Ronzermonster's picture
Ronzermonster from Portland, OR is reading Forture Smiles September 14, 2014 - 3:50pm

1. Dubliners

2. A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man

3. Ulysses

4. Finnegans Wake


That's it, in terms of prose. What have you read? How much of it did you read? Do you get it? Do you like it? It seems a lot of people on this site aspire to write either genre fiction or pop fiction. That's great and I get using this site to help make one's writing more "sellable," but that's not exactly what I'm interested in. I'm starting this discussion to call out the introverts and bookworms and margin-scribblers who certainly also want to get there writing published, but are not necessarily trying to alter and edit it into more digestable forms. Hence why I brought up someone who is perhaps considered the most indigestable author in the English language. I suppose Faulkner would be up there too, but Joyce is more celebrated on a critical level. Also, I think Joyce is an easy target for naysayers who consider his talent and craft overhyped. I myself was one of these Negative Nancies, but have now come to appreciate his style. I am currently reading Ulysses so I'm interested in your thoughts on it, even if it is on just one particular scene or sentence. I have not read Finnegans Wake and must admit I am somewhat intimidated, so it'd be neat to hear other readers' insight on that one. Maybe it would make the book less scary for me.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami September 15, 2014 - 6:17am

None at the moment, except bits of his biography.

He has the interesting quirk of using emdashes instead of quotes. Not cutting down experimentation, though thats a bit of work to get used to.

The only other one I read like that was this Dystopian Spy Thriller.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon September 15, 2014 - 12:53pm

I read Dubliners years ago and loved it. I remember it made a big impact on me and I immediately thought that it was going to be one of my favorite short story collections. But it's been years since I read it, so I don't remember much about it now. I've been meaning to reread it for a while now.

I've wanted to tackle Ulysses since way before I read Dubliners, but I've always ended up starting something shorter, not wanting to take on that behemoth of a book.

Jed Jones's picture
Jed Jones September 16, 2014 - 3:38am

I read Portait of the Artist as a Young Man for A-level English Lit when I was 16. It struck me as a beautiful image of a boy pursuing the idyllic, archetypal love I dreamed of falling into; not a new theme, but the same fable of paradise that graced art and literature for the whole history of human civilization until Katherine McKinnon and her mates moved the goal posts of what counts as underage and politically incorrect, and the world listened to them. 

I don't get why Joyce should be an easy target for haters of obscure styles and flowery prose: as poetic prose, it isn't meant to be direct. Aren't they missing the point completely? Yes! Yes! Yes!

If someone wrote a similar story today and posted it on a site like smashwords or, he would probably be an easy target for censorious bigots to form a lynch mob and deluge the admins with complaints to get him booted for posting underage erotica.

Liam Soutar's picture
Liam Soutar from Manchester, England is reading Gonzo Girl September 16, 2014 - 3:12pm

I read Dubliners in my Literature class when I was about 17, and I didn't like it. I just found it too depressing. I know that's the point, but I couldn't find any merit in the story to compensate for its misery. Having said that, we were also reading Dracula, which I loved, so it was an unfair battle. 

A few years later and I'm now trying to read Ulysses, having heard so many recommendations. We'll see how it goes.

Ronzermonster's picture
Ronzermonster from Portland, OR is reading Forture Smiles September 16, 2014 - 6:27pm

It's interesting how many of you read Joyce at such a young age (16, 17) I hardly find it appropriate reading material for such an age. Not to say the content is inappropriate, but the style and breadth of the text is really something that you have to train for. I myself read Dubliners in my early 20s (I think) and I still found myself wading through every sentance without end. I read Portrait shortly afterwards and found some glimmers of clarity (particularly the Sermon which was fucking spellbinding) but all in all I felt I wasn't mentally prepared for the task. It's like deciding to climb Everest after only going on a few hikes for fun. I know this sounds snobby, buit the language really is difficult and regardless of the "story" in his works, I think there is much to draw from on a spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, and mental level in terms of theme, imagery, and concepts. Again, all this is very murky without a strong grasp on the intricacies of the English language and its possibilities. Hence, it seems strange to make people read it at a young age when such a skill may not be that person's preferred practice. 

Oddly enough, Portrait deals with a young narrator (about 16) so maybe there's an attempt to get someone of that age to connect in perhaps a much more real way to the text and character than someone in their 20s, 30s or even 40s would. I'm now reading Ulysses and am instantly transported to a younger, more brooding time in my psyche, but I wonder if I would be able to absorb that narrative then or if I would've found it boring. Interesting stuff.

Seriously tho, has ANYONE read Finngens Wake?

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. September 16, 2014 - 8:56pm

I tried. I got about three pages in and thought it was pretentious gibberish. I was still in the library parking lot and returned it immediately.

Ronzermonster's picture
Ronzermonster from Portland, OR is reading Forture Smiles September 29, 2014 - 4:47pm

Pretentious gibberish? Seems mean-spirited. Anyone else? I've read passages of it and really like the idea of a circular book. It is true, that no one I know personally has gotten through it and everything I've read about it is from academics and professors, but I'd still like to see if a peer has gotten through it and what they thought.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer September 30, 2014 - 7:55am

Dubliners was hugely influential on me. I have all of the other books, but haven't started on them yet. I know a lot of people who really liked Finnegan's Wake. I have not read it myself, but I've read Dubliners several times.

Ronzermonster's picture
Ronzermonster from Portland, OR is reading Forture Smiles October 3, 2014 - 1:59pm

I did not get into Dubliners but I think it's just cause I wasn't literarily mature enough (I know that's not a word, but I hope the meaning is clear) As I've said above, I think it's cool that school forces these rather dense texts on younger minds and sometimes it'll inspire and delight, but a lot of times, I think the content falls flat because of a lack of interest or reading level.

That being said, I really want to reread Dubliners with a much more learned mind. Could you give me some specific stories you liked, or rather specific PARTS of stories that you liked?

Also, Blood Meridian owns.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami October 3, 2014 - 6:16pm

I want to find a new copy of either book. My thing is I'm not sure if I'll ever be prepared for it, as I'm used to reading novellas and chapter books.

(Like Gibson's novels, despite the word count feel like novellas.)

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes October 4, 2014 - 9:07am

I took a James Joyce class in college and I've admired his work ever since. I expect a lot of it had to do with having a great professor, but the rest is all Joyce. 

His facility with language--the playful joy in it is what always gets me. I'm interested in experimenting with narrative time, and structure. I'm interested in his exploration of the meaning of art, the burden of history, and...well, I could geek out for days over it. 

Ulysses is one of those books that contains so many surprises. I find something new to play with every time I read it. 

Dubliners is an excellent collection. I haven't read it in ages. "Araby", "Eveline", "A Painful Case" and "The Dead" are some favorites. 

I liked Portrait when I was 19---but I've not returned to it. 

I've never read FW, though. I've just tackled snippets. 


This makes me want to revisit Joyce again. Maybe next Bloomsday...


Ronzermonster's picture
Ronzermonster from Portland, OR is reading Forture Smiles October 4, 2014 - 12:25pm

I would love to take a class on Joyce. I'm rather upset that during my entire college career, I never did. It seems like a great way to get the most out of it. Maybe I'll just sneak into a class and sit in.

Portrait I definitely want to reread because it seems like the most straightforward. Perhaps next Bloomsday indeed.