“Only all palaver” - Teaching Dubliners

 

-       The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.

       (Lily, “The Dead”)

Coming up to one of my final sessions in Vienna and it is Joyce’s Dubliners (1914).  This line from Lily is brilliant. As well as re-reading the stories for class, I’ve dipped into David Pierce’s Reading Joyce (Longman 2008) – notably his ‘Teaching Dubliners’ chapter – see pdf for handy scheme for students to see the structure of the collection – and also Edna O’Brien’s snappy biography of the man in under 200 pages (James Joyce: A Life. Penguin, 1999). Both give quirky, personal but very good insights into Dubliners. Pierce good on Joyce’s defiant attitude and the quality of ‘delay’ required in reading his fiction, ‘delaying’ over words.  According to O’Brien, in 1915, one year after its publication – eventually by Grant Richards – the book had sold 379 copies, 120 of which had been purchased by Joyce himself (p. 83).  Incredible. Joyce’s correspondence with publishers and lawyers is legend.