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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

1 rating: 4.0
A book by James Joyce

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manis in fact the gestation of a soul.” –Richard Ellmann    “One believes in Stephen Dedalus as one believes in few characters in fiction.” –H. G. Wells    & … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: James Joyce
Publisher: Vintage
1 review about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A Groundbreaker

  • Sep 9, 2001
I read this years ago in college and once or twice afterwards though I haven't had the chance to re-read it in recent years. Still it lives on vividly enough in my memory to allow a review, here, I think.

Joyce was a strange one, where writing was concerned, focusing as he did on language as a means to evoke the world rather than merely for telling a "story". Over the years I have come to conclude that fiction requires narrative requires storytelling . . . and yet Joyce successfully broke that rule and he did it first in this book.

PORTRAIT is a book which builds the world of its narrator in the telling, without really following any kind of plot or storyline or giving us a beginning, middle and end. From the opening lines of ludicrous baby talk, where we see the world through the young hero's infantile eyes, to the end where the young lad, after much intellectual wrestling in his school days, steps off into the wider world, this is a book which paints a young man's coming of age, through his very subjective experience of life, with words. Indeed, all good writing "paints" its world to some extent. But Joyce, and several of his contemporaries, set out to re-write the rules of writing by only painting the picture, as though the story (an artificial element in most cases) did not count at all. And they did what they set out to do. Joyce did it most dramatically of all with this book. Like Hemingway, Joyce was a literary impressionist, building the world through bits of language instead of merely describing it or telling us about it.

I think we need to get back to basic story in our day, as theirs was, to some extent, a false trail. But it was a trail worth following and of great value to all readers and writers alike. Aspiring writers, and anyone with a real craving to explore the literary world, ought to have a go at this one. It's an original.


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