Week Thirty-Seven and Thirty-Eight: “The Dead” by James Joyce

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Cover of the Penguin edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners, of which “The Dead” is the last story-novella.

 

 

It’s time for our Winter Novella Challenge! The votes are in and our book club members have decided to study “The Dead” by James Joyce, so get ready to visit the city of Dublin, just after the turn of the century!

Dubliners is a book of short stories penned by Joyce at the height of Irish Nationalism, published in 1914 . . . the beginning of the first world war.

“The Dead,” often considered a novella in its own right, is the culminating tale in Joyce’s book.

The stories depict a myriad of characters from everyday life. In order, the stories are:

 

  • “The Sisters” – A priest, Father Flynn dies, and a young boy deals with it.
  • “An Encounter” – Two schoolboys playing truant encounter an elderly man.
  • “Araby” – A boy falls in love with the sister of his friend,.
  • “Eveline” – A young woman weighs her decision to flee Ireland.
  • “After the Race” – College student Jimmy Doyle tries to fit in with his wealthy friends.
  • “Two Gallants” – Two con men, Lenehan and Corley, and their deeds.
  • “The Boarding House” – Mrs Mooney successfully maneuvers her daughter Polly.
  • “A Little Cloud” – Little Chandler’s dinner with his old friend Ignatius Gallaher casts fresh light on his own failed literary dreams.
  • “Counterparts” – Farrington, a lumbering alcoholic scrivener, takes out his frustration in pubs and on his son Tom.
  • “Clay” – The old maid Maria, a laundress, celebrates Halloween with her former foster child Joe Donnelly and his family.
  • “A Painful Case” – Mr Duffy rebuffs Mrs Sinico.
  • “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” – Minor politicians try to live up to the memory of Charles Stewart Parnell.
  • “A Mother” – Mrs Kearney tries to win a place of pride for her daughter, Kathleen.
  • “Grace” – Mr Kernan injures himself falling down the stairs in a bar.
  • “The Dead” – Gabriel Conroy attends a party, and later, as he speaks with his wife, has an epiphany about the nature of life and death. At 15–16,000 words this story has also been classified as a novella. The Dead was adapted into a film by John Huston, written for the screen by his son Tony and starring his daughter Anjelica as Mrs. Conroy.

 

HERE is the text of Joyce’s novella, “The Dead,” Enjoy!

Penguin Random House summarizes Dubliners this way:

“Joyce casts a wide net, arranging the stories so they move from childhood to adulthood and from public to private. In his thoroughness, Joyce is as tender as he is fierce. The first Dubliners we meet are curious children hungry for adventure and love. There are young boys with romantic visions of chivalry and young women longing to escape. Yet (some) youthful dreams quickly fade for the adults in later stories,”. . .culminating in the character of Gabriel in “The Dead.”

What do you make of Gabriel? How would you describe his character?

 

Some other thoughts to contemplate, as the snow falls and the holidays approach:

In “The Dead,” the narrator describes Gretta listening to music on the stairs as “a symbol of something.” Is Gretta a symbol of anything? And, if so, of what?

Once Gretta falls asleep after telling Gabriel about Michael Furey, why does Gabriel feel so alienated from her?

 

“The Lass of Aughrim”

I am a poor young girl
That’s straight from Callander
I’m in search of Lord Gregory
Pray God I find him!
The rain beats my yellow locks
And the dew wets me still
My babe is cold in my arms
Lord Gregory, let me in!

Lord Gregory’s not here and
Henceforth can’t be seen
For he’s gone to bonny Scotland
For to bring home his new queen
So leave now these windows
And likewise this hall
For it’s deep in the sea
You should hide your downfall

Who’ll shoe my babe’s little feet?
Who’ll put gloves on her hand?
Who will tie my babe’s middle
With a long linen band?
Who’ll comb my babe’s yellow hair
With an ivory comb?
Who will be my babe’s father
Till Lord Gregory comes home?

Do you remember, love Gregory
That night in Callander
Where we changed pocket handkerchiefs
And me against my will?
For yours was pure linen, love
And mine but coarse cloth
For yours cost a guinea, love
And mine but one groat

Do you remember, love Gregory
That night in Callander
Where we changed rings on our fingers
And me against my will?
For yours was pure silver, love
And mine was but tin
For yours cost a guinea, love
And mine but one cent

And my curse on you, Mother
My curse being sore!
Sure, I dreamed the girl I love
Came a-knocking at my door

Sleep down you foolish son
Sleep down and sleep on
For it’s long ago that weary girl
Lies drownin’ in the sea

Well go saddle me the black horse
The brown, and the gray
Go saddle me the best horse
In my stable to-day!
And I’ll range over mountains
Over valleys so wide
Till I find the girl I love
And I’ll lay by her side

 

As member Jeri Harbers Thomson reminds us, ”’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” (Alfred Lord Tennyson.)

There is that moment of bleak epiphany when one realizes that something they’ve always thought of as a reality was never real, after all. So then you question everything else in your life that rests upon that. It’s worth reading Joyce’s “The Dead. ”  Of it, author Karl Knausgaard says ” The Dead is a perfect short story. The best short story ever written .”

“He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
James Joyce, The Dead

Thus Dublin, as Joyce depicts it through the eyes of Gabriel Conroy, is a snow-laden monument not only to appearance versus reality but the final scene in a drama which has progressed from the innocence of street children to the melancholic epiphany of everyone who has ever had a curtain of myth torn down from before their eyes.

And the snow keeps falling around our wiser hero, gently.

 . . .A bit about James Joyce . . .

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From the James Joyce Center website:

“James Joyce (1882 – 1941) is one of Ireland’s most influential and celebrated writers. His most famous work is Ulysses (1922) which follows the movements of Leopold Bloom through a single day on June 16th, 1904. Ulysses is based on Homer’s The Odyssey.

Some of Joyce’s other major works include the short story collection Dubliners (1914), and novels A Potrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). Joyce was born in Dublin on 2nd February 1882 and attended school in Clongowes Wood College and Belvedere College (just up the road from the Centre) before going on to University College, then located on St Stephen’s Green, where he studied modern languages.

After graduating from university, Joyce went to Paris, ostensibly to study medicine, and was recalled to Dublin in April 1903 because of the illness and subsequent death of his mother. He stayed in Ireland until 1904, and in June that year he met Nora Barnacle, the Galway woman who was to become his partner and later his wife.

In August 1904 the first of Joyce’s short stories was published in the Irish Homestead magazine, followed by two others, but in October Joyce and Nora left Ireland going first to Pola (now Pula, Croatia) where Joyce got a job teaching English at a Berlitz school. After he left Ireland in 1904, Joyce only made four return visits, the last of those in 1912, after which he never returned to Ireland.

James Joyce with Nora Barnacle

James Joyce walking down a Dublin street with his wife Nora and a friend.

1914 proved a crucial year for Joyce. With Ezra Pound’s assistance, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce’s first novel, began to appear in serial form in Harriet Weaver’s Egoist magazine in London. His collection of short stories, Dubliners, on which he had been working since 1904, was finally published, and he also wrote his only play, Exiles. It was after these successes that Joyce began to think seriously about writing the novel he had been formulating since 1907: Ulysses.

With the start of World War One, Joyce and Nora, along with their two children, Giorgio and Lucia, were forced to leave Trieste and arrived in Zurich where they lived for the duration of the war. It was during this time that Joyce worked on Ulysses and included many characteristics of those around him in the characters of the book. Though Joyce wanted to settle in Trieste again after the War, the poet Ezra Pound persuaded him to come to Paris for a while, and Joyce stayed there for the next twenty years.

It was in Paris that Joyce met Sylvia Beach, an American ex-pat who helped him to publish Ulysses for the first time in 1922. From 1930, after Beach had relinquished the rights to Ulysses, Joyce became very close with Paul Léon, another ex-pat living in Paris. Léon became Joyce’s business advisor and close friend and helped him to publish his final book Finnegans Wake in 1939.

In 1940, when Joyce fled to the south of France ahead of the Nazi invasion, Léon returned to the Joyces’ apartment in Paris to salvage their belongings and put them into safekeeping for the duration of the war. It’s thanks to Léon’s efforts that many of Joyce’s personal possessions and manuscripts still survive today. James Joyce died at the age of fifty-nine, on 13 January 1941 in Schwesterhaus vom Roten Kreuz in Zurich where he and his family had been given asylum. He is buried in Fluntern cemetery, Zurich.”

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Week Sixteen: “East Side, North Africa” by Jane Bowles and “A Matter of Optics” by Warren Breckman

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“East Side, North Africa” by Jane Bowles

This week, we’ll traverse the streets of “the city.”

“1950’s Tangier was a seedy port city where artists, pirates, picaros, philistines, lapsed aristocrats, real aristocrats, and paupers posing as kings had found refuge for centuries.

The writer Jane Bowles and her husband Paul Bowles presided over an enviable literary and artistic milieu that included William S. Burroughs, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and others. Djuna Barnes typed up “Nightwood” there. Jane made a reputation out of being a sort of resident literary muse, and a sort of avante-garde literary salon was established.”
Yet not everything in Tangier becomes a glamorous and social occasion, as we learn in Jane Bowles’ account, “East Side, North Africa”
“East Side: North Africa” describes a day in Tangier during which Jane (“Jeanie”) is invited to visit with Moroccan women who know her housekeeper and companion Cherifa.

For in real life, it wasn’t the glamorous jet set but rather Cherifa, who some say inspired Bowles the most.

Here is “East Side: North Africa” by Jane Bowles.

A bit about Jane Bowles . . .

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Jane and Paul Bowles in Tangiers with Truman Capote and Friends

From The Library of America website:

“Jane Bowles, whose limited oeuvre—one novel, one play, half a dozen short stories—belies a stellar reputation among critics and writers.

In 1948, when Jane arrived in Tangier, Morocco, to meet up with her husband, the novelist and composer Paul Bowles, she greeted their new home with enthusiastic admiration. “I love Tangier—the market and the Arab language, the Casbah, etc. And I long to go now to Marrakech and Taroudant.” As it turned out, the language was to prove a source of frustration, but Jane and Paul remained in Tangier for much of the rest of their lives.

Very little of Jane Bowles’s published writing concerns her adopted homeland, however. The notable exception is the essay “East Side: North Africa,” which Paul fictionalized (over her initial objections) into a short story, “Everything Is Nice.” In both its forms, the piece concerns the awkwardness of a young New Yorker’s attempt to fit into the urban society of Moroccan women.”

cherifa

Author Jane Bowles and her friend Cherifa (wearing chador) walking the streets of Tangier. (Tanger). (Photo by Terence/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

“I consider her the most important writer of prose fiction in modern American letters. Her work, her life: deep truth, observed without pretension, with humor and humanity. An artist and person, an angel.”—Tennessee Williams

Jane Bowles (Jane Sydney Auer) ( February 22, 1917 – May 4, 1973) was an American writer and playwright.

Here’s a fabulous article on Jane Bowles, the author of “East Side, North Africa.” ” Capote, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers and John Ashbery all professing their admiration” . . .and yet she was hardly known in literary canon. Succumbing to the devastation of strokes and alcoholism, she passed away at the age of 56.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-madness-of-queen-jane

A documentary remembrance of Jane Bowles in several languages

“A Matter of Optics” by Warren Breckman (Lapham’s Quarterly)

InvisibleCities_day

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities is referenced in Breckman’s article

From Kublai Khan to Jane Jacobs, for centuries people have been designing and writing about the layout of cities.

What would yours look like? And what would you call it? Would you prefer to dwell amidst the bustle at street level, or do you prefer a “gods-eye” perspective?

“People,” says Breckman,  love vantage points from which they can take in the city. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary does not observe Rouen from the street, but from a hilltop, where seen from above, “the whole landscape had the static quality of a painting.” William Wordsworth paused on Westminster Bridge in 1802 to observe London laid out before him . . .”

Breckman provides us with a good “survey 101” of his theories of city planning, and vantage point as large in scope as the many rich literary and historic references.

What a fascinating subject!

Here’s his gorgeous read from Lapham’s Quarterly. Enjoy!

http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/city/matter-optics

pariseiffel

a rare photo of the Eiffel Tower under construction in July 1888.

A bit about Jane Jacobs . . .

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Jane Jacobs is mentioned in Breckman’s article: of course no study of city planning would be complete without mention of Jacobs and her influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which  argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. The book also introduced sociological concepts such as “eyes on the street”. Here for comparison (by those who prefer the street view!) is her classic essay from 1958, “Downtown is for People.”http://fortune.com/…/downtown-is-for-people-fortune…/

 

See also Jacob Riis, who Breckman discusses as well. Riis photographed slums, brothels, tenements and other parts of poverty-stricken urban landscape to spark public reform: Jacob Riis: The Photographer Who Showed “How the Other Half Lives” in 1890s NYC

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Riis’s portrait of Hester Street, New York City. His photographs helped to spark civic social reform

Bonus Material: Three Poems by C.P. Cavafy: “Waiting for the Barbarians,” “Ithaka” and “The City”

Constantine Petrou Photiades Cavafy was born in Alexandria on 29 April 1863. Both his parents were natives of Constantinople. Cavafy was a cosmopolitan by birth, his family roots extending from Constantinople to London (via Alexandria, Trebizond, Chios, Trieste, Venice and Vienna.

His first work was as a journalist; then he took a position with the British-run Egyptian Ministry of Public Works for thirty years. (Egypt was a British protectorate until 1926.

One of Cavafy’s most important works is his 1904 poem Waiting for the Barbarians.The poem begins by describing a city-state in decline, whose population and legislators are waiting for the arrival of the barbarians. When night falls, the barbarians have not arrived. The poem ends: “What is to become of us without barbarians? Those people were a solution of a sort.”

In 1911, Cavafy wrote “Ithaka”, inspired by the Homeric return journey of Odysseus to his home island, as depicted in the Odyssey.

“The City” is another poem by Cavafy which readers may enjoy if studying a unit on the idea of the city, civil planning and the concept of the city as a phenomenon in literature.

The City

C. P. Cavafy, 18631933

You said: “I’ll go to another country. go to another shore,
find another city better than this one. 
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong 
and my heart lies buried like something dead. 
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look, 
I see the black ruins of my life, here, 
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
 
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore. 
This city will always pursue you. 
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old 
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses. 
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere: 
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

From C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Published by Princeton University Press. Copyright © 1972 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.