Narrator Donal Donnelly recites and sings with childish delight as the little boy Stephen Daedalus begins to understand the world around him. Donnelly creates an occasionally petulant young Stephen as he works his way through language and syntax and deals with leaving his parents for boarding school. Donnelly’s transitions are flawless as schoolboy Stephen endures corporal punishment and bullying, and he is up to the challenge as Stephen’s vocabulary matures and sensuality overtakes the adolescent. Donnelly credibly illustrates the growth of a young artist, completely capturing Stephen’s intellectual and emotional development.
(P)1991 by Recorded Books, Inc.
"Here words are not the polite contortions of 20th-century printer's ink. They are alive. They elbow their way on to the page, and glow and blaze and fade and disappear." (Samuel Beckett)
I can understand why literary critics and English majors speak so highly of this book. On the other hand, I'm not either of those, and that is probably why I found it so difficult to maintain an interest. Try other classics first if you are just looking for a good story. Also, the sound quality is a little murky and heavy on the bass, but it was tolerable.
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.
I most loved the authenticity and depth of experience in terms of
a highly personal language. I also loved the subjective sense of
Irish culture, society and religion from the point of view of a child,
and then an adolescent, a century ago.
I would compare this book to Joyce's Dubliners, because in that earlier work
one gets that strong impression of subjective reality in a slice of life, which
is in each story, and the language itself has not yet become so deeply complex
and subjective as to bewilder one, as with Ulysses.
I liked the character of Stephen, the main character, as Donal Donnelly portrayed
so well, with tones of childish fears and doubts, and of adolescent reflections and
aspirations, in a variety of voices which are familiar to any introspective person.
The character of Stephen's father was most memorable as captured in the eyes of a young man, at the Christmas dinner table with all his animated arguments and anecdotes, reflecting on life's prospects while having a smoke outdoors with Stephen, and reviewing his own youth as he takes a drink with Stephen.
This was my first audible purchase, so I didn't know what to expect. I copied the largest file and burned it to disk. I was disappointed. The reading is VERY bass heavy, muddy, and difficult to listen to. At 11 hours, I think I'm just going to throw out the disks I made from it.
Though I love the book, and wanted a complete reading, I feel like I just threw my money away.
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