Monday, March 14, 2011

"The Dead" by James Joyce

Source: (part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 )
Length: Approx 1 hrs, 30 min
Reader: Michael Scott

The story: As part of the week of St. Patrick's Day, I'm celebrating Irish Short Story Week, hosted by The Reading Life. If you don't already subscribe to The Reading Life, hop on over and check out reviews of other Irish writers' short stories. I'll be reviewing two stories by Irish authors, but in keeping with my blog format of reviewing one free audiobook and one free audio story each week, I'll start with a story that could also be considered a novella.

Joyce is the paragon of Irish literature. Whenever I think of his writing, I think of dense, melancholy stories that require the use of a commentary and a dictionary of symbolism to wade through. "The Dead" has all those qualities, but it is also by turns humorous and romantic. In the story, Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta visit his aunts' house for a Christmas party. While there, Gabriel blunders his way through a few conversations with other women, then is struck by the beauty of his wife as she listens to a song that brings back old memories for her.

Joyce explores what it means to belong: to belong to a family, to belong to Irish nationality, and to belong to another person. Gabriel is a man who doesn't quite feel like he belongs. His education has removed him from those around him and his taste in culture tends toward England and Europe rather than Ireland. Catching his wife in a moment of reflection he is overjoyed to belong to her. And of course, her love belongs to him, right?

Rating: 8 / 10

The reader: Scott has a radio-announcer's voice that is extremely polished. His American accent is nondescript, and while it does not add the authenticity that an Irish accent would, it does not detract either. The recording is clear and well-made. In fact the only complaint I have about this reading is that it may be a little too polished; I didn't feel a strong sense of character from the reader. Most listeners will probably feel that this recording is perfectly fine, but if you want a second option, the always wonderful Elizabeth Klett has read "The Dead" for Librivox. I haven't listened to her entire recording, but from what I've heard, it's very good.


mel u said...

Thank you so much for your participation in Irish Short Stories Week-I found some good podcasts of Irish Short Stories at the New Yorker and Manchester Guardian Web Pages I enjoyed your excellent post on "The Dead" a lot-the last 3 paragraphs of the story are really beautiful

Listener said...

Thanks, mel. I'm enjoying your Irish Short Story posts as well. March 17th I'll have a new review up for O'Connor's "My Oedipus Complex".