500 Words on Dubliners

Because I'm in a dreamsome mood, let us suppose for a moment that some unnamed someone were to approach me on the street say, yesterday, and were to say, "We need 500 words on Dubliners, stat.  We're doing to press next Thursday.  I'll need them by Tuesday if we're to set them."  (Why they should say such an unaccountable thing, I cannot begin to imagine, but it's my dream, so let's let that be for a moment.)  And let us also say that this mysterious someone offered me both monetary remuneration and copies of the monumental study of which this 500 words is to be a part  (or more likely, the bird-cage liner that needs a filler.)

Let us suppose this bolt from the blue.  What then, would I do?

Before anything else I would sit down and read three stories from the collection--the three that, for whatever reason, have left an indelible impression on me.  (Actually four--but let's start with three).  First, I would pick up "Araby,"  next I would look into "Clay"  and finally I would sit down for the evening, or more likely the entire weekend and read the most glorious story in English written in the 20th Century--"The Dead."

More ink has been spilled, more time spent, more students subjected to endless tirades, on the subject of "The Dead" than all of the other stories (fine as they are) combined.  Indeed, "The Dead" may be the Joyce Scholar's third hangout, after Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. (I remove Finnegans Wake from the competition because one must be more than a Joyce scholar to appreciate it--the exact warp and weft of such a mind would need volumes to expound upon.)

"The Dead" has been the subject of a beautiful, but only intermittantly successful film directed by John Huston--who leaned heavily upon certain interpreters of the work to come up with his portrayals and vision.  It is a key subject of discussion among many college freshmen and sophomores, who I hope, undeterred by the experience return to the story in later years to take it up once more and fall under its spell--for it is quite a different story at 20 and at . . . ahem, sorry something got lodged in my brain and I had to knock it out.

All of Dubliners is worth your time, but "The Dead" is worth your time time and again. 

And perhaps in a few days, when I've written my 500 words, I'll think to share with you why.


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