Since February I have been laid up with a painful and dangerous illness of the eyes (rheumatic iritis). As it is the fifth attack which I have had and was complicated with synechia it was quite impossible for me to write until today.
As soon as I am cured I shall continue to write a novel at which I am working, Ulysses.
There are many pages, and not a few whole scenes, in Mr. Joyce's book which are undoubtedly the work of a man of genius, nevertheless, it leaves us combative. The reader - who is as much ignored, and as contemptuously as it is possible for him to be in a printed work - revolts and asserts himself from time to time, and refuses to sit down passively under the writer’s scorn.
This is part of one distinguishing feature of the book - its astounding bad manners. Not all the scenes are touched by genius. Some read like disagreeable phonographic records of the stupid conversations of ill-born and ill-bred youths, compact of futile obscenities, aimless outrages against reasonable decencies - not immoral, but non-normal in a bad-mannered fashion. One is driven to the conclusion that this gifted and very modern writer who rejects old theories so contemptuously is slave to a new and particularly stupid one.
If we begin by some complaining of the title of this book, it is only because it may turn some people away from it. Others may be put off by occasional improprieties - there is one on the very first page; and it is useless to say that people ought not to be put off by such things. They are; and we should like the book to have as many readers as possible. It is not about the artist as a young man, but about a child, a boy, a youth. As one reads, one remembers oneself in it, at least one reader does; yet, like all good fiction, it is as particular as it is universal…
"A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" is a book to buy and read and lock up, but it is not a book to miss.
The value of Mr. Joyce's book has little to do with its incidental insanitary condition. Like some of the best novels in the world it is the story of an education; it is by far the most living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing. See more
It is a mosaic of jagged fragments that does altogether render with extreme completeness the growth of a rather secretive, imaginative boy in Dublin. The technique is startling, but on the whole it succeeds. Like so many Irish writers from Sterne to Shaw Mr. Joyce is a bold experimentalist with paragraph and punctuation. He breaks away from scene to scene without a hint of the change of time and place; at the end he passes suddenly from the third person to the first; he uses no inverted commas to mark off his speeches.