Sunday Post #39: The Last Sunday of the Year

Sunday Post

It has been a little while since I’ve written a Sunday Post entry. December proved to be a busy month, and I have to confess that time off on Sundays wasn’t really spent writing and reflecting so much as trying to catch my breath before Monday.

I have been off work for a week’s vacation and have one more week before returning. Aside from some grading, which I will need to make some time to do in the coming week, I was able to catch up before vacation. I’ve been doing quite a lot of baking, as I typically do over the holidays: gingerbread, cookies, scones on Christmas.

My husband is visiting his parents in Tennessee, and I know they’ll be glad to visit with him. It’s pretty quiet around here without him. Not that he makes a ton of noise or anything, but you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, I have been finishing books quickly. I finished the following books since my last Sunday Post entry:

I am in the middle of a re-read of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, this time as an audio book, and man, am I ever reminded of why I love that book so much. And yet again, it has reminded me of why the French Revolution is so endlessly fascinating. I am currently watching a History Channel documentary of the French Revolution on YouTube. I am reminded once again that I still haven’t read Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama, though I have a hardcover copy, nor have I finished Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser or Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The Marie Antoinette biography has been in my sidebar for a long time. I would love to find another really good historical fiction book set in the French Revolution. I have already read Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. I am not sure about Hilary Mantel’s novel A Place of Greater Safety. Have you read it? What did you think? I absolutely loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, but I wasn’t sure about this one. The reviews are not as glowing, and it’s a long book to commit to. I ought to just take the plunge. I’ve been thinking about reading it long enough.

I’ve had a quiet last Sunday of the year with my kids. All in all an enjoyable day reading and relaxing.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme. Image adapted from Patrick on Flickr.

Review: Dubliners, James Joyce

One of the biggest gaps in my reading has been James Joyce. I tried to read Ulysses some years ago, but I didn’t get past the first chapter—not because of difficulty but because of interest. I picked up Dubliners mainly because I’m teaching AP Literature for the first time, and the short story that closes this collection, “The Dead,” is a perennial AP text.

I spent about two weeks studying that final short story and decided to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing. Dubliners is a collection of stories, or more accurately, a portrait of Dublin. It reminds me almost of a really large painting with several scenes. If you zero in on one scene, here is a story about what you are looking at. Perhaps this idea of mine is influenced by Roman Muradov’s cover design, which includes a pastiche of scenes from the stories. Here is a link to Muradov’s website, where you can see the artwork. I’m really in love with his design for the cover, which is why I bought this particular edition, but the unexpected (and truly valuable) bonus is that this edition has really excellent endnotes, and if you are new to Joyce, I can’t recommend this edition more highly. The notes explain everything from historical references to slang to geographical details. They really are superb.

In the collection, my favorite story by far is “The Dead.” There are so many layers to that story that I feel that I could read it over and over and find new things in it all the time. What a phenomenally gorgeous and perfect short story. Of the others, I also enjoyed “Clay,” “Counterparts” (which had a sad ending), and interestingly enough (because not much happens) “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” I loved the way Joyce captures the speech of his characters. He is particularly adept at dialogue, but the entire collection shines with brilliant writing. I’m trying not to be depressed by how young Joyce was when he wrote it.

I didn’t enjoy every story in the collection, but I can say the same for every short story collection I’ve ever read. The whole collection hangs together much better than other short story collections I’ve read. For the fact of inclusion of “The Dead” and the coherence of the collection alone, five full stars.

Joyce said, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

At least as far as this collection goes, very true words.

Rating: ★★★★★