There are writers I've never got around to reading. There are others I've spent decades avoiding. Joyce is in the second category. I picked up [b:Ulysses|338798|Ulysses|James Joyce|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1346161221s/338798.jpg|2368224] once or twice when I was in my twenties, read a few lines and allowed myself to be completely intimidated. However, I've recently developed an interest in expatriate writers in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. A couple of months ago I read the very interesting [a:Sylvia Beach|241519|Sylvia Beach|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1244545028p2/241519.jpg]'s memoir of this period and I'm currently reading [a:Noël Riley Fitch|25749|Noël Riley Fitch|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1349114235p2/25749.jpg]'s biography of Beach, [b:Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties|46153|Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties|Noël Riley Fitch|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347709475s/46153.jpg|45304]. Beach was the first publisher of [b:Ulysses|338798|Ulysses|James Joyce|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1346161221s/338798.jpg|2368224] in book form and her memoir and Fitch's biography have sparked my interest in Joyce.
I decided that becoming acquainted with Joyce by diving straight into Ulysses would be a bad idea. I also decided that listening to an audiobook narrated in an Irish accent would help me get into the rhythms of Joyce's language more easily than would reading the text. This has proved to be good thinking. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is interesting and accessible and John Lee's narration is excellent. I love Joyce's use of language: in particular the way it becomes more complex as he moves from the point of view of a child, to that of a teenager and then to that of a young man. I also love the way in which Joyce evokes life in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th century, as his literary alter-ego, Stephen Dedalus, comes to reject his religious faith and develop his artistic philosophy.
I wish that I'd had a classical education, because I didn't understand all of the Latin or the references to Greek mythology in the text. That's the downside of listening to an audiobook - no footnotes. Still, I can always catch up on the references I missed some other time and I doubt I would have tackled this had no audiobook been available. It feels good to no longer be intimidated by James Joyce. It feels so good that I've moved on to [b:Dubliners|11012|Dubliners|James Joyce|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1334138184s/11012.jpg|260248].