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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ()

Library Journal: Top 150 of the Century

Literature is filled with wonderful coming of age tales.  Many of them touch us & remind us of the confusion we all face as we leave childhood and become adults.  The Catcher in the Rye, Red Sky at Morning & To Kill a Mockingbird spring to mind as examples of the genre which we return to over and over again because the characters win a place in our hearts.  Then there's James Joyce...

The worst part of reading this top 100 books is the presence of three Joyces on the list.  I started with this one because it's at least approachable.  Joyce was just beginning to experiment with his profoundly annoying word games & stream-of-consciousness psychobabble, so you can usually understand this book (unlike Ulysses & Finnegans Wake).

However, who cares if you can understand it?  Who cares about any of these characters?  Why would we care about them?  There's noone we empathize with &, therefore, no reason to care what happens to them.  Reader pass by…


Grade: (F)


James Joyce Links:
-ESSAY: Every picture tells a story: When James Joyce and Italo Svevo played bowls (Riccardo Cepach, 1/15/21, TLS) -AUDIO: : Listen to the first ever recording of James Joyce reading from Ulysses (Emily Temple, February 2, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: How to Read Ulysses By the Numbers: Breaking Down a Surprisingly Revealing Technique (Eric Bulson, January 11, 2021, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: The joy of Joyce’s Ulysses is that it isn’t intuitive at all: Though the classic book is considered a stream-of-consciousness novel, we should perhaps regard it as the opposite (John Scholar, 1/24/21, Independent)

Book-related and General Links:
  -Encyclopaedia Britannica:  Your search: "james joyce"
   -Work in Progress: The Writings of James Joyce (Temple University)
   -International James Joyce Foundation
   -James Joyce Resource Center (primary reference source for anyone interested in Joyce studies)
   -In Bloom: A James Joyce Homepage
   -James Joyce (1882-1941)(Kobe University)
   -The Brazen Head: A James Joyce Public House
   -OVERVIEW: James Joyce 1882-1941 (Brown University)
   -IQ Infinity: The Unknown James Joyce
    -The Writings of James Joyce
    -James Joyce Web Page
    -World Wide Dubliners
    -Wallace Gray's Notes for James Joyce's "The Dead"
   -PROFILE: Top 100 People of the Century: James Joyce (Paul Gray, Time)
   -ANNOTATED ETEXT: Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
    -ONLINE STUDYGUIDE : A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (Spark Notes)
   -ARTICLE: The Fate of Joyce Family Letters Causes Angry Literary Debate (CARYN JAMES, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Dublin Journal; 90 Years Ago, Leopold Bloom Took a Walk . . .  (JAMES F. CLARITY, NY Times)
    -ESSAY:  Richard Ellmann: The Politics of Joyce
    -ESSAY: LITERARY FOOTNOTE; ELLMANN REJOYCING (Richard Ellmann, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: A Fine Madness  (Dr. Joseph Collins, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce's comic messiah  (Robert Alter, American Scholar)
    -ESSAY:  James Joyce's Zurich  (PAUL HOFMANN, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Whose Life Is This, Anyway?  (James Atlas, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: A Not-So-Lit'rary Bloomsday (FRANCIS X. CLINES, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Virtually A-Wake (Robert Sullivan, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: James Joyce by H.G. Wells The inventor of science fiction defends the  experimentation of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. (1917, New Republic)
    -REVIEWS: New York Review of Books Archive
    -REVIEW: of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce - in lieu of review (The Guardian, May 12 1939)
-REVIEW: John Banville: The Motherless Child, NY Review of Books
        James Joyce by Edna O'Brien
    -REVIEW: of JAMES JOYCE By Edna O'Brien (Robert Sullivan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of   `Reading Alcoholisms: Theorizing Character and Narrative in Selected Novels of Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf,' by Jane Lilienfeld. (Shelley Cox, Library Journal)
    -REVIEW: Richard Ellmann: The Big Word in 'Ulysses', NY Review of Books
        Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition by James Joyce
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Yes, NY Review of Books
        Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom by Brenda Maddox
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Scrabbling in the 'Wake', NY Review of Books
        Shakespeare and Joyce: A Study of Finnegans Wake by Vincent John Cheng
    -REVIEW: Michael Wood: Joyce's Influenza, NY Review of Books
        James Joyce in Padua edited by Louis Berrone
        Afterjoyce: Studies in Fiction After Ulysses by Robert Martin Adams
        "In the wake of the Wake" edited by Elliott Anderson and David Hayman
        The Consciousness of Joyce by Richard Ellmann
    -REVIEW: Stuart Hampshire: Joyce and Vico: The Middle Way, NY Review of Books
        The Exile of James Joyce by Hélène Cixous and translated by Sally A.J. Purcell
        Ulysses on the Liffey by Richard Ellmann
        Closing Time by Norman O. Brown
    -REVIEW: Matthew Hodgart: Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Adulterer, NY Review of Books
        Giacomo Joyce by James Joyce and with an Introduction and Notes by Richard Ellmann

    -REVIEW: Denis Donoghue: Huston's Joyce, NY Review of Books
        The Dead a film directed by John Huston and based on the story by James Joyce
    -REVIEW:  Richard Ellmann: Bloomovie, NY Review of Books
        Ulysses produced by Walter Reade and directed by Joseph Strick

    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Mulligan Stew, NY Review of Books
        A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers by Hugh Kenner


No, you'd have to empathize before you could sympathize, but Joyce's characters aren't recognizably human, just thought experiments.

- oj

- Jan-08-2006, 10:44


Hey Judds, I believe the word you're looking for is "sympathize", not "empathize". You clearly have empathy for every character.

- Vince

- Dec-11-2005, 11:47


Oh wow. I've read 2 reviews and already you've used the word "pyschobabble" twice. I'm beginning to think you're an idiot.

- weston

- May-01-2005, 19:20


The value of books and all art forms for that matter, doesn't rest on whether you like it, it rests on whether you understand it. If you don't understand it at first find some way to help yourself understand it. Its called learning. What's the point of reading if you only read easy books?

- Kelsey

- Apr-07-2005, 15:07


No, I don't wonder--it's just the pretensions of academics and intellectuals.

- oj

- Apr-01-2005, 00:44


Do you wonder why James Joyce is considered to be the single best modern author in the English language (F. Scott Fitzgerald being the only other author even remotely close to his genius)? Does it not occur to you that you don't care about the characters because you don't understand their depth or complexity, or their intense humanity? Try attending a literature class once in a while, and you just might discover what real literature is and why it is a work of art rather than just a simple, straightforward story. I happen to agree with the educated and respected critics today (as well as Aslin, Jenny and the unnamed poster above) that what Michelangelo was to sculpture, Joyce is to modern English literature.

- Jennifer

- Apr-01-2005, 00:35


I give this book at least a B. I just read it in English, and I found it to be very thought provoking. Anyone who has ever questioned authority or what they have been told can relate to this book. I'm fairly sure that this would include anyone with the mental capacity to understand the novel. Good day, sir.

- Aslin

- Jan-12-2005, 09:59



One of my favorite novels of all time. Those who say it's dull and cannot stand reading it are too impressioned by the formulas set for literature and are afraid because James Joyce is able to break those formulas and write his own.

- Jenny

- Apr-09-2004, 21:42



- Thomas Giannotti

- Oct-19-2003, 03:27


i can definitely see how you would have trouble empathizing with the young intellectual. in fact, this comes as absolutely no surprise whatsoever.


- May-14-2003, 03:55