A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Sept. 7, 2011, 10:33pm

I have read a lot of books, and a lot of classics, but I don't know how anyone could like James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I made it all the way through, but it was one of the most painful things that I have ever done - including giving birth twice!!

The stream of consciousness just did not interest me at all - I really did not particularly care what Stephen (or Joyce) thought about anything. It was just too hard to follow and not in the least anything that held my interest.

Why is this book considered a classic? What am I missing?

Sept. 9, 2011, 9:58am

I agree with you! So, I'm afraid I can't help you.

Sept. 9, 2011, 10:37am

That makes three of us!

No-one I know, and that includes people who claim to love Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, has ever given me any credible explanation as to why these works are regarded as anything other than a con-trick by a very intelligent, articulate writer.

The closest I've received as an explanation is that Joyce was a pioneer in the stream of consciousness styule. Fair enough. Apart from that it appears to me that the people who like Joyce are Dubliners who like his work because they recognise parts of their city (which is not a problem), or they are literary sorts who appreciate that there is so much beneath the surface that mere mortals cannot see and that this gives them the opportunity to pretend to see what isn't there while avoiding awkward questions that would expose what they don't know.

If there is more to Joyce I would be grateful for someone to explain it to me too, and in a fashion that does not duplicate Joyce's obfuscation.

Sept. 9, 2011, 1:34pm

I'm so glad I'm not alone. There are many classics that I have really enjoyed, but I don't think I'll even attempt Ulysses if it resembles Portrait in anyway at all.

Sept. 15, 2011, 7:31am

OK, it's over a week since this thread started. I do not see any Joyce fans rushing to help us and save us from our ignorance.

What does this tell us? Do the Joyce fans consider us a lost cause, are we beyond contemp, or are they having difficulty composing a suitably euridite explanation of their beloved works? Perhaps Joyce's works cannot be explained in the space available for a tread comment?

I await enlightenment from those who know.

Bearbeitet: Sept. 15, 2011, 1:39pm

Many years ago I read Portrait of the Artist during, I think, a summer between college years. I liked it, but I'm afraid I can't remember anything about it except this nice bit of writing:

"I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead."

When people criticize Faulkner for being difficult, they usually criticize the stream of consciousness style. I really never had a problem with it, probably because my mind works that way, almost hypomanic, with that steady stream of thoughts, always taking turns and digressions. Aside from that, I like the style because I think it conveys what really goes on inside a person, a tough thing to depict in prose. Along the same lines I would mention Henry James, another psychological writer of consciousness. He too was trying to depict what goes on inside.

As for Ulysses, in college I was told never to read it outside of a class. It has to be studied.

I'm afraid I have nothing more to offer. Have you tried sparknotes.com?

Sept. 15, 2011, 2:31pm

deniro, thank you very much for your useful comments and recommended source of notes. I will indeed try sparknotes.com.

Sept. 15, 2011, 8:21pm

It's not so much that I don't understand it, I just do not enjoy it. It was such dry, boring reading - there was nothing that really hooked me. The only real difficulty about it was that it just wasn't interesting...I too have a steady stream of thoughts, with many digressions, but I'm pretty sure that no one would want to be inside my head!

I did just take a peek at the sparknotes to see if there was anything I had perhaps missed from reading the story, and I have to say that they pretty much confirmed that I understood what I was reading. I have to say that I actually enjoyed reading the sparknotes more than I did reading the novel. ;-)

No offense meant to anyone (if I sound critical, it is only myself of whom I mean to be critical) but if all it takes to write a classic novel is to write my thoughts on paper, I should get started right now. But perhaps since I would only be following in someone's footsteps, it wouldn't be considered "the" definitive novel.