James Joyce's "DUBLINERS" is an exceptional collection of stories/portraits about some of the residents of Dublin, Ireland early in the 20th century. Joyce's writing is lyrical, intimate and insightful. His characters run the gamut from very poor to very wealthy, and all have their personal battles, triumphs, and jarring revelations. I had heard of this book for years, but never read it because I was intimidated by the fear that his writing would be difficult to understand. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth! Joyce writes in a modern tone that is easy to read and understand. His characters could easily be people from our present day, as their situations transcend time and cultures. This is a book to be read one or two stories at a time (the better to reflect upon). As a whole, DUBLINERS is both astounding and fulfilling. I highly - highly - recommend this classic to all readers!
Much has been said about his work, which is one of the problems with Joyce. We all know of him, but how many of us have read him? I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man many years ago, and remember almost nothing of it. And like many others before me I tried to tackle Ulysses and got about ten pages in and said, "Bugger this!" (Imagine me saying it in my poor approximation of an Irish accent, and you'll get the idea.) But it occurred to me that hearing the words spoken might be exactly the way I should approach Joyce this time, and if it worked, if I found myself enjoying one of the more accessible books, then perhaps the audio book of Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake would go on my list.
In the end I discovered that I liked Joyce. I'm not a huge fan, but I like the sound of his words, particularly when read by Irish actors. And in the Caedmon version, the quality of the narration is up and down, with possibly the best reading being done by Stephen Rea, who gives us a version of The Dead that sounds as if it comes from the depths of a weary soul. Props also to Ciaran Hinds, Colm Meany, and Dan O'Herlihy. Alas the one Irish actor I'd have loved to hear narrate one of these stories was not included. Donal McCann, who left us far too soon, would have done an outstanding job, but it was not to be.
As for the stories themselves, I began to see that they were all about who people think they are and why. They're brief glances into events, even moments of the characters' lives that are so telling, that make their identities so clear that you come away from each one understanding what they hope for, and why they are suffering.
One story in particular -- I don't recall the title at the moment, so apologies for being vague here -- is the best sketch of an alcoholic I have ever read. I listened, becoming increasingly impatient with him until I wanted to shove him down the stairs. And then I recognized the knowledge that he was fleeing from, and felt terribly sad. It didn't excuse him, but it did explain him.
I'm not sure if I will go any further with Joyce, even in audio form, but I did enjoy Dubliners tremendously, and that's all you can ask from a book.
I originally had to purchase Dubliners for an English class a couple years ago for a condensed summer semester course. I found this copy online and took advantage of the extremely low price. Even though it is only $1, the copy arrived in good shape as far as the cover and the pages, and it was printed well.
I figured this book was going to be like any other book I've had to purchase for a college course. As a student you're pressured to purchase it per the course guidelines and ultimately you do so not to negatively affect your grade since the assignments and exams are based off of the readings. To my surprise, I really really enjoyed this book. My professor was pretty out there, but incredibly smart, and provided insightful information on each chapter from Dubliners. Oddly enough, I still think about these short stories regularly as I see certain themes from the book transpire in my own life. To fully experience James Joyce's Dubliners, I would encourage students / readers to further inspect the events and the characters, especially as they relate from one story to the next. The underlying message that James Joyce weaves throughout the book is one that I will never forget; I will use as motivation in such a crucial point in my life where I'm faced with important decisions and I ultimately get to choose my path and what lies next.
I loan out my copy of the book frequently, and would definitely recommend checking it out.