Synopses & Reviews
With all the earthy sensuality and majestic storytelling that have made her one of Ireland's preeminent writers, award-winning novelist Edna O'Brien paints the most passionate, personal, and sensuous portrait of her fellow countryman yet written. James Joyce is a return journey to the land of politics, history, and the saints and scholars that shaped this creator of the twentieth century's most groundbreaking novel, Ulysses. In her beautiful, poetic telling, O'Brien traces Joyce's early days as the rambunctious young Jesuit student; his falling in love with a tall, red-haired Galway girl named Nora Barnacle on Bloomsday; and his exile to Trieste where he met with success, love, and finally, despair. Only Edna O'Brien, with her deft, supple prose, her rebel Irish heart, and her kindred spirit, could capture the brilliance and complexity of this great modern master.
"The author of this latest short biography in the Penguin Lives Series plops her reader down in the middle of a characterization stylistically inspired by the prose of its subject. The unknowing reader (can there be such a critter?) must surely wonder upon what has been stumbled— these words are not in my dictionary!—wasEdna perchance in her cups? Had Edna no editor? No fear, her narrative soon straightens out into more conventional shape. The pattern and the pain of this prodigy's life is grasped and
felt. Periodically, though, Ms. O'Brien, an unabashed fan, veers off into her own brand of Joycean wordplay. She is having fun with the language (snorkeling where Joyce dove deep) and one senses that this spirit, intensified to ecstasy, is what kept Joyce functioning in a life that seems to have been ever at his throat, that would have undone a man less obsessed. O'Brien gives a taste of all this including a sense that this spirit was occasionally his worst enemy, particularly regarding his relationships with friends and family. One either likes this sort of thing (Ulyssesand Finnegan's Wake) or one doesn't, but it is impossible not to admire the adamantine will of this proud, sad, half-blind, half-mad man to live and write in what must have been the only way that made sense to him, loneliness and hardships be damned. A bibliography is included for those wishing to know more." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"O'Brien's triumph is that while celebrating Joyce and his ecstatic quest to lay image on counterimage...[S]he has drawn the desperation and sadness of the man whose name means joy." The New York Times Book Review
"I much admire this book: It is swift, moving, and brimming with the author's enthusiasms and her well-earned affection for a difficult colleague." Thomas Flanagan, Los Angeles Times Book Review
With the majestic storytelling that have made her one of Ireland's preeminent writers, novelist Edna O'Brien paints a passionate, personal, and sensuous portrait of James Joyce, the great literary master.