A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Anglais) Broché – 25 janvier 2007
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Stephen was by then aware that he didn't belong. He also felt more and more estranged from his father after having accompanied him once to Cork and witnessed his drinking habits, a journey which ended in Stephen's first experience in love making - a sordid one.
More disappointment followed as Stephen went to university, thus becoming a disillusioned young man - a disillusionment caused by academicism, love and sex, his parents, religion and perhaps also his own country, Ireland...
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1. It's extremely cheap.
2. It features a very long and immensely insightful (32-page) introduction by Jaqueline Belanger, which includes a biography, publishing background, sections on language structure, irony, etc. There are also many suggestions for further syntopic or critical reading.
3. The thing is complete and unabridged.
4. There are extensive footnotes at the end, which are keyed throughout in the text, explaining all the Latin and the extinct realia of Joyce's world.
In short, get it.
As for the work itself, it's a very good prepper for "Ulysses:" I started that novel without having done this one. Later I came back to this: much was made clearer. Don't make my mistake.
When Stephen is a baby, you get only what comes in through the five senses. When he is a young boy, you get the experience refracted through a prism of many things: his illness (for those who've read Ulysses, here is the beginning of Stephen's hydrophobia - "How cold and slimy the water had been! A fellow had once seen a big rat jump into the scum."), his poor eyesight, the radically mixed signals he's been given about religion and politics (the Christmas meal), his unfair punishment, and maybe most important of all, his father's unusual expressions (growing up with phrases like, "There's more cunning in one of those warts on his bald head than in a pack of jack foxes" how could this kid become anything but a writer?)
It is crucial to understand that Stephen's experiences are being given a certain inflection in this way when you come to the middle of the book and the sermon. You have to remember that Stephen has been far from a good Catholic boy. Among other things, he's been visting the brothels! The sermon hits him with a special intensity, so much so that it changes his life forever. Before it he's completely absorbed in the physical: food, sex, etc. After it he becomes just as absorbed in the spiritual/aesthetic world. It's the sermon that really puts him on the track to becoming an artist. One reviewer called the sermon overwrought. Well, of course it's overwrought. That's the whole point. Read it with your sense of humor turned on and keep in mind that you're getting the sermon the way you get everything else in the book: through Stephen.
After Stephen decides he doesn't want to be a priest, the idea of becoming an artist really starts to take hold. And when he sees the girl on the beach, his life is set for good. That scene has to be one of the most beautiful in all of literature. After that, Stephen develops his theory of esthetics with the help of Aristotle and Aquinas and we find ourselves moving from one conversation to another not unlike in Plato (each conversation with the appropriate inflection of college boy pomposity). In the end, Stephen asks his "father" to support him as he goes into the real world to create something. I like to think that this is an echo of the very first line in the book. The father, in one of many senses, is the moocow story. The story gave birth to Stephen's imagination and now it's the son's turn to create.
This is such a rich and beautiful book. I suppose it's possible for people to "get it" and still not like it, but I really think if you read and re-read, and maybe do a little research, the book will open up to you the way it did to me.
This book is TWO DOLLARS more than the Penguin version. For that $2 you get better quality paper, ink, and binding. More importantly you get Editorial notes that explain Joyce's obscure terms, ultimately making the book more readable. You also get over a dozen other writings dealing with Joyces text. These extras (200 pages worth) provide background information on Joyce's three major themes--Irish politics, Roman Catholicism, and "Aesthetic". Also, there are critical essays which range from general interpretations of the book to specified studies (ie feminist perspective). Being a difficult book, the supplemental material greatly enhanced my appreciation for 'Portrait'.
For ONE DOLLAR -LESS, you could go with this: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners (Barnes & Noble Classics). Here, not only do you get Portrait of the Artist_, but also you get the collection of short stories, Dubliners. Not to mention better editing. You still get footnotes. And there's some (not a lot) of suplimental material.
For FIVE DOLLARS more than you would spend on the Penguin book, you could get A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Everyman's Library (Cloth)). If you're going to buy a book, why not get one that will last the rest of your life? Well then, that would be the Everyman's Clothbound you seek.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST is important also for the innovations Joyce made in narrative. While the events in the story occur along a time line, Joyce is not particularly concerned with most of the details in the timeline. The narrator is not concerned to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but instead wants to present a series of prose snapshots from various periods in the life of Stephen Daedalus, who is transparently based on Joyce himself. The narrator lays out the events, but he isn't concerned with explaining them or making them clear. There is, in fact, little or no interaction with the reader. Most narration presupposes the presence of the reader, but PORTRAIT ignores any reader. This leads to a certain coolness in the prose that some find discomfiting.
What cannot be denied is the brilliance and the genius of the prose. It is a prose that alters and matures gradually with the central figure of the tale. The first pages border on baby talk, while the final pages are as mature as Daedalus at the same age. In terms of form and execution, this is easily one of the most brilliant works of fiction of the past century. Moreover, it is a remarkably accessible work. For those who first come to Joyce through the agony of reading some of the more stressful sections of ULYSSES or, worse, FINNEGAN'S WAKE, read PORTRAIT will come as something of a shock. Compared to ULYSSES, this is remarkably easy going.
The complaint that I hear some make of the book is that nothing happens. That is true, if by "happens" one means an interesting and unusual plot. The "story" if there is one is that of a young man growing up, gradually gaining consciousness of the world in which he lives, and eventually rejecting the Catholic vocation urged upon him to become a writer. The book is stuffed with details from Joyce's own life, from the political preoccupations of his family (though Joyce himself was amazingly unconcerned with politics) to the family obsession with singing (both Joyce and his father possessed a near-operatic quality singing voice).
I would urge those who do not care for the book because "nothing happens" to at least entertain the possibility that there is more than one way for a novel to be brilliant. If one can see the ways that PORTRAIT expanded and developed the possibilities for prose, it will be easy to appreciate it for the work of genius that it is.