never actually been there – I’m half anxious to go, half reluctant and fearful. I’m not sure what I expect exactly, but it really does hold a spell over me.That’s why I like finding it in books – closer and still very far.
One more thing this book did (besides make me gushy about the Emerlad Isle πŸ˜€ ) is make me miss winter. The snow covering every bit of land, uniting for a moment those of such different backgrounds, aspirations and tastes – it’s just such a powerful closing scene, so beautiful and so soothing, that it stays with you even after you put the book down.


~ by ameer on April 4, 2009.

3 Responses to “Dubliners”

  1. Yes! That’s exactly how I feel re: classics. I used to read them because I didn’t now what else to read, and classics = good, right? But now I feel like I can dive right into an unknown fiction, whereas with a classic I’m halfway down the first page all stressed out because, Am I getting it? Am I picking up on all the subtleties? Hrack!

  2. Cand eram mica citeam ‘clasicii” cu mai mare lejeritate si cu o oarecare inconstienta, and I could actually enjoy them. Acum mi-e aproape imposibil si este frustrant, pentru ca am lacune de umplut.
    M-am zbatut cu Dubliners candva prin octombrie si tot cam la aceelasi concluzii am ajuns. As vrea sa recitesc fiecare povestire separat, la anumite intervale, sa le pot pot percepe individual, with a clear head. Singurele pe care am apucat sa le citesc de doua ori au fost “Two Gallants”, care m-a intrigat de la prima fraza, ceva cu “that emphatically takes the biscuit” (un inceput mult foarte dinamic pentru Joyce), si Eveline, unde tot asa, mi-au luat ochii primele fraze, descrierea ferestrei cu perdeaua prafuita. πŸ™‚

  3. Da, la Eveline chiar imi aduc aminte inceputul, si mie mi’a placut, era ceva reconfortant si desuet πŸ™‚ Cat despre clasici – si eu am lacutne…dar sper ca poate in cativa ani o sa reusesc sa ma intoc la ei. Acum nu prea am nici rabdarea necesara si poate nici deschiderea…I don’t know, clasicii ma duc mereu cu gandul la vacante luuuungi de vara. Si cum nu mai am parte de ele… πŸ˜‰

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