James Joyce Penguin Lives

LA Times Review

James Joyce liberated the literary language of the English-speaking
nations, including, among others, his own. Now Edna O'Brien, a distinguished novelist of one of those generations which stand in his debt, has written not his biography (a task splendidly performed years ago by Richard Ellmann, an American) but rather his "Life," in Plutarch's meaning of the word, setting forth his accomplishments and eccentricities, the shape of his existence, the fallibilities of his character and the infallibility of his art and suggesting persuasively the ways the world of our language has been touched by that art.
She has done this by turning her back on today's fashions in literary criticism, relying instead upon her native good sense, her alert sensibility and her own subtle and seductive language. She has deliberately exposed her language to the power of Joyce's, without bending the rhythms of her own prose too closely to his. Her book is swift, moving and brimming with the author's enthusiasms and her well-earned affection for a difficult colleague. If you are about to set out upon Joyce's deep seductive seas, you will need only Ulysses, O'Brien's study and Richard Ellmann's splendid biography.

©1999 LA Times

(Special thanks to Jorn Barger)