Monday, September 7, 2009

James Joyce - I need CliffNotes

Being fully-aware that my better-read sister, Chelsea was coming for a visit, I've been trying to get through James Joyce's Dubliners. From everything I've been told, this is his easiest-to-get-through work. And I am genuinely interested in reading a little of Dublin's famous son's work. But try as I might I haven't been able to get past the first 5 minutes of reading without falling asleep. I've even downloaded it to my Ipod. But my mind wanders before too long. So Chelsea arrived and I couldn't finish my homework. It's like Junior-year Literature all over again. Even then she was out-reading me and she was in 6th grade. So upon her arrival I confessed my ignorance and happily agreed to attempt restitution by accompanying her while visiting the James Joyce Museum and other various literary sights around town.

We hit a lot of sights. The Chester Beatty Library is one of the most impressive things I've seen since being in Europe. Beatty left his extensive rare books collection to Ireland. Many of the books are on display in an involved and detailed display that takes you through topics from book binding to world religions. Fragments of pages from the original gospels are quite extraordinary.

Next up was the Joyce Museum. Time for my penance. Surprisingly, though I haven't been able to read an entire chapter of Dubliners, this museum fascinated me. The museum is dedicated to his book Ulysses. Ulysses mimics the story from the Odyssey though it's set in Dublin and takes place in only 24 hours on June 16, 1904. There are Joyce fans worldwide that travel to Dublin to see the places where the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, went that day. The day is also celebrated with a huge festival in Dublin on June 16, known as Bloomsday. You can even do walks that will take you through the entire story following brass plates that have been placed in the sidewalks at various sights from the book. I knew this much going into the museum, but as I've mentioned, not a huge Joyce fan. But I could have stayed in the museum for the entire day if we didn't have to be elsewhere. It was a very well done exhibit with touchscreen computer models that took you through Ulysses chapter by chapter, explaining characters, Dublin landmarks and parallels with Odyssey. It was quite in depth and quite interesting. It actually has inspired me to give Dubliners one more go and maybe even Ulysses. I highly recommend this museum to anyone with even a slight interest in Joyce.

The final literary adventure of Chelsea's visit was something I had been looking forward to doing, Dublin's Literary Pub Crawl. We walked through the city centre visiting four pubs while seeing actors do parts from various Irish literary fame. Some of the authors honored throughout the evening were Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and W. B. Yeats.

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