10 Literary Portraits of a Young Artist

Today marks the 97th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — a novel that has come to epitomize the journey of the angsty artist on the threshold of becoming. If you never grow tired of reading about isolated figures turning their backs on family dysfunction, religious oppression, and social burdens in the wake of individual consciousness, head past the break. Here are ten other books that explore the interiority of creative passion, unbridled youth, and artistic evolution.


Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro

“People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, unfathomable — deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum. It did not occur to me then that one day I would be so greedy for Jubilee… What I wanted was every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and held together — radiant, everlasting.”

Alice Monro’s short story collection, Lives of Girls and Women, chronicles the experiences of protagonist Del Jordan, tracing her development from childhood beginnings in rural Ontario during the 1940s. Del’s passion for art and literature inform her eloquent observations of local mores. Boundaries between her personal mythos and mundane realities ultimately dissolve, as she attempts to construct her own identity by interweaving fiction and fact.