Loosen your talktapes

Dubliners (HarperCollins)

Read by Frank McCourt, Stephen Rea, Colm Meaney, and others.
HarperCollins, 2000, ISBN 0-694-52300-3; Six cassettes, $34.95. [

A wondeful offering by HarperCollins, this is a complete, unabridged Dubliners read by a first-rate cast of Irish actors and writers, many of whom have had significant experience with James Joyce in film, on the stage, or with other audio productions. The cast reads like a who’s who for the Irish arts:

“The Sisters” – Frank McCourt
“An Encounter” – Patrick McCabe
“Araby” – Colm Meany
“Eveline” – Dearbhla Molloy
“After the Race” – Dan O’Herlihy
“Two Gallants” – Malachy McCourt
“The Boarding House” – Donal Donnelly
“A Little Cloud” – Brendan Coyle
“Counterparts” – Jim Norton
“Clay” – Sorcha Cusack
“A Painful Case” – Ciaran Hinds
“Ivy Day in the Committee Room” – T.P. McKenna
“A Mother” – Fionnula Flanagan
“Grace” – Charles Keating
“The Dead” – Stephen Rea

This is an excellent collection, and the Brazen Head has recently reviewed it. You may read the Caedmon Dubliners review here.

Dubliners (Naxos)

Read by Jim Norton

Part 1: Naxos Audiobooks, 1999, ISBN 962634-173-4; 3 CDs, $19.98. [
Part 2: Naxos Audiobooks, 2000, ISBN 962634-183-1; 3 CDs, $19.98. [

Part 1: Naxos Audiobooks, 1999, ISBN 962634-673-6; 3 cassettes, $17.98. [
Part 2: Naxos Audiobooks, 2000, ISBN 962634-683-3; 3 cassettes, $17.98. [

Review by Bob Williams:
Time and imitation has obscured the freshness of Dubliners, and it is seldom read with special attention by Joyceans themselves, much less by the reading public in general. This is both unfortunate and a mistake. The stories are intricately tied together by obvious motifs as well as by cleverly constructed subterranean connections. Joyce divided the fifteen stories of Dubliners into four groups: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life. He added stories to the original during the long period of his struggle with his reluctant publisher, and these additions tend to obscure the pattern as well as to create some inequalities, since the additions are in many respects superior to the original stories.
For utilitarian purposes we accept audio books, an uncomfortable contradiction in terms; but to listen for pleasure to a reading instead of reading may at first strike us as a kind of depravity, a return to childhood, when being read to was one of life’s greatest pleasures. Well, it can be again when the reader is as skilled as Jim Norton.
If one compares Norton’s reading of “The Sisters” with that of Frank McCourt, one observes with amusement that Norton, closer in time and place to Ireland, has less of a brogue than McCourt. In both cases – and both are exceptionally good readings – I had the sense that, although I could put a book aside easily, it would be rude to interrupt a reader. In this sense, an audio book demands more commitment.
Naxos makes it a commitment worth making, and Norton carries the listener through the collection with great sensitivity. Of course, all the stories eventually lead to the perfection of “The Dead,” certainly the most widely recorded of Joyce’s works. Norton responds to the challenge brilliantly, and his reading of the final lines is simply magical. The musical decorations that Naxos provides are of the period and authentically scratchy. They are almost always appropriate and welcome, but the selection that follows Norton’s magnificent reading struck me as impertinent – until I came to accept it as an emotional decompression chamber.
The only reading that does not come off successfully is “Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” and that is no fault of Norton’s. The rapid exchange of conversation becomes too choppy a sea for the best navigator to negotiate. On the basis of the reading alone, the listener might never realize that “Ivy Day” is one of the greatest stories in the collection. (It was also one of Joyce’s favorites.)
This is a great version of a great and somewhat neglected masterpiece. The listener would, I think, be well advised to listen to this with full attention and in the same environment in which the listener would read them. It might be a further help to listen to only so many stories at a time as the listener can absorb.

Dubliners (Penguin)

Read by Gerard McSorley
Penguin, 1993, ISBN 0453008453, Two cassettes, $16.00. [

Contains eight unabridged stories from Dubliners, including “Araby,” “Eveline,” and “The Boarding House.” They are read by Gerard McSorley, the actor who played Michael in the Broadway production of Dancing at Lughnasa.
Reviews or commentary are welcome.

”The Dead” and Other Stories (Penguin)

Read by Gerard McSorley
Penguin, 1993, ISBN 0-14-086083-5; Two cassettes, $16.95. Out of Print. [

A companion set to the above, these two tapes conatin three unabridged stories from Dubliners: “The Sisters,” “Grace,” and the “The Dead.” They are read by Gerard McSorley, the actor who played Michael in the Broadway production of Dancing at Lughnasa.
Reviews or commentary are welcome.

”The Dead” and Other Stories from Dubliners (Audio Editions)

Read by Danny Huston & Kate Mulgrew
The Audio Partners, 1998, ISBN 0-945353-38-3; Two cassettes, $15.95. [

This set contains an unabridged version of “The Dead” and three other Dubliners tales: “The Sisters,” “Eveline,” and “The Boarding House.” The readers are Kate Mulgrew, a Hedda Gabler veteran who is best known as Voyager’s Captain Janeway; and Danny Huston, the son of John Huston, who directed the film The Dead.
This set is unusual in that the reading of “The Dead” is set up as “recreation” of the story, including sound effects, music, and dramatic dialogue. The narrative parts are split evenly by Mulgrew and Huston, who are also called upon to bring each of the characters to life.
Unfortunately, while this is certainly a worthwhile idea, the recording falls just short of seeing it through satisfactorily. In order to differentiate between the character dialogue and the narration, the engineers placed a slight echo effect on all the dialogue. While this certainly works to separate the two, it also gives the dialogue a very unnatural hollowness, as if characters are speaking from a distance, or even from within an empty cistern. (Unintentional shades of Beckett?) It’s also jarring to hear conversational markers such as “Gabriel said” or “she said” constantly framing the distorted lines of dialogue. Though this may be faithful to the text, it sounds awkward, especially given the electronic treatment of the character voices.
Of the two readers – both Americans who adopt Irish accents – Kate Mulgrew is by far the more successful. Her Greta is strong-willed but charming, and she brings just enough individuality to each of the other female characters to make them stand apart. She’s also more attentive to nuances and textual shading, and though her husky voice and rapid delivery may take some getting used to, her reading is marked by sensitivity and a gentle humor. Danny Huston also invests his “secondary” characters with different personalities, but his Gabriel – as well as his narration – tends to fall flat. A film director with limited acting experience, his reading is fairly prosaic, failing to exploit the material’s many subtleties and ironies.
The sound effects are used sparingly, mostly clever touches of background color and occasional music. The music is especially welcome, particularly the runs and flourishes of Mary Jane’s recital piece, which makes Gabriel’s wry description of it all the more amusing. Unfortunately, the songs are not actually sung. This may be a bit much to ask for, but it would have gone far in fully realizing an auditory recreation of the evening – and who wouldn’t want to hear “The Lass of Aughrim?”
The other three stories are read in the conventional manner; “The Sisters” by Huston, “Eveline” and “The Boarding House” by Mulgrew, who does a very fine job. There is also a short “Afterword” by Stanford professor William M. Chase, which may of particular interest to students or first-time “readers.”
All in all, I would recommend this “The Dead” only with reservations. To those wanting to experience the pure poetry of Joyce’s words, it will only distract and disappoint. But to beginners, students, or those who want a more active rendition of the story, the theatrical approach and afterword may balance out the flaws. And again, let me say I’m all for dramatic adaptations – the BBC’s Ulysses production is quite rewarding. With a different approach to engineering and a more sensitive Gabriel, the AudioEditions “The Dead” might have come off beautifully.

Listen & Read Joyce’s Dubliners

Read by Charles Keating
Dover Publications, 1996, ISBN 0-286-29121-9; One cassette, $6.95. [

According to Ryan Underwood, this tape set has “Araby,” Eveline” and “Counterparts,” which are read by Keating in a “rolling, semipoetic style.” It comes packaged with the Dover Thrift 1$ version of Dubliners.

Dubliners (Books on Tape)

Read by David Case
Books on Tape, 1993, Catalog #3112.
Unabridged; Eight 60-minute cassettes; Rental Price $16.95; Purchase Price $39.95. [
Browse / Purchase/ Rent]

Reviews or commentary are welcome.

Dubliners (Blackstone)

Blackstone Audio Books, 1992, ISBN 0786103590; Six cassettes, $44.95. Out of Print. [Browse/Purchase]

Contains the entire unabridged Dubliners.
Not a common collection – I am not even sure who reads the stories. Reviews or commentary are welcome.

Dubliners (Jimcin)

Read by Jim Killavey
Jimcin Recordings, 1991, ISBN 9992486236; Six cassettes, $35.00. [

I believe this contains the entire unabridged Dubliners, but I have no other information. Reviews or commentary are welcome.


Go To:

Joyce Audio Main PageBack to the main audio page, where you will find the standard Brazen Head menu.

Joyce Reading – Recordings of Joyce reading in his own voice. This section also includes poetry and collections.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManJoyce’s first novel.

Ulysses – Readings and productions of Joyce’s masterpiece.

Finnegans Wake – It’s even better when spoken aloud...!

Miscellaneous – Biographies, lectures, and essays about Joyce and his work.

The sissymusses and the zossymusses in their robenhauses quailed to hear his tardeynois at all – Send email to the Great Quail. Comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions – all are welcome!

–Allen B. Ruch
6 August 2004