Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

"Have Read Little and Understood Less." Such is the average appreciation for James Joyce. This book could be your guidebook to his genius - if you dare.“Have Read Little and Understood Less.”

Such is the average appreciation for James Joyce.This book could be your guidebook to his genius – if you dare.

Joyce wrote with a huge vocabulary, poured into a stream-of-consciousness approach through his writing. Most readers are left at the curb from this. Because they don’t know how to disengage their mind to fly beyond the prison of their own world, to enter his.

To read this classic is to get a primer on how to read its sequel, Ulysses. We meet this semi-biographical Stephen Daedalus and learn how his mind works.

Joyce isn’t linear. He doesn’t stick to hard-core plot lines. There is no adventure cliffhangers here.

Instead, you find themes ebbing and flowing like the intersection of waves, wind, trees, and dust – all blown and flowing through the story.

As implied, you’ll need a dictionary to hand. (One reader found his iPad was handy to look up the terms and references – of course, he was reading the digital version.) The ideal paperback would be printed in double-spaced lines with wide margins for notes – and come with a supply of Post-in Notes and high-lighter pens. It would also be spiral bound so you could start over right after you reached the end.

How to Experience This Book

You’ll probably find that Portrait isn’t a “read” at all, it’s an experience. The end isn’t a read book, it’s a viewpoint shift, or several.

This is a touching and intimate look through the heart and mind of the artist at his world as he grows from a sensitive, open child, through his alienated youth, into a creative adult. It’s a coming-of-age story that you can vicariously live.

This kind of writing is definitely a challenge, but it’s worth the work. It will probably take longer than most novels you’ll read, but it will make you think in a different way. Especially for creative people, this is the kind of book you need to read to change the way you see your own art.

You have to let it move you organically, you have to suspend your expectations and just let the words do their work on you. This is hard to do most of the time, since most consistently keep trying to analyze everything that happens or figure out what the “story” is.

You have to turn off that part of your brain that searches for meaning in the actions of the characters and just let yourself experience the prose.

Reading this book is learning about the feelings it inspires in you. At different times while reading you’ll feel bored, intrigued, pensive, overwhelmed, or a strong sense of kinship with the narrator. The book will annoy you, but also can make you think about yourself in new ways. None of this happens because of the character or plot development. It all comes from the language Joyce used and how he fits it together.

Why You Should Read This Book (Again.)

This is on the list of “books you feel societal pressure to read as a person who prides themselves on their literary prowess.” The probable best sequence to reading Joyce (and learning to let go and experience his work) is to get through Dubliners, then Portrait. After that, you’ll be able to finally enjoy Ulysses.

This novel/memoir deserves its status as a classic. There’s no story ever read that has let the reader really experience a character’s life and spirit better than this. You experience the story through the character’s own eyes, instead of looking on from the outside.

If you were forced to read Joyce in school, it’s a good time to take another look. Again, this isn’t a 21st century novel. It’s a semi-autobiographical, expressionistic, 20th century experience for you to intimately share with the author, beyond all time and space.

If you are ready, or even if you aren’t, this book stands ready to change your life.

Scroll back up and get your copy now.

Available in all formats from all major book distributors and sellers:

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hardback: Amazon | Lulu

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