Published in 1916, James Joyce's semiautobiographical tale of his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, is a coming-of-age story like no other. A bold, innovative experiment with both language and structure, the work has exerted a lasting influence on the contemporary novel.'Joyce dissolved mechanism in literature as effectively as Einstein destroyed it in physics,' wrote Alfred Kazin. 'He showed that the material of fiction could rest upon as tense a distribution and as delicate a balance of its parts as any poem. Joyce's passion for form, in fact, is the secret of his progress as a novelist. He sought to bring the largest possible quantity of human life under the discipline of the observing mind, and the mark of his success is that he gave an epic form to what remains invisible to most novelists.... Joyce means many things to different people; for me his importance has always been primarily a moral one. He was, perhaps, the last man in Europe who wrote as if art were worth a human life.... By living for his art he may yet have given others a belief in art worth living for.'
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December 31, 1995
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Excerpt from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . .
His father told him that story: His father looked at him through a glass. He had a hairy face.
He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: She sold lemon platt.
O, the wild rose blossoms
On the little green place.
He sang that song. That was his song.
O, the green wothe botheth.
When you wet the bed, first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.
His mother had a nicer smell than his father. She played on the piano the sailor&rsquos hornpipe for him to dance. He danced:
Uncle Charles and Dante clapped. They were older than his father and mother but Uncle Charles was older than Dante.
Dante had two brushes in her press. The brush with the maroon velvet back was for Michael Davitt and the brush with the green velvet back was for Parnell. Dante gave him a cachou every time he brought her a piece of tissue paper.
The Vances lived in number seven. They had a different father and mother. They were Eileen's father and mother. When they were grown up he was going to marry Eileen. He hid under the table.