Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a book and this book that was assigned as a reading met a nicens little teenager named Nic..
No, this is not a story. But every thing is of Historical Fact. Her name was Nic and she had to read The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Not the best parody of the beginning of Portrait but I’m sure my endeavours paid off by amusing you plenty with my follies and idiocy. Haha. On a more serious note, encountering Joyce again in Portrait induced a sort of “weariness” in me (the same sort of “langour” that Stephen himself experienced in Chapter 4) that may be attributed to having read and done papers for the exam before. Also, I was more partial to his collection of short stories The Dubliners (an excellent read in my opinion).
However, the lovely and wonderful quality about Literature is that each book is like a never-ending onion of layers. You may think you have gotten to the core, but revisiting it, you realise that you have only just touched the surface and not core of the book. Unless every book is like Twilight where the layer is one fathomable ball of tissue, then Literature would perhaps not be a subject worth studying.
So back to Joyce.
My twentieth-century buff of a friend was hysteric over the book (albeit in a positive way, one need not fret for her nerves), possessing a certain Modernist streak herself. So you can imagine that I was not wildly enthused about the idea of reading Portrait again, not that I disliked it but the character was someone I had a love/hate relationship with. Fortunately, taking a second look at Joyce, the ambiguity that festers between the pages and yearning to create a new piece of Art is highly commendable. And I have begun to truly esteem the writer quite highly.
Stephen, however, remains a kind of hero. From one in childhood where he successfully triumphs over the ‘evil’ teacher, to several different overtures of religious piety and artistic epiphanies. He constantly eludes understanding (surely it is done on purpose) and categories that one never quite knows how to ‘deal’ with a character like Stephen. His blasphemies also border on a sacrilegious tone that seems to compliment the Eucharistic nature of the act of recreation- priests may balk while atheists may scorn the religious dependence.
Most of all, he creates empathy for the Irish. I never quite saw them as an oppressed race really. His patriotism is one that exceeds the romantic follies of his compatriots. Perhaps we inherit the same situations and circumstances. I speak a language I am not native to, and the betrayal on our tongues is a subtle indication of past and continued oppression. It is no longer that of physical invasion, but cultural and spiritual invasion. At least that is what Joyce intends to convey.
More on Joyce soon, but perhaps I shall venture on to Pamela (by Samuel Richardson) who has continued to delight me in every turn of the page.