I guess I'd have to say that this book is a technical marvel. Joyce describes the life of Steven Dedalus, primarily his inner life, as he progresses from a young boy through to the verge of manhood. The writing style Joyce uses matches Steven's complexity of thought at every age, from the very simplest of sentences at the beginning of the work, to quite complex construction at the end.
The prose is striking throughout the book, and I enjoyed how Joyce often jumps from one subject to another, not necessarily completing any, just as our minds often jump around restlessly, images, memories, emotions coming and going.
My primary problem with the book is that I developed no attachment to Steven. For almost the entire work, I felt very distanced from him; there was little in his personality that I could relate to, and consequently, I didn't care much how he worked out his difficulties.
Another problem was that a very large section is given over to a description of the teachings of the Catholic Church. The purpose seems to be to describe in detail what Steven was thinking at a time he was immersed in religious feeling; but the effect was deadening, at least on me. I read literature to learn about the innermost workings of my fellow creatures. I neither want nor need to listen to the teachings of the Catholic Church for over an hour.
Ditto a later section on the philosophic debates Steven engaged in with his schoolmates. Yes, boys st these ages are prone to profound religious feelings, and later to philosophic debates. But when I myself engaged in them at Steven's age, I found them quite boring. Joyce's writing about them is no different.
On the very positive side, I thought the narration was simply masterful. The narrator takes all the time he needs to express what each sentence means, giving every sentence its full weight. The recording quality could have been better, though.
But all in all, a very odd book. Give me Proust any day.
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