Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dubliners, done; James in progress, Kirn on deck

Dubliners, done
This is just a post for me, because I want to remember how much I loved Dubliners. I want to remember that "A Mother" (so much nuanced layering in the imaging of intergenerational issues of gender, class, and, of course, power--what it's about is and isn't what it's about) and "Eveline" were most resonant for me, most powerful. I was also moved by the many renderings of longing, nostalgia (such powerful ambivalence in its figuring in the cultural/national character), and seemingly thwarted dreams of the petit bourgeoisie and those scratching to survive drawn so memorably in the guise of Joycean portraits of drylongso (in African American southern parlance, "the everyday"). A favorite passage from "A Mother":

"She respected her husband in the same way she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male." [128, First Vintage International Edition]

Bam! That nailed it for me.

I thought I would immediately get back to Walter Kirn's Thumbsucker, which I became curious about after seeing the film adaptation by director/screenwriter Mike Mills (no, not of R.E.M., another Mike Mills). The film has some great performances and, including a standout one by Lou Taylor Pucci as the title character. But I got sidetracked by Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. It's only 85 pages, but moves at a somewhat glacial pace. Nevertheless, the suspense of this ghost story actually has me clenching my jaw, and nothing truly calamitous has even happened yet. It's all the unfolding of the ominous warning signs the main character apprehends in retrospect, but she's not tipping her hand as to what those signs will eventually reveal. I'm glad James decided to relieve some of the tension by letting the reader know from the outset the the fictional author of the tale lived to pen it. I don't think my constitution could take quite that much of a stretch on a metaphorical rack. Well, I was in the mood for a classic psychological thriller, and I am hooked.


At 10:24 AM, Blogger John K said...

I teach at least one story from Dubliners in every introductory fiction course, and once had the pleasure of teaching the entire book when I led the advanced theory and practice of fiction class for undergraduate majors. It's a remarkable book in so many ways; my favorite stories are "Eveline," "Araby," "Counterparts," "A Painful Case," "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," and the long, astonishing novella-length "The Dead." But I really could read any or all of the stories again and again and never tire of them, or tire of introducing to any and all who've never read or really enjoyed them.

At 9:20 PM, Anonymous audiologo said...

I was enamored of your favorites as well, and of course "The Dead." I kept lingering over the dialogue in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room." I can see how you would enjoy teaching the stories. Do you ever teach any of Carolyn Ferrell's stories from Don't Erase Me? As of late I find myself wanting to revisit that collection.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger John K said...

Audiologo, I have taught several of Carolyn's stories in the past, though not in the last few years. I also need to revisit her book, but I loved it when it first came out (and even met her briefly, when she sat in on a class I was taking with Kamau Brathwaite--those were the days!).

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