David Pascoe

On the Trail of Large Bottoms

James Joyce: The Years of Growth 1882–1915

By Peter Costello

Kyle Cathie 384pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In one of Joyce’s earliest stories, a character is described as having ‘an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense’. In his objectifying routine, James Duffy of ‘A Painful Case’ resembles Joyce; but whereas Duffy wrote concisely, Joyce doles out life sentences. His autobiographical habit imprisons his devotees, his work inviting literary biography, not on the grand scale, but, since he was obsessed with the trivia of existence, only minutely.

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