James Joyce: A Biography by Gordon Bowker - review by Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson

A Late Bloomer

James Joyce: A Biography


Weidenfeld & Nicholson 608pp £30 order from our bookshop

Men and women of genius tend to have their contradictions, but James Joyce carried that tendency to an almost baffling extreme. Some people found him howlingly arrogant, others noted his shyness and diffident courtesy. He was a hopeless spendthrift and chronic drunkard, but strongly disapproved of bohemian behaviour in others. He is considered a major artistic revolutionary, the best equivalent in prose to Picasso or Schoenberg, but his private artistic tastes ran to sentimental ballads, jolly music-hall songs and conventional family portraits. He could be admirably stoical, putting up with agonising eye operations and years of near-blindness with minimal complaint; but he could also indulge in orgies of childish self-pity and fits of blubbing.

He wrote Ulysses, by far the filthiest book most reviewers had ever encountered, and is still regarded by many who have never read him as a pornographer, yet he was uxorious in the extreme and placed great value on a steady, respectable, placid family life (if one overlooks

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A Mirror - Westend