Joyce’s Many Lives

James Joyce: The Years of Growth 1882–1915

by Peter Costello
Pantheon, 374 pp., $30.00

James Joyce: A Literary Life

by Morris Beja
Ohio State University Press, 150 pp., $12.50 (paper)

James Joyce's Chamber Music: The Lost Song Settings

edited and with an introduction by Myra Teicher Russel
Indiana University Press, 116 pp., $19.95 (paper)

James Joyce's Chamber Music: Musical Settings by G. Molyneux Palmer

sung by Robert White, accompanied by Samuel Sanders
Indiana University Press, $10.95 (cassette)

Picking Up Airs: Hearing the Music in Joyce's Text

edited by Ruth H. Bauerle
University of Illinois Press, 220 pp., $34.95


by James Joyce, edited by Hans Walter Gabler and Walter Hettche
Vintage, 455 pp., $10.00 (paper)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce, edited by Hans Walter Gabler and Walter Hettche
Vintage, 359 pp., $9.00 (paper)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce, edited by R. B. Kershner
St. Martin's Press/Bedford Books, 404 pp., $8.00 (paper)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce, edited by Seamus Deane
Penguin, 329 pp., $7.95 (paper)


by James Joyce, edited by Jeri Johnson
Oxford University Press, 980 pp., £6.99 (paper)

Reflections on James Joyce: Stuart Gilbert's Paris Journal

edited by Thomas F. Staley and Randolph Lewis
University of Texas Press, 103 pp., $24.95


James Joyce died on January 13, 1941. A few months later two books on him appeared, Herbert Gorman’s James Joyce: A Definitive Biography and Harry Levin’s James Joyce: A Critical Introduction. These books served different purposes. Gorman’s was written under Joyce’s supervision: it was the latest of several books in which Joyce’s disciples took up the duties he assigned to them, to explain the structure of his interests and procedures, to provide a context of expressive grandeur in which his work would be appreciated, and meanwhile to present a glowing image of Joyce himself. When Gorman’s book appeared, Stuart Gilbert complained in his journal that Joyce could not bring himself to give Gorman a free hand or let him show “the real Joyce.”

Gorman had been preceded in that advertising exercise by Gilbert, Samuel Beckett, Thomas McGreevy, John Rodker, Eugene Jolas, Robert McAlmon, William Carlos Williams, and other acolytes to the number of twelve who wrote An Exagmination round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (1929) to explain and recommend Joyce’s new style long before it culminated in Finnegans Wake. Gilbert’s James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (1930) and Frank Budgen’s James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses’ (1934) were similar acts of piety toward a book many people had heard of but not read. The ban on the publication of Ulysses in the US was not lifted until December 6, 1933, but meanwhile Gilbert’s book kept people informed about it. Gilbert, Budgen, and Gorman were Joyce’s main cheerleaders.

Harry Levin’s book was a different matter, an entirely independent critical study of Joyce’s work. No master supervised it. Levin acted upon his own intelligence and learning, he did not take part in the making of a legend. His book released readers from the lore of Joyce’s salon and showed them how Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and (with luck) Finnegans Wake might be read with Aristotle, Aquinas, and modern European literature in mind. Levin brought the books from gossip to criticism. Many scholar-critics followed where he led. The phase of criticism he defined culminated in Hugh Kenner’s Dublin’s Joyce (1956), a work that might have set the course in the criticism of Joyce if it had been a little easier to read. The scholars found it hard going. Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce (1959; revised edition, 1982) soon made things much easier by inserting Joyce’s writings in a biographically ascertained life.

Ellmann’s book is commonly regarded as a triumph of biography and the book to read on Joyce if time allows but one. Ellmann had an unusually fluent style, gracious, rapid, a style made for ease of reference, quiet irony, and narrative flow. He knew Joyce’s work as well as anyone of his generation, and there were still enough survivors from Joyce’s Paris whom he could interview and, in Dublin, enough citizens to fill his mind with lore if not with truth. So he was well qualified to write a grand-scale biography. His book…

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