The Dubliners review; An Encounter By James Joyce

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For those of you fond of Joyce and his works you can relish in the fact that his second story isn’t as shit as his first. I’d call that progress but I’ve read the whole book so it’s more one step forward and three steps back than “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Our story follows another unnamed, poorly developed cunt with misanthropic tendencies with just a smudge of antisemitism thrown in for good measure; only this time he’s like twelve. It starts out with the kid talking about how he and his friends love reading western stories and playing out battles between cowboys and Indians, of course most of these stories are horse shit. Cowboys weren’t proper gunslingers who fought the law they were glorified stable boys, the towns they resided in had tougher gun restrictions in the 19th century than they do today and most of them weren’t even white. They were almost all black or latino, and even if there was a white cowboy they never fought the Indians; the American Government did.

Our narrator cuts to when he’s in school and one of his friends get’s caught with a western magazine and the priest scolds him; “I’m surprised at boys like you, educated, reading such stuff. I could understand it if you were…National School boys.” And by National School boys he means Protestants. When initially reading this I thought it was just some academic superiority complex but when I looked into it turned out to be a sectarian dog whistle. Knowing these things adds layers to the story now that I’ve read it again but I can’t help but feel a failure on any author who’s talent resides in the fact the reader has to google all this shit just to understand what the hell is going on. Granted this was written for a certain time so you could say “Ah Des, sure anyone in 1914 Ireland would know the craic like. Stop being a philistine” And you may be right. But keep in mind Joyce spent the majority of his adult life in Europe, lets assume a European got to read a draft of the Dubliners. Do you think they’d know what the hell was going on? Do you think a remarkably ignorant person like, say an English man- or better yet, an American picked it up and gave it a read; do you think they’d know what the hell was going on? Shit like this is why there aren’t nearly as many readers as there should be. It’s not my job to explain what the hell is going on in this world, its the author’s.

So our boy is infatuated with these western adventures and he hates school so he and his friends skip their classes one day. When they meet up they find only he and a guy called Mahony shows up. A twelve year old called Mahony, he sounds like he’d be in a poorly written detective drama. I have the odd guarantee that no rational woman has ever cried out “MAHONY” mid orgasm. They wait like a quarter of an hour (Joyce, you could have said fifteen minutes but no you had to be a cunt) and fuck off, slagging off their missing comrade along their way.

The rest of the story essentially revolves around them walking about Dublin. Seeing the ships, meeting a Jewish person, checking the eye colour of sailors to see if they’re Scandinavian, at some point Mahony tried to play a game of cowboy’s and indians and chases some random girls down the street. Eventually two poor kids start flinging stones at them, mistaking them for Protestants cause Mahony had a Cricket logo on his cap.

Actually reminded me of this scene. But it also reminded me of a story my friend from Drumahoe once told me. He said that when he was younger, about five or six, he was down at a bonfire on the 12th and some cunt threw a bottle of piss at his head cause; “He looked like a Catholic” a real shame because he’s actually quite a good guy. Sectarianism is sad, folks.

Anyway the boys are still walking about and they’re in a field where they come to the conclusion that they can’t arrive to their desired destination because they don’t have enough time. This kind of plot is seen throughout the book. A person seeks adventure but in the last minute they change their mind or they experience great disappointment. They reach out to a person and the person is either a cunt or they escape back into their solitude. The pursuit of something whether it be a task, a quest or simply a train of though seems to almost always end in disappointment. An analysis would tell you that seeking an escape from a monotonous routine may lead to disappointment or potentially danger. Cause let’s not forget; they’re in a field. A lot of dodgy shite can go down in a field.

The two boys lay down in the field, which as a man who lives in the country I can tell you is a stupid idea. Have you ever been in a field? Is cold, it’s wet, there’s shit everywhere- why in God’s name would you even want to lie down in a field? Ludicrous. I recall when I was younger me and my friends followed this teenager to the deformed field outside of a housing estate. It was filled with mountains of muck and large bits of rubble lying about with rusted steel rods sticking out. The teen boy was about fourteen or sixteen, he had this really cool bike that looked like a Harley Davidson but it was a bicycle. Anyway, he was taking me to show me a creature he called “Mr Hairy” which I assumed was some kind of radioactive rat or a teddy bear that came to life or one of them weird gremlin things or just a giant ball of hair. Nope, turned out to be his penis.

The funny thing is this guy was the brother of my sister’s friend at the time and she would often tell me how he “Genuinely thought I was gay” but I’m not the one who whipped my cock out to a seven year old and tried to jerk it till he got a buckshot off. Fortunately he couldn’t get it up. He kept tossing it up and down. It made weird floppy noises. What a weird, impotent man.

Anyway, the boys lie there for a moment and an Old man walks up the field and walks about and eventually comes up to talk to them. Now this is a genuine experience which I sincerely doubt is unique to the Irish. I recall when I was in secondary school random old men came up to me for a chat, cause I was in my school uniform so they expressed their pride in the school; “Oh you know there’s doctors and lawyers that come out of there you know” I agreed, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that for every doctor or lawyer that came out of that pit there was a hundred lads who’d spend the rest of their days on the dole, down at the pub or reminiscing about that one Gaelic match they won. The farmers didn’t want to be there cause they didn’t need to be told they could do anything, they already had something. And for every lad like that there was at least one doll who’d look forward to living in the same housing estate for the rest of their lives with two or three wanes. If they were lucky.

Of course that makes me sound very bitter and I am a bitter old man but I don’t hold any resentment to where I had been educated. I didn’t share the pride this man had. It wasn’t my local achievement, it wasn’t worth near the amount of respect he had. I imagine for very few it was Heaven, for most it was just Purgatory and sadly for some it was Hell.

The old man comes up to the boys and he starts talking to them. Just about the usual stuff; weather, literature, girls. He goes on a whole tirade about how sweet looking young girls are. It’s weird. He starts asking the lads if they had any sweethearts and he recalls he had many sweethearts when he was younger and he claims every boy needs a sweetheart which surprises the narrator cause this is like a super liberal opinion for the time.

The old man gets up and fucks off to the other side of the field where its implied he took a wank. Which, fair play to him. A lot of old guys have difficulty with this kind of craic (and some teenagers) so its nice that he can take a good long wank after going on a tirade about how pretty and delicate young gir- ah fuck.

…Our boy makes the smart decision (he doesn’t even take a gander at the old man wanking, he’s been looking at his shoes the last half hour. I assume this was because the publisher said “you can’t describe an old man taking a buckshot in your coming of age story” which Joyce, the pervert, conceded) and tells Mahony that they’ll use fake names in case he asks. Which is smart cause you don’t want the deranged old fucker tracking you down. Mahony goes on to chase a cat across the field and the Old man returns. He says how he imagines Mahony gets whipped at school and how he’d love to be the one to whip him. He then launches into a tirade about how boys ought to be whipped, especially if they have any sweethearts.

So the ol’ man may have some kind of Degenerative brain disease like I theorized about the priest in “The Sisters” which is sad. These weird old men that come up to you randomly are often sad. I mind I was talking to one in the Auction room, he told me about how when he was my age the Headmaster (who was a priest) was apparently a complete and utter pervert. He bought me a cup of tea, right before proceeding to sexually harass the barista (don’t worry, she didn’t tolerate it) it was weird. I hope weird old men don’t walk up to girls. I know they do but I just hope they don’t.

The nameless boy gets up and calls after Mahony in the fake name. Our boy seems afraid the old man is gonna do something crazy and he’s annoyed it takes a few tries before Mahony recognizes the fake name. The story ends with; “He ran as if to bring me aid. And I was penitent; for in my heart I had always despised him a little” So our narrator here seems to beckon “I’m a misanthropic little cunt like an obscene amount of the character’s in the Dubliners are” which really was the final nail in the coffin for the first reading.

I’m not sure but I think that a good book, in fact a good story, entitles the reader to understand what the hell is going on. Is a book or movie really good if you have to view it two or three times to understand it? Is a joke funny if you have to repeat it endlessly until you laugh? Personally, I don’t think so. You probably think differently, and to that I say fuck off and write your own shitty blog then.

I keep thinking of how a foreigner would fail to understand the stories in this book, missing the allusions to obscenity and the cloud of religious dogma that inspires sectarianism and gives power to degeneracy. I keep thinking how someone like me, a person on the same fucking Island can barely understand what’s happening only a century later. Perhaps the Dubliners was written for a certain people at a certain time, perhaps in Joyce’s alleged genius he never considered what the future would hold, what an arrogant liberal degenerate who literally grew up in a ditch would think of his silly little stories. Then again why would he?

Beware of weird old men and of fields. Dodgy shit goes down with weird old men and fields.

 

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