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Posted by Isaac J. Weiner on 1/15/2000
James Joyce is one of the very few writers (John Steinbeck is another) who realizes what can be accomplished with the act of writing and achieves it. Certainly, some people may be lacking interest in this book, but the reason it is such a classic is because it pulls off things most books never even try to do. The simplest of events are described exactly as Joyce sees them, and he does not try to make them "interesting" or "exciting". He sees things for what they are and presents them without total honesty. Reading "Portrait" is like reading a picture, with every detail brought to light. Those who find it boring should not blame their blindess on what they cannot see.
Posted by L. Thomas on 5/7/2007
Actor Jim Norton did a wonderful job creating a special voice for each of the book's characters. I could see how the chapter three sermon on hell would be terrifying to young Stephen and yet come across as ironic and manipulative to someone more mature. I've read this book numerous times, but Norton helped me discover a whole new way of enjoying Joyce.
Posted by Richard E. Noble on 9/14/2007
I bought this book but it took me a long time to get into it. The "Moo-cow" business I didn't get. It seemed so silly and trivial and I, of course, was very, very serious. But one day I don't know why I just sat down and started reading it. Being Irish and Catholic the book became very pertinent in a short number of pages. At the time I read this book I was shocked that somebody should know my personal story and personal thoughts so vividly. I realize now that this is the personal story of a myriad of young Irish Catholic boys. This was a very good book and it tackled some very serious issues regarding faith, religion, and the Catholic Church.
This book was partially responsible for my life long interest in reading. Once I understood that the people who wrote books were the people who were speaking my language and translating my thoughts, I was hooked. Books were not all Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland.
Books written by Richard Noble - The Hobo Philosopher:
"Hobo-ing America: A Workingman's Tour of the U.S.A.."
"A Summer with Charlie"
"A Little Something: Poetry and Prose"
"Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother"
"The Eastpointer" Selections from award winning column.
Posted by Jacob Glicklich on 8/4/2010
My second Joyce, after Ulyssess some six months prior. This novel is a vastly more direct and comprehensible text, benefiting from a clarity of presentation that allows intense absorption in psychology. It's a highly effective novel on multiple levels, excelling at showing an unconventional proccess of transition into adulthood and through it a biting analysis of society, modernity, religion and art. It works to the way it shows the protagonist with deep intimacy and emotional acuteness, but yet refuses to grant him any easy outs or transcendence. His status as a future artist doesn't bring him enlightenment or greater intrinsic natural worth, and it doesn't free him from the nusances and challenges of the society he inhabits. It's a very intense account, never more so than when it engages with the protagonist's struggle with his religion, his sexuality and their intersection. There's an intricate and gorgeously vivid presentation of what the tenets of traditional Catholicism feel like to someone who believes in them yet doesn't live up to their moral code. His absorption with intellect as well as sex, and the tortured guilt he derives from the later, make for a perspective that is so convincing it's hard not to assume strong autobiographical motifs. It's a level of intimacy combined with quality of writing that often feel more real than reality, and that turn a very sophisticated eye on questions of faith, politics and the modern world. The debates on Irish nationalism are particularly intense, and are of a specific content that I feel the need for more historical conext before I can really situate the literary incorporation here. The novel gives a strong sense of the basic appeal and tensions inherent in the desire for an autonomous society, in that respect functioning very similarly to the whole spirituality/sensuality axis, generalized to a more collective level. It's indisputably potent stuff.
And yet the book in the end suffers by comparison with Ulysses, not having anywhere near that volume's power or raw, disorienting literary expertise. It's still a wonderful novel however, and points up the great things that can be done with well crafted writing.
Worse than: Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Better than: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy