Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book 37-Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (51st Book)

Okay, It's official with book 37-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man I am a James Joyce fan. I know that sounds pretentious but I swear that it is true and not just me trying to be a book snob or a hipster. I haven't always loved the process of reading James Joyce but by the end I have been awed by the brilliance that is James Joyce. I haven't understood 1/2 of what I have read with Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake but they are brilliant I have liked brief ideas in them. With A Portrait, I understood the majority of what I read, but again....didn't enjoy part of the process. I was however with Joyce the entire time I was reading. I GOT what he went through as a young man and how he was shaped into the man he was in his life.

James Joyce's journey parallels my own so it makes sense that I would have enjoyed the process. As a young 13 year old girl I felt lost and adrift in a confusing world. My faith, unlike Joyce's,, was my own and had nothing to do with my family. Like Joyce, however I had a brief period in my teen years where it was my life preserver. I clung to it and thought if I just followed the rules and played fair that everything would be okay. Stephen, Joyce's character who presents several autobiographical details about himself, has a very intense period during his school days where he is racked with guilt as he struggles with his sexuality. He finds beauty and truth in some of his faith but he also clings to it out of self preservation. I can identify with that.

There were several really beautiful things said about God during this stage:

"We came from God, we live by God, we belong to God: we are His, inalienably His"

"But he could no longer disbelieve in the reality of love since God Himself had loved his individual soul"

I writhed in pain right along with Stephan as he listened to a special sermon on Hell and Hell fire. I was angry that poor Stephen/ Joyce had this experience because my upbringing in the church was quite different. It was not tinged with so much fear, and terror. It makes me sad when the church uses their power as a big stick to beat people into submission. This is particularly true after having several conversations with my boyfriend on this topic recently. I wanted to fling my book across the room  during this sermon and it took all that was within me to keep reading. That being said, commentators on Joyce's other books often talk about the ironic nature of a lot of Joyce's portrayals of the church and faith, but having read his novels as a still devout Christian I found a lot of truth and meaning in his words.

The other part of his book that I found particularly beautiful was his belief in his calling as an artist. His moment of rapture on the beach won me over. Alongside my faith, I developed a love of truth and beauty which has never gone away. I grew up during my tumultuous teen years reading good fiction and loving the tidbits of truth that jumped off the page for me. Although I still have my faith in God, I also have a highly developed love of beauty and truth and will find it all over: in nature, in literature, in art and in others.

Here are some quotes from the chapter where he solidifies his career path:

"He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul"

"He was alone, he was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life"

"To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life"

"Had he found the true church all of a sudden?"

"the true and the beautiful are akin"

This novel is a classic Bildungsroman, a novel of development and is fast becoming one of my genres. I love discovering what makes people tick and this definitely helped me to do that with Joyce. I don't know if I would recommend it to everyone, but it was definitely a happy read for me.

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