Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

50 Writers talk about James Joyce

Philip Roth

“I came upon books that I’d never heard of before. My brother had some of them also in paperback. He would have been 19, I would have been 14. Portrait of the artist as a young man, Ulysses, and that changed everything. I had leaped forward into adult reading. But I wasn’t intimidated by it – of course, I was intimidated by Ulysses ( I don’t think I got past page twenty).”

from the pbs documentary Philip Roth Unmasked


Anthony Burgess

The Dead is magic, whereas the preceding stories are merely literature. Still, they are remarkable literature, although habituation to the technique Joyce helped to found prevents us from seeing just how remarkable they are.

Dubliners differs from the later books in not proclaiming its originality through panache and, we may perhaps justly say, oddness. The originality consists in taking away rather than adding – the art of adding, of building on to a simple enough structure deeper and deeper incrustations of richness, being the characteristic quality of Finnegans Wake.”

from his lost introduction to Dubliners


Lydia Davis

“I don’t think a book has to be readable, but of course the more difficult it is, the fewer readers it will have, inevitably. I’m sure that was all right with Joyce — most writers write to please themselves in the first place, to create something that intrigues and satisfies them. (Then there are other writers, naturally, who want to be popular, and who write to please a public, preferably a very large public.) To take Joyce as an example, it is interesting to see how he progressed from quite readable and traditional stories (Dubliners), to a readable and traditional novel (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), to a more ambitious, complex yet still wonderful book which would lose some more conservative readers (Ulysses), to, finally, a book that very few have read, even among his fellow writers (Finnegans Wake)—though plenty of us have a copy there on the shelf.”

From an interview with Hot Metal Bridge


Colm Tóibín

“The streets filled with darkness in Dubliners are filled with promise in Ulysses. In the novel, the dreamers and chancers seem to thrive merely by thinking, being, singing, meeting each other. The loss of a great leader offered a sort of openness to a city in which public life had become a joke, and allowed private life, private thoughts, private encounters, and even a summer’s day, to have a glow and to remain fully open to possibility. The two books, then, displayed the artist in opposite moods. Dubliners shows a city filled with the colours and shades of autumn and winter. It offers images powerful enough to be repudiated with real comic energy in Ulysses.”

From on Joyce’s Dublin: city of dreamers and chancers


Will Self

“Throughout Dubliners Joyce writes extremely effectively about a hypocritical society, of sexual repression and moral dubiety of the highest level, and the way that he does it is by using simplicity as a matador’s, as a toreador’s cloak, to kind of trick the reader into believing that everything is completely clear and that you can see everything”

From a discussion on Dubliners held at the Joyce Center Dublin


Sebastian Barry

“[on the story Eveline from Dubliners] 40 years later, I am still not over it. The beautiful and threatening set-up, family horrors half-alluded to, and the happinesses so fairly itemised … The “manly” man that comes to rescue her. The full and heartfelt understanding and encouragement of the reader. The scene at the dockside. I am still inclined to cry out the same thing I cried out the first time I read it, aged 17: “Get on the bloody boat, Eveline.”

From the Guardian books podcast


Ciaran Carson

“James Joyce’s Dubliners and Ulysses were always an example of me as to how to render the sounds of a city—bar-talk, street-noise—into language.”

in interview with the New Yorker


Raymond Queneau

“I must first of all take the precaution of acknowledging my debt to English and American novelists, who taught me that there is such a thing as a technique of the novel, and most especially to Joyce”

Cited in Dennis Duncan’s Hardboiled Joyce: Raymond Queneau’s “We Always Treat Women Too Well”


Philip K. Dick

“Well, the name of the game is to set challenges for yourself, is it not? I wanted to see if I could go James Joyce one better in his final section of FINNEGAN’s WAKE. My protagonist thinks in a sort of segmented epistolary form; that is, the flow is punctuated with unconscious asides, as if she is annotating her own narrative.”

cited here


Frank O’Connor

“The span of a novel ought to be big. There is this business of the long short story turned out as a novel, and I’m all the time getting them. The span is too brief; there is nothing to test these characters by. Take Ulysses, which is twenty-four hours, and I maintain it’s a long short story. And it was written as a short story, don’t forget that. It was originally entitled “Mr. Hunter’s Day.”* And it’s still “Mr. Hunter’s Day” and it still is thirty pages. It’s all development sideways. That’s really what I was talking about: the difference between the novel which is a development, an extension into time, and this novel, which is not a novel, which is an extension sideways. It doesn’t lead forward, it doesn’t lead your mind forward.”

from an interview in the Paris Review


David Lodge

Ulysses is a psychological rather than a heroic epic. We become acquainted with the principal characters not by being told about them, but by sharing their most intimate thoughts, represented as silent, spontaneous, unceasing streams of consciousness. For the reader, it’s rather like wearing earphones plugged into someone’s brain, and monitoring an endless tape-recording of the subject’s impressions, reflections, questions, memories and fantasies, as they are triggered either by physical sensations or the association of ideas. Joyce was not the first writer to use interior monologue (he credited the invention to an obscure French novelist of the late nineteenth century, Edouard Dujardin), nor the last, but he brought it to a pitch of perfection that makes other exponents, apart from Faulkner and Beckett, look rather feeble in comparison. ”

from The Art of Fiction (Pg 47)


Don De Lillo

“And then James Joyce, and it was through Joyce that I learned to see something in language that carried a radiance, something that made me feel the beauty and fervor of words, the sense that a word has a life and a history. ”

from the Paris Review interview


Roddy Doyle

“I said it for a laugh [that Ulysses could have done with an editor] but I also had a point to
make about the industry, this second- and third-generation scholarship, people writing books about Joycean scholars, the whole religious nature of it. The notion that any book, let alone Ulysses, is somehow perfect. All fiction is written by human beings, not by saints. Of course I said it was a magnificent book, and I said Dubliners was a great collection of short
stories and I talked about the impact of reading A Portrait of the Artist [as
a Young Man] when I was eighteen, and I meant it all. But I said Ulysses could’ve done with a good edit”

from an interview, commenting on the controversy his remarks at a Joycean event in 2004 created



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