The Dubliners Review; The Dead By James Joyce

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It’s remarkably difficult to take a good photo of snow falling. I mean, not to state the obvious, but it’s falling too god damn fast. Approximately 6ft per second- which means the photos you do get are blurry as hell. I mean I had to settle with this one. It’s not even that good but it’s the best I could find. It’s blurry and irritating to the eyes- that’s not how snow’s supposed to work. Snow is supposed to nice and pretty- not a blurry fucking mess.snow dark

I actually remember walking over the Glenshane some time last year, an 18.5 mile long walk. I was halfway across when a salt truck drove past me, pouring fresh sodium chloride on to the road to prevent the buildup of ice. I naively thought it was too late in the year for snow and then five minutes later- it snowed.

The snow was coming from behind me so I had the fortune of not getting hit in the face, which is always a good thing. As the snow flew past me it reflected the light from my phone, it glowed as it fell swiftly to the ground at 6ft per second. There’s that feeling in the cold, where the air around you feels like a pair of cold hands caressing your skin but your body heat prevents you from feeling shivering or feeling pain, keeping you warm from the cold hands. It’s a weird sensation. But after a while you accept it, even like it- thankful to be alive.

Being alone up there on the road yourself you’re amazed at how goddamn big it is. I mean the road i so wide and the rivers and mountains are just towering-you never appreciate that in a car. With the snow at the back of me, it felt like the east wind had ordered everything in the world to die momentarily- everything except for me. It had no quarrel with me, leaving me and the snow to live in peace. With the snow falling elegantly into the light. It was beautiful.

I walked that road three or four times. I’m never going to walk it again. I don’t have it in me. I’m both sad and relieved by that. Sad at the fact that the man who marched for six hours among the mountains is gone- dead and buried. But I’m relieved he’s gone, cause a man dumb enough to walk 18.5 miles in fucking dress shoes that infact peeled the skin off his heels would have gotten himself killed sooner or later.

And I’d rather die later. Despite my apparent misanthropy I personally believe I have more in common with the living than the dead.

Speaking of the dead, what a class fucking title. I mean; “The Dead”-you couldn’t ask for a better title.

Like you may be tired from waking up at quarter to seven in the morning every other day, where you have to stand at the end of a country road for a shitty little bus while all the cunts drive past you at seventy mile per hour, where you then have to walk about a city you despise and you’re just exhausted by just wandering adrift in a meaningless time and indifferent place surrounded by atrocious accents that you might think; “Fuck me I’m tired, I’m gonna sleep for, like, a week- ideally at some point I’d forget to breathe or have a nightmare that causes a fucking aneurysm” and you’re disinterested in literally everything around you- but then you hear that title.

Now you’re awake, you’re excited, you’re engaged- locked and loaded- ready to go. I mean that title is mysterious, intriguing, ominous- it could be a tale about a zombie apocalypse or a ghost story or a horrible war story or…or anything to do with the dead.

One problem though…THERE’S NO FUCKING DEAD! Fucking Joyce, you wasted a class fucking title on a goddamn periodic fucking dinner story! That’s fucking horrendous, why can’t you do anything right?

You

Wonky

Eyed

Cunt.

Though, to be fair to Joyce, this is his best short story…by default.

So “The Dead” revolves around this guy called Gabriel, who is attending this annual dinner that his Aunts organised every year in this fancy venue. For the most part it’s a decent story. The man Gabriel is a little awkward, possibly autistic- like Joyce. When he initially comes in he greets this young woman who takes his coat and they chat and she tells him she’s finished school. So he attempts to be banterous and says something like; “oh you’re probably just waiting for your man to marry you then, eh?” and this is what fucking Joyce wrote:

The girl glanced back at him over her shoulder and said with great bitterness; ‘The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.’

…What- What the fuck? Who the fuck says that?! Jesus Christ, the fucking melodrama. No wonder Gabriel ended the conversation there and now and fucked off up to the ball.

So Gabriel is put in charge with taking care of this drunk guy so he doesn’t bother the girls at the dinner, he sobers up all right until he meets this complete and utter mad bastard called Mr. Browne. They decide to go on a sesh and fuck off away from Gabriel. Now here I’d usually say that Joyce is projecting his alcoholism but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and did a bit of research.

Ok, so the Dubliners was based in the early 20th Century so I looked up whether or not Ireland had a significant alcohol problem in the 19th Century (the time in which Joyce was born and raised) and I found out that because of high alcohol import taxes during the 1830’s most alcohol was made by local breweries, however many people brewed their own alcohol- specifically Poitín; the Irish Moonshine.

Due to religious influences a huge backlash came against the intake alcohol. Leading the church to found a Total Abstinence Society where people became pioneers and swore off alcohol. By 1840 over half the adult population had taken the page. However people found a way to get around this law by inventing a new alcoholic beverage that got them drunk but technically didn’t violate the pledge; Ether.

Now Ether was technically non alcoholic but it was far stronger and much more dangerous than any other beverage that was bought or sold. Because of its extremely low boiling point once ether was consumed the body temperature would quickly heat it up, turning it into a gas so that it could move through the bloodstream and intoxicate the occupant quicker than other beverages. It got people drunk quickly but it also allowed people to sober up quickly, with no hangover.

Now that sounds fun, I know. But apparently Ether tastes and smells revolting and it’s really fucking flammable. Like people have gotten their faces caught on fire for drinking Ether and smoking at the same time. So it’s best to stick with the Koppaberg.

You can read more about Ether here. I’ve never had Poitín either. I’ve heard its mad stuff. Apparently the phrase “He’s away with the fairies” was derived from a bunch of lads going up to dig turf or something and they got drunk, so drunk they started hallucinating and saw fairies. Potentially creating an entire mythology in the process.

An Uncle of a certain acne ridden manlet has a good story revolving around a foal and some Poitín- but that’s a story for another day.

So Gabriel is engaging in pleasantries and then he’s invited to dance, the girl he’s dancing with is a firm Irish Nationalist and that makes him kind of uncomfortable cause unfortunately he doesn’t really give a fuck about Ireland. I mean that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he doesn’t hate Ireland, he just prefers Paris to Galway. But she pesters him about working for the Daily Express, a British Conservative tabloid newspaer (he writes book reviews) and proceeds to call him a West Briton but then says she’s only joking.

Then she goes on about Irish culture and she invites him to this Island in Connaght where they speak Irish and he declines. She’s annoyed and pesters him until he tells her, embarrassed, that he’s going cycling in Europe. She questions his, like, Irishness or something and he gets angry and pulls a Trainspotting;

‘O, to tell you the truth,’ retorted Gabriel suddenly, ‘I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!’

So yeah, that doesn’t end well. She later on calls him a West Briton, again. Now just to clarify a West Briton is an Irish person who greatly admires the English or Britain. Which, to be fair is fairly accurate to what Gabriel is like. I mean he’s not very political and he couldn’t really give a fuck about his nation. Unlike that cunt from After the Race he isn’t pretending to be something  he isn’t, so you got to respect him their.

He’s just ignorant of his own history really. You’ll find that if you really look at Irish history with nuance you’ll accidentally turn yourself into a Fenian because the indigenous Irish people have been treated like fucking shite. I was a lot like Gabriel a few years ago, I didn’t really give a fuck about the country or its politics. I was completely indifferent to it because I only ever really knew Irish people and I found the Irish people to be fucking cunts, so I forfeited the nation.

I was actually talking to a friend of mine about the Northern Irish identity. He feels like the identity is kind of shit- kind of like what Renton says in Trainspotting. I disagree entirely, being Irish is fucking class. Especially at this day an age. The countries all grown up, we’ve left a shitty household with an abusive step dad who’s suffering from erectile dysfunction and thus feels the need to prove that he “still got it” by telling the neighbors to go fuck themselves by shitting on his own fucking doorstep.

Fucking great to be Irish. Shame my friend doesn’t agree, then again he thinks that privatizing roads is a good idea so he’s not the smartest fish in the barrel.

I only really turned more nationalist when Martin McGuinness died and the UK press kept fucking attacking him. Even the DUP, a party who’s only real argument is; “But you’re a terrorist” showed more fucking respect than the British did. So that’s when I noticed the difference between Ireland and the UK. Cause I saw shit like this:

C1Lud_SWQAAEt4W

Now I know what you’re thinking; “Oh Des, you can’t use a meme as an argument- it’s intentionally supposed to trigger you” no just hear me out. That’s a pro Brexit meme, showing us that England, Wales and Scotland…there’s…there’s something missing, I think.

Oh wait I know, Us. The Brits have forgot they fucking own us. And I’m not being bitter when I claim that they own us, cause if we were really a respected part of the UK then we’d be allowed to vote for the mainstream UK parties like Labour or the Tories- fuck, even Lib Dem. We don’t have any influence in who our Prime Minister will be- meaning we have no influence in the government who’s finances we are dependent on. We’re not a part of Britain, we’re just another fucking colony.

Gabriel’s very petty though, just like his aunts he can’t tolerate back talk. He dedicates part of his speech (he has to do a speech every year) to diminishing the youth, praising the older generations as being “More Hospitable” and the younger ones “Hyper educated” which…is an insult? I don’t fucking know.

But anyway he gives his speech, despite being super nervous, and his aunts enjoy it and they applaud. By the time everyone’s leaving Gabriel is hanging about with his aunts and Mr. Browne and he tells the story about his late Grandfather and his horse, Johnny.

So Johnny was stationed as a work horse and his job involved working the mill by being attached with harnesses and pulling alongside a wooden contraption to help with the wheat distribution or something. You know how mills work, right? So anyway one day his Grandfather rode Johnny into town and they were going past the King William of Orange statue (King Billy) and the horse mistook it for the mill and started doing laps of it. It’s funnier in the book.

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Now, I’ve talked about King Billy a wee bit in Ivy Day in the Committee Room but to summarize in the late 1600’s Britain was ruled by a Catholic monarch, King James the II. The protestant majority in Britain wasn’t having that so they conspired against him and got William of Orange to invade, leading to the Battle of the Boyne which resulted in William of Orange becoming King and establishing the Orange Order amongst Presbyterian Loyalists in both Ulster and Scotland.

Now, I will concede that King Billy had more balls than King James II- because unlike James, Billy actually fought the battle first hand. However, to quote a certain acne ridden manlet he was; “a wheezing faggot” who was very sectarian. Which can be seen by his initiation of Penal laws that restricted the rights of Catholics. Preventing them from getting an education, owning property or even serving in the Army.

So if the Orange Order was basically established as a glorified fan club of a Sectarian pig, does that automatically make anyone part of the order Sectarian? I mean in Grace one of the lads described being friends with an orange man- which is the equivalent of a black guy being friends with a man who dresses up in a Confederate soldier’s Uniform and partakes in Civil War reenactments every other weekend.

Because Ireland was a majority Catholic that statue was defaced countless times. Like so many times there’s none of the original parts of the statue left;

This equestrian statue of William III stands in College Green, and has stood there, more or less, since A.D 1701. We say “more or less” because no statue in the world, perhaps, has been subject to so many vicissitudes. It has been insulted, mutilated and blown up so many times, that the original figure, never particularly graceful, is now a battered wreck, pieced and patched together, like an old, worn out garment.

Fortunately for us living today, we don’t have to look at that ugly statue that celebrates a a sectarian colonialist. In 1929 the IRA blew that fucker to kingdom fucking come.

d11-nelsons_pillar_dublin2

I say good fucking riddance. Joyce wouldn’t approve, of course. He abhors violence. He’d be one of those cunts that advise that we ought to put it back up; “It would also be a sign to our British neighbours in the north that they have nothing to fear in a United Ireland.

…Yeah, how about- fuck that.

So Gabriel is waiting on his wife, and he looks back up the stairs and sees her just standing there. Listening to the music intently. They leave soon afterwards and he starts getting excited, he gets infatuated with his wife and he recalls all the warm and tender private moments they shared and he’s just giddy. He really seems to love his wife.

They get back to the hotel room and he’s fucking excited, he’s looking for a ride like. He’s got it all planned out. He’s gonna call her name tenderly and then they’re gonna procreate like mad. So after an awkward chit chat he’s getting restless, he tries to call her and she kisses him. He’s in!

He asks her; “What’s on your mind right now?” and she burst into tears and tells him about how the song she heard earlier on reminded him of her first love who died many years ago and she was very sad about it. And he’s just standing there and Joyce writes stuff like;

Gabriel was silent. He did not wish her to think that he was interested in this delicate boy…Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks.

Yep. You heard it here first folks. James fucking Joyce, one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century, wrote a story in which the main Character, Gabriel Conroy, got Cock-blocked by a ghost.

I am not making this up. Joyce was building up to getting this character laid but his wife was upset because she had a re-emerging sad memory about a former lover that made her devastated.

…You see that there. That right there? That’s fucking hilarious. Like imagine if you were looking to entice the woman you love most in this world and you’re right at the starting line, the gun goes off and then- she cries. Race is cancelled. Go home everyone, nothing to see here. Just a man getting his heart broken. Actually, you can really pinpoint the moment his heart is ripped apart into a thousand pieces- right here.

So this daft cunt that Gabriel’s wife was in love with caught a fever right before she was being shipped off to a convent to be educated and they refused to let her near him cause he was so sick. So one night he snuck out to see her, a man with a fever, waiting outside in the middle of the night- in the pouring rain. Not exactly breeding material, that one.

Like where’s the internal fucking logic to this? Like I get he’s young, dumb and full of cum but couldn’t he think this through just for one second? She’s going to a convent- where there’s fuck all men, and she’s returning in the summer, where you could see her again. But no he had to be a romantic idiot and say; “Oh it’s worth dying just to see you” which is stupid and wrong to say the least.

Also, what the fuck was his endgame? Like the man knew he was a goner if he stepped out into the rain with a fucking fever- so was he looking to get laid? He does realize that if he tried to get it up he’d pass out, and if he didn’t pass out his skin would feel like red hot iron and no intelligent woman is letting anything that hot inside of her- also it’s bound to be super swollen as well, like it was stung by a wasp. Poor hygiene and all makes it reak like a dirty bandage.

So Gabriel takes this news on the chin and he’s heartbroken. He remains awake while his wife sleeps and he thinks about everything. How sooner or later his aunts and everyone he knows will die and there’ll be no more annual dinners. He thinks about his own mortality and he envies the dumb fuck kid that died of a fever. Cause he died with passion and Gabriel’s never been exposed to that type of passion before, the only real warm moments he recalled with his wife is just standing about in silence- not exactly the most romantic imagery you could use- he’s an empty fucking shell.

The story continues the theme of paralysis that’s contingent throughout the novel. Like Johnny the horse Gabriel and everyone around him are going in circles. Doing the same thing year in year out with the same people. No one is really free from their vacuous roles. Gabriel is trapped with his awkwardness that alienates strangers, the nationalist girl at the start alienates people of opposing views and therefore negatively affects her political prospects, the drunkards will continue to get intoxicated freely despite outside forces interfering and no one is really doing anything worth while, they’re just passing the time. A people who lived miserably long mundane lives instead of short bursts of passionate ones, which it seems both Gabriel and Joyce prefer.

The snow is imagery that reflects the cold nature of death and numbness, creating a paralyzing effect that allows the story to end woefully;

His soul swooned slowly 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.

See I told you Joyce had some good quotes in him. If only he had good stories as well.

That’s the last of the Dubliners, thank fuck, I’m grateful if you managed to make it all the way through this vulgar bile. Swallowing each and every word as if you were drinking a pint of Guinness; in fucking gulps.

I’d offer you an award but there’s really nothing I could give that would replace the time you’ve wasted (not living) to read this blog.

So thank you, I appreciate it greatly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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