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This fictionalized portrait of Joyce's youth is one of the most vivid accounts of the growth from childhood to adulthood. Dublin at the turn of the century provides the backdrop as Stephen Dedalus moves from town and society, towards the irrevocable decision to leave. It was the decision made by Joyce himself which resulted in the mature novels of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
"A masterpiece of subjectivity, a fictionalized memoir, a coming-of-age prose-poem, this brilliant novella introduces Joyce's alter ego, Stephen Daedelus, the hero of Ulysses, and begins the narrative experimentation that would help change the concept of literary narrative forever." (AudioFile)
I???d only ever read Joyce???s short story ???Araby,??? having been intimidated by the difficult reputation of his work (especially Ulysses and Finnegan???s Wake), so I was unprepared for how wonderful A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is???and how accessible.
It must partly be due to Jim Norton???s marvelous reading, so sensitive to and enhancing of the novel???s poetic rhythms and sounds, beautiful images, savory characters, and mix of comedy and tragedy. Norton, reading the base narration in an appealing and neutral English accent (to my American ear) and the dialogue in an impressively and appropriately varied range of Irish accents and personalities, helps to bring alive the cultural, personal, dramatic, and thematic meanings of every word in the novel. Many scenes have been imprinted on my mind: Stephen unfairly having his hands flogged in class and then screwing up his courage to visit the Rector about it; Stephen listening to a priest giving intense sermons on the physical and mental horrors of hell (Norton-priest had atheist me shaking my head and chuckling at the sadistic-masochistic Catholic imagination one moment and tremblingly thinking that I???d better go to confession the next); Stephen raptly watching a girl wading with her dress hiked up; Stephen talking with his friend Cranly about mothers and Catholicism???. And many more.
After finishing the audiobook, I didn???t want it to end, so started listening to it again??? I also visited a website with the text of the novel and read parts of that, realizing that Jim Norton had me understanding it just as well if not better than I would have had I read it myself.
This audiobook version of Joyce???s novel is filled with beauty, humor, sadness, love, lust, guilt, transcendence, and life. Next up: Dubliners and Ulysses read by Jim Norton!
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Not only is this a great and intensly memorable book, it is also wonderfully narrated with strong and distinct characterization. The narrator really brings the characters alive in this movingly personal portrait of the artist as a young man. Absorbing and strongly recommended!
26 of 27 people found this review helpful
Not only is this book one of the greatest in the English language, or at least of the 20th Century, it's worth listening to for the narration alone. Fantastic storytelling.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This was my first encounter with a work of James Joyce. Jim Norton's reading brings the book to life in a way I never could have imagined myself. Joyce is very hard to follow, whether you are reading or listening, given that the writing style changes as Stephen (the protagonist) progresses through life, and in the final chapters he and his fellow students and professors have detailed, in-depth conversations about aesthetics and philosophy, and also frequently break out into both serious and satirical Latin phrases which of course are not explained or translated. Although I'm Australian, I have met many Irish travellers and locals and so the accent wasn't hard for me to understand, as it might be for someone who has never heard a foreign accent before. That said, Jim Norton reads most of the text in his rich, deep, full English accent, and I'm guessing if you're listening to Joyce then you're probably the kind of person who can understand an English or Irish accent without too much trouble. At time the schoolyard conversations were hard to understand but the brain quickly adapts and learns to understand the accent. There are many slang Irish phrases use which would be foreign to the listener and to the reader. This is just one of the joys of Joyce's writing! The first few chapters presented the most challenges; as Stephen matures, his speech does also, and the writing style becomes more sophisticated, and heaviness of accents and slang both become less marked.
Joyce is challenging for everyone. I chose to listen to this audiobook because I simply don't have time to read at the moment, yet I spend a lot of time driving to work. I can't say I got out of the book what a detailed study would have. But it was deeply moving, exciting to listen to and I got so much out of it. For those who want to experience Joyce but have no time to read, I'd highly recommend it. And for those who have studied Joyce, you will experience it as never before through Norton's spirited reading of the book.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Don't bother with the John Lee version - Joyce is best handled by Jim Norton. Excellent and accessible. In terms of the book itself - I view it as a prerequisite to Ulysses, so a must if you want to get into understanding Joyce and his perspective on Ireland, etc.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I am reading this novel for a fourth year literature course, and the narrator brings it to life completely. He inhabits the various characters in a way that animates a very dense novel.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Although I can appreciate the word choices used by James Joyce in this book, I found myself actively avoiding listening to the story. I was unable to find a single aspect of the main character that made me care in the least what happened to him. I have nothing at all in common with him - from family experiences to school, and even in terms of how he thinks and reacts to things. Joyce is a good writer - he successfully made me understand that the environment and situation of the main character was repellent, but he essentially made it so horrible that I had no desire to continue reading the book. In the interest of full disclosure, I do admit that I was unable to finish it. I managed to get between a third and halfway through, and at that point I discovered there were many, many things I preferred to do with my time, including housework. Apologies to those who rhapsodize over James Joyce, but this book was awful.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
A Portrait is a great start for anyone who wants to begin to wade into the ocean of meaning that emerged from the mind and pen of James Joyce. The story is approachable barring a few Celticisms and the performance is spectacular. Jim Norton is one of the best narrators of any audiobook you can find and this work, and the Naxos edition of Ulysses after it, are a sublime pairing of artistry and performance. Begin your journey here with Stephen. After you finish, check out a Teaching Company lecture series on Ulysses, then go with Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan through the streets of Dublin with a grown Stephen and Leopold & Molly Bloom. The works can be as transformative for the soul as scripture.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Where does A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
What other book might you compare A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to and why?
What about Jim Norton’s performance did you like?
Ability to perform in different characters' voices.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The description of Uncle Charles.
Any additional comments?
Joyce can be tough slogging to read. I foudn the sermon section stultifying when I read it but mesmerizing when I listened to Norton's performance. This audio book greatly aided my appreciation of the novel and of Joyce's artistry with language.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This one was my first Joyce book. I must say it was not easy reading (listening, rather) probably because of the subject matter that I cannot personally relate to. The book spends a lot of time on the main character's struggle with faith/religion. I was not raised with any specific religion (this does not mean we had no moral standard), and my parents were open about what ideas and career I would chose. So, I had difficulty appreciating this aspect of the story. Nevertheless, the style of Joyce's writing was interesting, and the narrator was great.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Having re-read, again 30 years after first reading, having picked up off the shelf in Byrne?s bookshop in Dungarvan - probably about my fifth or sixth time to read, Joyce?s story of the young Stephen Dedalus is another old friend. The set pieces lose none of their power and, if anything, with the passage of time and middle-age seem more immediate and vibrant in the writers pre-occupations. Still a relatively young man when he wrote Portrait, James Joyce is able to bring the immediacy of young childhood, the shocking wanting to cry of an unjust punishment, the ambiguity of mortal sin, the wonder of the Hellfire sermon and the sheer enjoyment of intellectual investigation, argument and counter argument and the place of the great classic scholars in our day to day life. To be read again, undoubtedly, but really enjoyed on this visit....maybe onto Ulysses....but till the next time, Stephen..what a treat if you've not read it before - go on yourself..go on..
1 of 2 people found this review helpful