James Joyce: Book summary and reviews of James Joyce by Gordon Bowker

James Joyce

A New Biography

by Gordon Bowker

James Joyce by Gordon Bowker X
James Joyce by Gordon Bowker
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Book Summary

James Joyce is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, his novels and stories foundational in the history of literary modernism. Yet Joyce's genius was by no means immediately recognized, nor was his success easily won. At twenty-two he chose a life of exile; he battled poverty and financial dependency for much of his adult life; his out-of-wedlock relationship with Nora Barnacle was scandalous for the time; and the attitudes he held towards Ireland, England, sexuality, politics, Catholicism, popular culture - to name a few - were complex, contradictory, and controversial.

Gordon Bowker draws on material recently come to light and reconsiders the two signal works produced about Joyce's life - Herbert Gorman's authorized biography of 1939 and Richard Ellman’s magisterial tome of 1959 - and, most importantly by binding together more intimately than has ever before been attempted the life and work of this singular artist, Gordon Bowker here gives us a masterful, fresh, eminently readable contribution to our understanding, both of Joyce's personality and of the monumental opus he created.

Bowker goes further than his predecessors in exploring Joyce's inner depths - his ambivalent relationships to England, to his native Ireland, and to Judaism- uncovering revealing evidence. He draws convincing correspondences between the iconic fictional characters Joyce created and their real-life models and inspirations. And he paints a nuanced portrait of a man of enormous complexity, the clearest picture yet of an extraordinary writer who continues to influence and fascinate over a century after his birth.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Bowker's splendid, insightful, and witty biography illuminates the connection between Joyce’s erotic imagination and humane spirit, offering a clear-eyed celebration of his perverse comic genius." - Publishers Weekly

"The narrative path is sometimes obscured by a lush undergrowth of detail, but our guide is wise and the journey is wondrous." - Kirkus

"Wonderfully detailed and gripping ... It is different from most literary biographies because Joyce's life and work are so tightly bound. Bowker sets it down: there would have been no Stephen Dedalus without James' father, no Molly Bloom without Nora, no Leopold Bloom without Alfred Hugh Hunter ... Here we meet the models for everybody ... And the final success of this book is that when you snap shut the final page there is nothing your hand wants to reach for except a volume of Joyce.The narrative path is sometimes obscured by a lush undergrowth of detail, but our guide is wise and the journey is wondrous." - Tribune Magazine (UK)

"[A] deft, accomplished biography ... It shows Joyce's recognition of his creative vocation as a gift to the world, though it cost so much in the way of poverty, misery and mortification." - The Telegraph (UK)

"No book on James Joyce goes half as far as this one in establishing connections between passages in the classic texts and incidents in the artist’s life ... This study will be valuable to students as a summation of our current biographical knowledge of Joyce. It captures recurring features of his art [and] shows how difficult he could be even to his greatest admirers; yet it also evokes the heroism of a man who, confronted by poverty, ill health and endless uprootings, somehow found in himself the courage to write epics in celebration of ordinary people and the intricacies of their minds. It is in its way an example as well as an account of dignified audacity." - The Guardian (UK)

"Both learned and readable ... There have only ever been three important biographies of Joyce, including the present volume." - Edmund Gordon, The Sunday Times (UK)

"This new book extends the record - and not only the record, but the entire epistemology of the Joycean discourse. Taking previous biographies and published records as a series of knowing but politicised texts, Bowker has restored Joyce to his contradictory, ambivalent humanity. Digging deeper into personal archives, Bowker explores the complex family background ... [A] shrewd and highly readable biography." - Irish Examiner

This information about James Joyce was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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yacine

two gallants - dubliners
I like the style of writing these stories I like it.

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Author Information

Gordon Bowker

Gordon Bowker has written highly acclaimed biographies of Malcolm Lowry (Pursued by Furies, a New York Times Recommended Book of the Year), George Orwell, and Lawrence Durrell, and articles and reviews for The Observer (London), The Sunday Times (London), The Independent, The New York Times, and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in Notting Hill, London.

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