The Trotskyite Joyce!

Life and Times
Biography: Joyce

My Brother’s Keeper

Stanislaus J. Joyce

1. Faber and Faber, 1958, ISBN: 0-5711-1803-8; Out of Print. [Search for a Copy]

2. DeCapo Press, 2003, ISBN: 030681210X, Paperback $18.00. [Browse/Purchase]

This biography of Joyce was written by his brother Stanislaus. It primarily covers his early life – the period memorialized in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – and is particularly interesting for its details about the Joyce family in Dublin and Trieste. Stanislaus paints a fair, though not always sympathetic, view of his older brother, who emerges as a very intelligent and arrogant young man who often placed his family second. The original edition was organized by Richard Ellmann and had a preface by T. S. Eliot, which has been retained for the recent DeCapo printing.
From the publisher:

Stanislaus Joyce was more than his brother’s keeper: he was at various times his brother’s co-dependent, touchstone, conscience, and biggest fan. The two shared the same genius, the same childhood influences, and had the same literary instinct, but in Stanislaus it was channeled into sober academic pursuit, while in James it evolved into gaiety, wild whimsy, and at times sodden despair.

Covering the first twenty-two years of James Joyce’s life in Dublin and Trieste, My Brother’s Keeper is a window onto the drama that was his youth. Thanks to Stanislaus’s superb memory and sure hand, here we find the Dublin of Dubliners: the streets, neighbors, churches, and unforgettable eccentrics. Here we see the model for Ulysses’ Simon Dedalus: James’ father, a dour and violent figure when in his cups. Here are the Joyces in their own home, and the minor characters that pepper A Portrait of the Artist: Eileen, Leopold Bloom’s comely daughter; Mrs. Riordan, the surly teacher; Mr. Casey, the political agitator. And finally, here is Trieste, a place of exile for Stanislaus but a retreat for James. Stanislaus Joyce has fashioned both an invaluable primary source for his brother’s opaque masterpieces and a loving memoir of his brother’s early life.

James Joyce

Richard Ellmann
Oxford University Press, 1982, ISBN: 0-19-503381-7, Paperback $27.50. [

Winner of several major book awards and generally considered to be the definitive Joyce biography, Ellmann’s 1959 biography has stood the test of time and is still one of the best. An exhaustive and critical work, this book is a must for every Joyce shelf.

James Joyce: The Years of Growth 1882-1915

Peter Costello
Pantheon, 1993, ISBN 0679422013; Hardcover; Out of Print. [
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From Library Journal:

The author of an acclaimed study of Irish writing, The Heart Grown Brutal (1977), aims in this biography “for the ordinary reader of James Joyce,” to eschew the academic focus of Richard Ellmann’s massive James Joyce. The results are mixed: Costello traces every family connection and details all the minutiae of his subject’s youth but fails to link the life lived to the genius of the works, concentrating instead on possible real-life prototypes for Joyce’s characters. In trying to expand on Ellmann, Costello often spreads his facts too thin; the “Notes on Sources” don’t adequately document all his conjectures. The work is buttressed by family trees, notes, bibliography, index, and illustrations (some misattributed).
--Shelley Cox; Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Joyce Images

Bob Cato and Greg Vitiello
W.W. Norton, 1994, ISBN 0-393-03638-3, Hardcover $39.95. Out of print. [
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A “coffee-table” book, this work is a collection of photographs, drawings and cartoons about James, Nora, and the Joyce family. Comprehensive and neatly organized, the book has an introduction by Anthony Burgess – one of the last things he wrote before he died. Many of the photos are quite striking and rarely seen, including one of Ezra Pound visiting Joyce’s grave, and more than a few have never before been published. Highly recommended, and easily available through a used book search.

James Joyce and Trieste

Peter Hartshorn
Greenwood Publishing, 1997, ISBN: 0313302529, Hardcover $55.00. [

According to the publisher: “Much attention has been given to Joyce’s life in Dublin and Paris, but his productive years in Trieste have not received the same attention. In a thoroughly documented account, Hartshorn presents a clear, accessible study of Joyce’s love/hate relationship with the city, the work he produced there, and the influence of Trieste on his writing.”
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James Joyce (Penguin Lives)

Edna O’Brien
Penguin, 1999, ISBN: 0-67-088230-5, Hardcover $19.95. [

Part of the “Penguin Lives” series, this biography was written by Irish novelist Edna O’Brien. A fairly short work, James Joyce gives a survey of Joyce’s life and work in an enjoyable prose influenced by Joyce himself. The Brazen Head devoted a feature-length review to O’Brien’s book when it was first published.

James Joyce: A Passionate Exile

John McCourt
St. Martin’s Press, 2001, ISBN: 0312269412, Hardcover $22.95. [

A biography intended for the general reader. Terrence Killeen reviewed it for the Irish Times:

Released, as its sub-title indicates, to tie in with the film, Nora, John McCourt’s James Joyce: A Passionate Exile is a very clear, reliable account in brief compass of the writer’s life. While very much intended for the general reader, it does reflect some of its author’s special expertise. This is especially true of the Trieste period of Joyce’s life, on which the author is an acknowledged expert. McCourt gives a full account of Joyce’s emotional and intellectual life in the now Italian city, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
He shows how Joyce was affected by the city’s strong irredentist atmosphere – the movement to unite the Italian-speaking areas of the empire to Italy. This did strike a chord with the Irish writer, who was inevitably reminded of Irish nationalist aspirations. In that context, he wrote a number of articles for the leading irredentist paper and gave a lecture which conveyed a fascinating but far from simple impression of Joyce’s attitude to the political situation in his native land. The full implications of these pieces are still being debated and are dealt with at much greater length in McCourt’s more substantial volume reviewed elsewhere on this page by Anne Fogarty.
But the chief charm of this handsomely produced, coffee-table sized volume is its photographs. Many of these will be new to even the most jaded Joyceans. Again, the Trieste section provides the major new material, with the large range of contemporary photographs providing a vivid portrait of a bygone age. The book has a number of unusual portraits of Joyce, and of other people (I was particularly taken by Tal Coat’s portrait of Gertrude Stein). Also very striking is the original playbill of the English Players’ first theatre productions in Zurich, including Nora Joyce in Riders to the Sea. And the front and back endpapers of the book feature a very atmospheric picture of the Dublin Custom House in the late 19th century, “along the riverrun”.

Biography: Family & Associates

The Complete Dublin Diary of Stanislaus Joyce

Stanislaus J. Joyce
Edited by George Harris Healey
Faber and Faber, 1962. Out of Print. [
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Another work penned by Joyce’s younger brother. If you’d like submit commentary or a review to the Brazen Head, please send us email!

Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation

Noel Riley Fitch
W.W. Norton & Co., 1985, ISBN 0-393-30231-8, Paperback, $19.95. [

Commentary by Tim Miller, founder of Six Gallery Press:
Fitch’s book is a gem from start to finish, a definitive guide to the inter-War Paris literary scene as well as Beach’s relationship, as publisher and friend, to James Joyce. The narrative naturally revolves around the hub of literary life in Paris, Beach’s Left Bank bookshop, Shakespeare & Company. Passing through its doors were all the big names (Joyce, Pound, Eliot, etc.), along with a host of other writers, artists, and musicians. Although the historical content is invaluable to any literary enthusiast, the book’s greatest asset is that it is written so competently. Covering such a wide span of time, and involving so many people, the book could easily have become a collection of entertaining anecdotal fragments with little style or organization. Fitch maintains a steady narrative throughout, compelling in both its breadth as well as attention to detail. It is also an engaging and exciting read – as Beach meets with the literary and artistic lights of her day, so does the reader. We feel empathy, energy and enjoyment in the vast panorama of the scene itself, and whether Fitch is describing the high-jinks of the Surrealists or the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses, the reader feels placed in the middle of the action.
Of course, for its detailed description of the publication history of Ulysses alone, the book should be added to the canon of Joyce studies. The quest for a printer who will take on the job all others deem “obscene,” trying to locate people who will even type up the manuscript, dealing with the incessant additions and corrections Joyce made at every stage . . . it seems that the only thing more interesting and difficult that Ulysses itself were the travails of getting it published! It also focuses on the writing and eventual publication of Finnegans Wake. Fitch relates how Joyce and his army of scouts and assistants (Samuel Beckett among them) hunted down obscure words and references, while the first generation of Joyce exegetes (Stuart Gilbert, et. al) offered Joyce enthusiastic encouragement amidst the hostile bafflement of new enemies and old friend such as Ezra Pound.
This leads into perhaps the slowest part of the book, the pre-War Thirties. Having lost some of the wild energy of the Twenties, Shakespeare & Company began to attract a new generation of writers – Jean-Paul Sarte and Simone DeBouviour among others – but never quite regained its initial glory. By the time World War II breaks out, the book ends in a minor key, recounting how many of the Left Bank’s brilliant minds perished in the war. This is followed by sad endnotes – Joyce’s disillusionment and eventual passing, Pound’s dip into fascism, and finally Beach’s own death.
I cannot stress enough the marvelous tone, pacing, and overall execution that Fitch achieves in this wonderful work. Fitch places the reader directly in the middle of this exciting time, with its flourishing intellects, renaissance of literary styles, and revolutionary blending of arts and cultures. That one feels personally touched by this greatness is a tribute to Fitch and a hearty recommendation for his book.

Nora: A Biography of Nora Joyce
(Or: “Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom”)

Brenda Maddox

1. Houghton Mifflin, 1988, ISBN 0-395-36510-4; Out of Print. [Search for a Copy]

2. Houghton Mifflin, 2000, ISBN 0618057005; Paperback $14.00. [Browse/Purchase]

A biography of Nora Barnacle, Joyce’s wife, and the source material for the recent Joyce biopic, Nora. Commentary by Rebecca Sullivan:
In 1904, having known each other for only three months, a young woman named Nora Barnacle and a not-yet famous writer named James Joyce left Ireland. He had refused to marry her, proclaiming his adamant opposition both to the institution of marriage and to the institution that would solemnize their vows. Yet this unholy exit from a struggling land was the beginning of an amazing partnership – and eventual marriage – which endured for thirty-seven years. Brenda Maddox’s biography of Nora Joyce is a remarkable social history, revealing much about Irish life and character and providing a vivid reconstruction of the elegantly vagabond existence of the perversely charming and brilliant writer and his little Irish entourage. The book is about Nora, who emerges as a unique and fascinating character, but ultimately it is a portrait of her relationship with James Joyce and of the impact she had on his work. Nora is Joyce’s “Portable Ireland,” and he uses her words, her experiences, and her soul to create his female characters. Brenda Maddox presents the evolution of Nora from the unsophisticated but not simple Irish maid to the worldly woman whom Joyce introduces as Molly Bloom in Ulysses and Gretta Conroy in “The Dead.” Their union is complicated, committed, and sometimes shocking, yet Nora emerges as a warm, intelligent woman who was a powerful force behind one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century.

Dear Miss Weaver: Harriet Shaw Weaver 1876-1961

Jane Lidderdale & Mary Nicholson
0571094767 ; Out of Print. [Search for a Copy]

Commentary by Bob Williams:
Dear Miss Weaver is an extraordinary book. Instead of a brief memorial of little skill, this is an accomplished performance and of a scale (455 pages) suitable to the importance of its subject. The relations between Miss Weaver and Mr Joyce deteriorated in the 30’s. The authors detail this with an impartiality which is the more becoming in that one of the writers was Miss Weaver’s niece.
There are some bizarre typographical aberrations but no major problems, fewer typos than in most of books recently published. Many photographs, one of Joyce – a formal portrait in profile – that I had never seen before.
Certainly worth reading and, since I expect to refer to it often, worth owning too.

John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce’s Father

John Wyse Jackson & Peter Costello

St, Martin’s Press, 1998, ISBN 0312185995; Hardcover; Out of Print. [Search for a Copy]

A biography of Joyce's father. From Kirkus:

In this exhaustive work, Dubliners and Joyce scholars Jackson and Costello (the latter the author of James Joyce, 1993) portray the Joyces’ paterfamilias as a colorful figure from a fading world, and his orbit as a priceless source for much of James’ fiction. Write Jackson and Costello, “in a real sense John Stanislaus Joyce is the ur-author of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.” A supporter of Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish home rule, John Stanislaus Joyce (1849-1931) is described as his son’s primary literary inspiration and as providing the context to almost everything he wrote. The only son of James Augustine Joyce and Ellen O’Connell, John entered Queen’s College, Cork, in 1867, but he would not complete his higher education. He began his professional career as an accountant in Cork. Money was a lifelong struggle; though he was never quite officially bankrupt, the family moved residences, as the authors show, with shocking frequency, and John changed employers constantly. A prideful father, John watched his eldest (and favored) son, James, abandon his medical studies in Paris for journalism and later fiction writing. James, they say, was always “eager to draw on his father’s memories and extravagant idioms,” including a deathbed interview arranged to create lasting documentation of John’s world. (James also built up character sketches in his notes, some reproduced here, for use in his fiction.) Jackson and Costello are likewise determined to locate, or at least observe, James’s countless real-life sources – names, places, characters, anecdotes – in his father’s “voluminous” life and milieu. They recount the aging John’s bestowing custodianship of the Joyce family portraits to his son in a symbolic passing of the family torch. Later, in Zurich, James would “turn memory into literature.” A readable biography, undeniably a useful contribution to Joyce studies, though overlong and over-detailed for most casual fans.
–Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP.

Dublin & Ireland

Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce

Kain, Richard M.

1. David & Charles, 1962, ISBN 0-7153-5425-6; Hardcover; Out of Print.

2. University of Oklahoma Press, 1990, ISBN 0806122633; Paperback $9.95. [Browse/Purchase]

This small work details Dublin during the period of the so-called “Irish Renaissance,” from about 1885-1941. A very readable book, it talks about the personalities behind the scenes, the growth of Irish theatre, and the politics that formed the colorful background to the “Cultural Renaissance.” Of particular interest to Joyceans are the discussions of Charles Steward Parnell and some interesting anecdotes involving AE.

Dublin’s Joyce

Hugh Kenner
Columbia University Press, 1987, ISBN 0231066333; Paperback $23.00. [

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James Joyce’s Ireland

David Pierce
Yale University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-300-05055-0, Hardcover $30.00; Out of Print. [
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This large and colorful work is a real treat. Stuffed with pictures of Dublin and Ireland as they were in Joyce’s day, the text is a delightful excursion into his life, times, and work. Photostatic copies of letters and papers, pictures of historical figures, broadsheets and programs – the pages overflow with images, all linked by a string of essays on topics that range from “Joyce and Parnell” to “The City Under the Kaleidoscope.” The writing is lively and informative, sprinkled with quotes from all of Joyce’s works, some with commentary and interpretation, some as mere window dressing for the photos.

James Joyce Reflections of Ireland

Bernard McCabe and Alain Le Garsmeur
Little, Brown & Co., 1993, ISBN 0-316-88893-1, Hardcover, IR Pounds 12.99. [

Another “coffee-table” book, this is a very simple collection of photographs of Ireland and Dublin, supported with accompanying Joycean excerpts which refer to the relevant locations. Pubs, bridges, castles and rivers form a flowing tapestry of images, linked by Joyce’s prose. It is not published in the States.

Other Works about Joyce’s Dublin

There are a few more works about Dublin in the time of Joyce, some out of print, some only available in Ireland. Any additional details or commentary would be welcome!

Joyce’s Dublin: A Walking Guide to Ulysses

Jack McCarthy & Danis Rose
St. Martin’s Press, 1964, ISBN 0312078447; Paperback $9.95; Out of print. [
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According to Allen Mahan, this “thin and inexpensive book” provides walking tours, DART tables, and a variety of photographs and information from 1904.

”Dear Dirty Dublin”: A City in Distress, 1899-1916

Joseph V. O’Brien
University of California Press, 1982, ISBN 0520039653; Hardcover; Out of Print. [
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Michale Ditmore of the FW-List claims that this is one of the better books about Joycean Dublin.

Dublin in Bloomtime

Cyril Pearl
Viking Press, 1969; Out of Print. [
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Michale Ditmore remarks that this book “is full of photos but is very thin and mistakes the Martello Tower at Sandymount (shown in a very nice photo as the one where Joyce lived with Gogarty) for the Martello Tower at Sandycove.”


yes I said yes I will Yes. A Celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 Years of Bloomsday

Tully, Nola (Ed.)
Vintage, 2004, ISBN 1-4000-7731-1; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

Released by Vintage to mark the Bloomsday centennial, this small book is billed as “a celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 years of Bloomsday.” It is essentially a hodge-podge of material arranged in easy-to-digest fragments: short essays, lists, quotes, photos, trivia, and so on. Particularly useful are a few pages of annotated Joyceana – books, film, music, and art based on Joyce or his work. (Sound familiar? Rest assured, it is – perhaps a bit too familiar.) Strangely, the book’s “selected Web sites” section provides a list of URLs only, without name or annotation, some of which are woefully out of date. Still, Tully’s Yes makes for an interesting and often enjoyable read, whether gulped down in one sitting, or set aside as an upscale bathroom book.

Commentary by Bob Williams:
Although the material on Joyce and Ulysses is essential, the most interesting and original part of the book is its discussion of Bloomsday. There is a generous amount of front and back matter, from a too-brief introduction by Isaiah Sheffer to a map of Dublin best viewed through a magnifying glass. While some of the pictures are rare and therefore useful, more material on Bloomsday would have made for a better book.
Nola Tully writes the connective passages in a clear and concise manner. Unfortunately, there is too little specific dating of some statements, and so the reader occasionally struggles with chronology. The trivia is entertaining, especially regarding various reactions to Ulysses. There is a fine boiling of vituperation from conservatives and a small amount of repetition. Judge Woolsey makes more than one appearance with much the same words in the one place as in the other. We learn, if we did not already know, that Virginia Woolf either hated Ulysses or despised Joyce, depending on her mood at the time. Some surprising writers – Tennessee Williams and Henry Miller – also disliked Ulysses. Oddly, the book fails to draw Lord Dunsany or Edmund Gossett forward against Ulysses or H.G. Wells forward in approval. Another omission is its failure to mention Stephen Joyce – although an excerpt from Robert Spoo presupposes that we all know about Joyce’s grandson, the controversial executor of the Joyce Estate.
One of the more interesting sections of the book charts the critical assessment of ten eminent critics (1922) upon a variety of contemporary persons and things. One interested in that period could spend much time poring over this section, which ranges from Aristotle to Krazy Kat. (Unfortunately the chart only shows a fraction of the 201 subjects originally scored.) James Joyce scores 11.5 out of a possible 25, placing him between St. Francis and Sophicles.
Yes is a timely and pleasant book. It is not meant to be comprehensive in any respect, but it avoids errors, and can provide amusing reading for an evening.

Green Bar

Go To:

Joyce Criticism Main Page – Back to the main criticism page, where you will find the standard Brazen Head menu.

Notes and Annotations on Dubliners & PortraitGuides and criticism on Joyce’s first two works.

Notes and Annotations on UlyssesGuides and criticism on Ulysses.

Notes and Annotations on Finnegans WakeGuides and criticism on Finnegans Wake

General Criticism – General literary criticism or commentary on Joyce and his works.

Specific Criticism – Joycean criticism with an angle: Feminist, Marxist, Post-structural, Postquailist, etc.

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
(With Bob Williams, Tim Miller, Rebecca Sullivan and others)
7 June 2004