Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Book Review Club, Wed. October 14, 2015: THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK, Kevin Birmingham



This is the story of the travails James Joyce endured in getting ULYSSES out into the world early in the twentieth century. It also recounts his personal health agonies as someone suffering from syphilis. A disease he probably contracted at a very young age. Syphilis can take many forms and with Joyce it attacked his eyes. Joyce grew up in Dublin, married Norah, and they immediately left to never return, spending most of their lives in Paris.

Joyce had his champions, but many, including luminaries like Virginia Wolfe, took a long time to see the merits of the book. Even today there are passages that are shocking in their sexual bluntness and use of crass language. However, people like Ezra Pound took up its cause and helped him find small magazines that would publish excerpts as it wound its way through court battles.

Although parts of this book were interesting, I felt it was a book I should have read after reading a straight-forward biography of Joyce. Or at least after having gotten though ULYSSES.

Where I was anxious to learn about the man, I more often learned about the road to publication. It was certainly well written and researched but I longed to understand more about why he felt it necessary to write the book he did and in the way he did. And was it his relationship with Norah that fed the fires.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy.


7 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

It sounds like an interesting perspective on Joyce's life, Patti. And it's even more interesting to see how people reacted to the book at the time.

Barrie said...

Interesting! I found an article on the author: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/books/kevin-birminghams-book-on-ulysses-and-censorship.html?_r=0 There are lots of little gems about the author and The Most Dangerous Book in this article. One thing that jumped out at me: "Joyce treated readers like lovers." Thanks for reviewing!

Bee said...

Goodness, it looks almost as thick as Ulysses (which, by the way, I have tried to read and it utterly defeated me). I have read good biographies of both James Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle -- truly fascinating lives.

Sarah Laurence said...

Sounds interesting had I read the book. I enjoyed Joyce's short stories. Thanks for sharing!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, love THE DUBLINERS. And I saw a movie about Norah, can't remember the title.

troutbirder said...

I too gave up on the book in question. But the author I would be curious to learn more about....

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Very thoughtful review!
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!