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James Joyce - the greatest? (1 Viewer)

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
I've been re-reading him plenty lately and wondered quietly to myself: is he not without a doubt, at the very least, the greatest writer of the 20 Century?
 

Patrick

WF Veterans
In my opinion, no. He's unreadable. I couldn't get passed the first three pages because I was shaking my head and cringing when I read Ulysses.
 
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Buddy Glass

Senior Member
In my opinion, no. He's unreadable. I couldn't get passed the first three pages because I was shaking my head and cringing when I read Ulysses.

Obviously he is not unreadable. But don't start with Ulysses, start somewhat chronologically, with Dubliners. It is his most readable and it is one of the best short fiction collections to date, still. Then move on to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which is also great. Here, he language gradually becomes more complex and advanced, but it is still a book that anyone can enjoy, in my opinion.

Ulysses. You can't stop after three pages. You need to get the hang of it. It is not easy. Get into it more, eventually it will suddenly dawn on you what Joyce is doing here. And then you will be nodding in proud consent and fully engage in what is undoubtedly the novel of the 20th Century.

Then, if you're up for it, tackle Finnegan's Wake. It's a tough one, I admit. It is not a book you read, in the traditional sense. It redefines the reading experience completely. Many disregarded it as pure nonsense (Nabokov) while others heralded it as Joyce's masterpiece (Beckett, Harold Bloom). I prefer Ulysses, but you can't really compare the two. They're different novels. Finnegan's Wake is truly enjoyable, though. A work of art.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
This is a writer's forum, is it not? There's a huge thread on JK Rowling and yet no one has anything to say about James Joyce?

Sad.
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Greatest? No. Good? Yes. I'm hesitant to say "greatest" about any writer, because there's too much subjectivity and too much disparity in style. If I were to say Kafka is better than, say, Mary Shelley, then I'd be saying that modernism is better than the romantic style. If I were to say Joyce is better than Sartre, then I'd be saying realism is better than existentialism.

It doesn't work like that.
 

ClancyBoy

Senior Member
There's plenty of talk about James Joyce here.

Specifically, a lot of talk about how college English majors like to fellate him and think they're better than other people because they "get Joyce" and other people don't.

And LOL at "collective unconscious." Hey, you heard of Emerson too! I'm so happy for you!
I'm guessing you're about 18, and your bookshelf contains a lot of Chuck Palahniuk? Am I right?

Joyce, together with T. S. Eliot are probably the pinnacle of literary modernism, I'll give them that, in that together they essentially killed it off.

There's more than one reason to write. You can write to entertain, you can write to inspire, you can write to educate... or you can write to show off. Joyce (and Eliot) wrote to show how much classical symbolism they could cram into one book. If you think that's what makes an author great, more power to you. If you like books that require decades of college, copious footnotes, and companion books in order to be able to digest them, you should check out Ezra Pound, too. You know, just so you can tell people you "get Pound" and they don't.

It's worth noting though that after Ulysses and The Wasteland people were so sick and tired of modernism that they ran screaming in the other direction and created postmodernism.
 
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Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
The collective unconscious is actually from Carl Jung. It's a psychological concept. Emerson's oversoul is kinda similar, but more spiritual and less definite.
 

ClancyBoy

Senior Member
The collective unconscious is actually from Carl Jung. It's a psychological concept. Emerson's oversoul is kinda similar, but more spiritual and less definite.

It's still the most pretentious attempt at an insult I've ever read.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
Specifically, a lot of talk about how college English majors like to fellate him and think they're better than other people because they "get Joyce" and other people don't.
Oh no, you're that kind of person. People who like Joyce are elitist assholes, bla bla bla. Not at all what I was going for. Just tired of people blabbering about Rowling and Stephen King. Don't be so black and white about this.

And LOL at "collective unconscious." Hey, you heard of Emerson too! I'm so happy for you!
I'm guessing you're about 18, and your bookshelf contains a lot of Chuck Palahniuk? Am I right?
Ha-ha! Couldn't be more wrong, my dear friend. First of all I wasn't referring to Emerson, but Jung (I'm so sorry you didn't know that), and secondly I cannot stand Chuck Palahniuk. He's one of the worst writers around.

Oh, but it was a good try. I'm sorry I didn't fit in with your expert stereotypes.
 
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Voodoo

Senior Member
I'm illiterate by choice, but Finny's Wake does seem quite fucked up.

Sans the philosophy, linguistics, and the effort, sounds like some nonsense words I'd make one day.
 

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
I'm hesitant to say "greatest" about any writer,

Well said. This whole "Letterman's list", "thumbs up/down" approach to the arts and generally everything is cheapening civilisation.

The only Joyce book I really cared for was "Portrait of an Artist". Well, written, human emotions, a nice idea well carried out. After that it just got more and more precious.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
I'm illiterate by choice, but Finny's Wake does seem quite fucked up.

Sans the philosophy, linguistics, and the effort, sounds like some nonsense words I'd make one day.

There's an interesting introduction to FW in my edition of it. Here are some quotations from it:

"...only a book like Finnegans Wake could possibly appeal to a "common reader" - by including between its covers something in common for everybody, even if that something doesn't appear on the same page, or in the same place on the same page."

Joyce himself said: "You are not Irish... and the meaning of some passages will perhaps escape you. But you are Catholic, so you will recognize this and that allusion. You don't play cricket; this word may mean nothing to you. But you are a musician, so you will feel at ease in this passage. When my Irish friends come to visit me in Paris, it is not the philosophical subtleties of the book that amuse them, but my recollection of O'Connell's top hat."
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
Greatest? No. Good? Yes. I'm hesitant to say "greatest" about any writer, because there's too much subjectivity and too much disparity in style. If I were to say Kafka is better than, say, Mary Shelley, then I'd be saying that modernism is better than the romantic style. If I were to say Joyce is better than Sartre, then I'd be saying realism is better than existentialism.

It doesn't work like that.
Well, of course it doesn't. No need to spell it out. It's a title for a thread meant to spark some discussion, not my literal opinion of Joyce.

Besides, if you said Kafka was better than Shelley you would not be saying modernism is better than romanticism. How on earth did you arrive at that conclusion? Kafka does not represent modernism (he was closer to absurdism, anyhow) and Shelley does not represent romanticism. That's the category into which they have been placed by literary theorists. Shelley didn't sit down and say, "OK, since I represent romanticism, I shall write this...".
 
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Patrick

WF Veterans
Oh no, you're that kind of person. People who like Joyce are elitist assholes, bla bla bla. Not at all what I was going for. Just tired of people blabbering about Rowling and Stephen King. Don't be so black and white about this.
.


Why shouldn't he be? After all, you are. need I remind you...

Nonsense. Based on what? Have you even read it?

What do you read? You gave up on Ulysses, you think the Wasteland is nonsense... just ol' JK Rowling, or?
 

Voodoo

Senior Member
*Buddy Glass, I haven't read him but I don't think he'd be the greatest writer of the century. I know you'll quote me on that, but I'm not much for prose that does need so much esoteric knowledge to understand it, and appreciate it Fully. I do respect the labor, but no, I don't think he's the best just by reading an excerpt from One of his books. He does seem interesting, though.

You were being an asshole, though.
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Well, of course it doesn't. No need to spell it out. It's a title for a thread meant to spark some discussion, not my literal opinion of Joyce.

Besides, if you said Kafka was better than Shelley you would not be saying modernism is better than romanticism. How on earth did you arrive at that conclusion? Kafka does not represent modernism (he was closer to absurdism, anyhow) and Shelley does not represent romanticism. That's the category into which they have been placed by literary theorists. Shelley didn't sit down and say, "OK, since I represent romanticism, I shall write this...".

The absurdist movement was part of the modernist movement, as were the realist and existentialist movements. Kafka doesn't represent modernism, but he is modernist, and Shelley doesn't represent romanticism, but she is a romantic. By placing one author above another outside of their specific styles (if it can be said that any two authors even write within the same style), you are also comparing the styles.
 

ClancyBoy

Senior Member
Oh no, you're that kind of person. People who like Joyce are elitist assholes, bla bla bla. Not at all what I was going for. Just tired of people blabbering about Rowling and Stephen King. Don't be so black and white about this.

Ha-ha! Couldn't be more wrong, my dear friend. First of all I wasn't referring to Emerson, but Jung (I'm so sorry you didn't know that)

You're an asshole without the Joyce. Fuck off.
 
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