In Review…Begorrathon & James Joyce

The Classics Club is TEN years old!

Ten years ago this month, The Classics Club was started by a blogger who wanted to see more people posting about classics literature in the blogosphere.The idea took off and the club grew and grew. As the club got bigger, it was decided to create a separate site to house everything related to The Classics Club. In August 2012 this blog was born! 

Since 2012, we have accumulated a HUGE data base of reviews from our members. To honour all your hard work, reading and reviewing throughout this DECADE, we will celebrate with In Review.

In Review will be an occasional look back on what you’ve read and what you thought about it.

It will bring bloggers and books out of the vaults and into the open. We hope that by sharing some of your words here, you might discover new authors, or new bloggers. We hope you feel inspired to visit blogs you haven’t been to for ages. It may even prompt you to link your review here. We know all too well how easy it is to forget to link a classics club review!

Time and space will limit how many reviews we can highlight. The aim is to pull just a few from our archives each time, to remind us all of the many wonderful authors, books and reviewers in our midst.

In honour of Cathy’s Reading Ireland Month #Begorrathon, our inaugural In Review will focus on a classic Irish author. The most obvious classic Irish author is, of course, James Joyce.

  • Dubliners has been reviewed by six of our members to date.
    • Karen @Simply Blog sets us up by saying,
      • Dubliners by James Joyce is a collection of short stories set at the turn of the last century in Dublin, Ireland. Most of the stories are sad. And this element actually made me want to research more about Joyce and learn more about him and why he might have chosen to write these short stories.
    • Katarinaandcatharina @Classic Book Challenge adds,
      • There are stories with children, adolescents, adults, women and men. It gives a nuanced view; there are insights into the life of an alcoholic, maids, and a mother trying to marry off her daughter, con men as well as a college student and a young boy encountering death.
    • MaryR @Bibliographic Manifestations admitted that,
      • I have found Joyce hard-going in the past, but this volume was enjoyable and the stories were easy to follow. 
    • Patty @A Tale of Three Cities reminds us of one of the reasons why we read classics in the first place. They are often books that speak to us across time to tell us something about our modern lives.
      • I could identify with most stories, because I could discern almost everywhere the sense of fleeing –  a sense of being imprisoned by the routine of one’s situation and a desire to escape from the present.  Escape is something we all wish for at some point, even during better times, but all the more so in the present-day world, where economics and morals are at an all-time low.
    • RoseReadsNovels found Dubliners an inspiring collection on a couple of levels
      • I feel as if I would like to read the short stories in Dubliners again and again. I also feel inspired to write my own version that tells the stories of the people in the community where I grew up.
    • Brona @This Reading Life struggled rather more than the others.
      • It was relentless and hopeless and just so joyless. Even the elegantly wrought sentences were tinged with such sadness and despair that it made me wonder how on earth the Irish continue on with anything at all! Writing appreciation 5/5 but personal enjoyment only 3/5.
  • Finnegans Wake only has one review to date by Jane @Just Reading a Book. After reading her response, we can see why this particular Joyce has the least amount of reviews. It is not an easy read and takes time to appreciate.
    • Given [the] circular structure how you choose to read the book is open to interpretation. The fable of the ant and the grasshopper is a recurring motif, we can choose to read as grasshoppers, opening a random page and jumping about the text for musical phrases and motifs or ant like – start at the beginning and plod through (we are told this is laborious and not in the spirit of the book).  We decided we were ants and prepared to plod….By the time I got to the end I wanted to throw it out of the window, the sense of relief was immeasurable. But that was in September and now looking over my copy and the underlinings and margin comments it all looks like quite good fun, maybe now I can read it as a grasshopper!
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has seven archived reviews.
    • Athena @Aquatique felt she was “not male or religious enough” to really appreciate this story.
    • This book was A Barmy Bookworm‘s first Joyce. She found that,
      • Joyce skillfully conveys the mind of a boy growing to a man. The busy, active mind of the child. Observant and eager. Jumping wildly from observation to thought to feeling. Then the adolescent mind learning to grow and live and assume. 
    • Jason C @Literature Frenzy provides a lengthy discussion on Joyce’s writing style, narrative structure and the use of the Icarus/Daedalus myth that readers new to Joyce might find useful.
      • This is not one of those novels to read on a whim. It demands a dedicated investment of time and effort on the part of the reader. I would be hard-pressed to recommend this novel to just anyone because it seems to be haughtily directed towards a specific type of intellectual audience. If one can get passed Joyce’s ostentatious style, there is actually a great novel here.
    • Evolute99 claims that Joyce, through his character, Stephen “poses basic questions about the human condition“.
    • Joseph @The Once Lost Wanderer wished he had,
      • read A Portrait of the Artist before Ulysses. I think I would have appreciated Ulysses more, and I certainly would have understood Joyce better.
    • katarinaandcatharina @classic book challenge found that,
      • the part that struck me the most is when he decides to punish all of his senses, at one point lamenting over the difficulty of finding a scent that his sense of smell is severely punished by.
    • Finally, sempiternalloveforbooks says that,
      • Joyce masterfully intertwines the trails of growing up in turn-of-the-century Ireland and coming-of-age of a young man in a Catholic family.
  • Ulysses has been reviewed by four very brave Classics Club members.
    • Charlotte prepares us by saying,
      • I have journeyed through Ulysses and have lived to tell the tale! This book is nothing but filled with highs and lows. The beginning and ending of the book are amongst the best of any book I have read, but the middle was a winding, secret path full of language and styles that I couldn’t quite grasp.
    • Joseph @The Once Lost Wanderer was succinct and to the point with his response back in 2012 – “Really?
    • Kristina @Quiet and Busy provides a very detailed, chapter by chapter run down of her reading and reviewing process, but sums up by saying,
      • In the end, the best thing I can say about Ulysses is that I actually finished reading it. I’m expecting my medal in the mail any day now. It was long, boring, and barely comprehensible. At the same time, it was different, experimental, and clever. The stream-of-consciousness writing, the different literary influences, and the varying styles combine to make something extremely unique. This novel is like a puzzle for lovers of modern literature. It invites careful study, lots of discussion, and multiple reads to even begin to grasp it.
    • Lindsey Sparks leaves the rest of us with some hope, though.
      • Overall, Ulysses was less impenetrable than I expected. Yes, it’s confusing. Yes, you have to work at it. Yes, I missed a lot. But, it’s not impossible. It’s also better than I expected.

Part of the fun of revisiting these older posts has been checking out how our reviewing styles have evolved over the years. Some of these bloggers are no longer actively blogging, but it was lovely to see many well-loved bloggers popping up with reviews right from the beginning, back in 2012.

We hope you enjoyed this excursion down memory lane. It’s also not too late to link up your review.

^Photo credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash


26 thoughts on “In Review…Begorrathon & James Joyce

  1. sorry, I was so caught up in myself and JJ that I didn’t say ‘congratulations’ and ‘thank you’ for all the work you do keeping the club going, I love being a part of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic! I love James Joyce and actually I completely adore Ulysses but I read it before I started blogging. I agree with Lyndsey Sparks you have to work at it but it’s really worth it!


    1. I would certainly like to take it on one day. Your comments give me hope that I can do it:-)

      I have accumulated an annotated version and other articles on JJ and hope to do a slow read of it like I did with Moby Dick a few years back. One day…..

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on this significant milestone. It takes a lot of hard work to keep this going – much of which we don’t see because it happens behind the scenes. So now is a good opportunity to thank you and everyone over the years who have kept the classics club flame alive

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on 10 years! And thank you so much for mentioning my post on Dubliners. I love that you are highlighting different reviews over the years! I’m new to the club and I hope to find more time to read and comment on other Classics Club members posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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