Thursday, February 24, 2011

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

There are books one feels one should read, and then there are books that one does. Fortunately having read the Dubliners ages ago Mr. Joyce isn't too daunting for me and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on the whole proved a very interesting and at times enjoyable read. The politics were also fascinating in light of the subsequent conflict in Northern Ireland.

What is it about reading about boys in boarding school that has so much appeal? Misplaced nostalgia perhaps? Or maybe it just tends to be that authors who write of such times often have the personal experience that affectionately informs the writing. That is if they survived of cause. Rudyard Kipling's Stalky and Co. is one of my favourite examples as well as anything written by Stephen Fry in his memoirs and Roald Dahl. Need I say more? Wonderful. Anyways, there are some great scenes written by James Joyce.

- Great scenes? Really? Is that the way to talk about such a work?
- Such a work? Whatever do you mean? She replied.
- It is one of the Modern novels that changed the way that we read.
- What of it? I said it was good.
- I mean he doesn't even use quotation marks, just dashes to indicate dialogue.
- Yes, well. That was a but frustrating at times, but looked nice on the page and generally worked. Very Modern. Are we done?
- Indubitably.

The scenes at University at the end were also quite amusing, and the snappiness of the dialogue was great - the - dashes - worked - really - well - there.

In fact the only thing that I had any trouble with at all was the mini-existential crisis of a 16 year old boy who becomes so indoctrinated with Catholicism that he believes he will die for his sins right there, immediately. The sermons that struck such fear into the depths of his soul were beautifully written but also to be fair, a little scary. It's not healthy for teenagers so be so subjugated. It's also not ideal for them to be touring brothels either. Balance is essentially the key! The point of resignation when he realised that he was a lost soul anyway and piety would not save him from his sins sat quite awkwardly. That said, as I was not brought up as a strict Catholic I wouldn't identify too much with his predicament.

I am not sure that I see Stephen Dedalus as a everyman for everyartist, but it is certainly an intriguing portrait.