Review: James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”

by writereaderly

This book was tiresome and self-important. I liked the first small section of Joyce’s childhood, but not the next one (“woe is me, I’m more profound and less understood than my schoolmates”), or the next one (as above, but with family), or the next one (“I shagged prostitutes then filled 30pp with Catholic guilt”) or the bit I skipped to where Stephen Dedalus was now a university student who was still bathed by his mother – “because you enjoy it,” he tells her – before running late to class. Eww: duly abandoned.

The only reason I struggled through as far as I did is because it’s on my sister’s 178 Best 100 Novels of All Time list. To introduce this element of my lectoral life: KAM glommed the All-TIME 100 Novels list – Time’s best 100 novels in English since 1923 – with another, as-yet-unidentified, more Brit-based, foreign-friendly list; skimmed off the duplicates; and, voilà, devised her reading plan for about the next five years. (Her Christmas and birthday presents are now considerably easier than they used to be.) The list’s contents is terrible for the ego of one (who shall remain nameless) who considered herself well-read – BUT it’s a great addition to the Slow Rotation. Except, however, when the books are Classic but Shite, like this estimable specimen.

Where it came from: Farm Bookshelf
Time taken to read: About 6 months of listless, desperation-only, handbag reading
Where it went to: Back to the shelf in shame
Reminds me of:
Who I’d recommend it to: Bah! No one.
Also reading: “The Heart of the Matter” by Graham Greene; “The Blind Eye” by Georgia Blain; “Cold Comfort Farm” by Stella Gibbons; “Gertrude” by Hermann Hesse; “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell; “Trash” by Dorothy Allison; “The Mountain” by Kate Llewellyn