James Joyce

Notoriously Difficult Literary Classics, Transformed Into Popular Page-Turners

British novelist Fay Weldon may have come up with a solution to the ever-simmering genre wars. Writers, she said, should simply write two versions of their books, one meaty and contemplative for print, and one racier for Kindle. … Read More

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Kafka and the Crash of the System: An Interview with Tom McCarthy

The British novelist Tom McCarthy — the author of CMen in Space, and the increasingly revered Remainder — is known primarily in the United States for Zadie Smith’s essay “Two Paths for the Novel,” wherein she cites McCarthy’s work as a future for literary fiction. In this mode, many critics now single out McCarthy as the torchbearer for avant-gardism, or at least they point to him as our most serious-minded critic of literary realism. This position was hardened, too, after McCarthy wrote a brilliant takedown of realism (as an obvious contrivance) for London Review of Books last year. … Read More

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50 Essential Literary Biographies

Literary biography is a hugely significant, if often overlooked, enterprise. Today, much of what we know about the authors we admire is filtered through an ocean of online mini-biographies, nearly all of which are copies of copies. The original source of an enormous amount of this information is the literary biography, and in the case of most authors, there are precious few examples of such books. Even exceedingly famous authors are gifted only a handful of quality biographies. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 essential literary… Read More

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100 Years Later, What Have We Learned From James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’?

Twelve years ago, I inadvertently began a literary ritual that I’ve kept alive to this day. It was late in the first term of my freshman year of college, and I’d been assigned to lead a discussion on James Joyce’s “The Dead,” the devastating final story in his collection Dubliners. Never having read it, I was unaware of the symbolic importance of snow in the story. It happened to be the first snowfall of the year, and by the time I reached the book’s end, my romantic, teenaged soul swooned along with Gabriel’s, as he heard “the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” So, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I now re-read “The Dead” on the first snowfall of every year. … Read More

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50 of the Greatest Characters in Literature

One of the things literature does better than almost any other medium is allow us to experience another person’s quality of mind, and sometimes even inhabit it. It follows, then, that every avid reader has a favorite literary character — whether they’re beloved for dastardly deeds, tough-girl antics, sex appeal, or a high snark quotient — and that there are many impossibly good ones out there. Click through to find 50 of the… Read More

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Read This Before This: 10 Great Books Based on Other Great Books

Literature is a never-ending, overlapping, sometimes circular conversation — between writers, between readers, between books themselves. This fact can make for some fascinating and rewarding reading. After all, what’s more interesting than listening in on one genius talking to another? There are some novels that are better if you have a little bit of background going in — and sometimes that background is nothing more or less than another great novel. Here are a few books you should pair the way you would a fine wine with an excellent cheese — each enhancing the other and making for a very satisfying… Read More

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10 of the All-Time Greatest Masturbation Scenes in Literature

This week saw the release of Ben Lerner’s 10:04, which, beside being a truly remarkable book, happens to feature a hilarious scene of masturbation. Despite the fact that it has been dubbed by some “literature’s last taboo,” the onanist impulse crops up more than you’d think in novels, and often makes for some great — or at least greatly amusing — writing. After the jump, a few favorites from literature both classic and contemporary for you to giggle over. … Read More

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Why James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ Is ‘The Most Dangerous Book’

We read biographies in order to find out about extraordinary lives in extraordinary times, and they all follow the same formula at their heart: birth, life, and then death. What is smart about Kevin Birmingham’s marvelous new work The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses is that it is not a straightforward biography of a person. Rather, it tells the tale of one landmark book — Ulysses — its birth and still-vital life and what it meant for modernism, publishing, copyright law, and obscenity trials. … Read More

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How to Celebrate Bloomsday Without Totally Embarrassing Yourself

The celebration of holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo has become downright awful in America, thanks mostly to their embrace by drunken masses that have little to no cultural affiliation with the countries where the holidays originated. Bloomsday, which honors James Joyce’s Ulysses, is something of the literary version of those days, but with fewer frat boys throwing up in the streets. It is a fun day on the calendar for Joyce lovers, and even those who couldn’t finish or didn’t understand Ulysses, to celebrate — and it’s just about as official as literary holidays get. … Read More

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Happy Bloomsday! You Must Listen to Frank Delaney’s ‘Re: Joyce’ Podcast on ‘Ulysses’

One of the pleasures of my time spent living upstate was the occasional run-in with Frank Delaney, a man… Read More

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