The Dartmouth Observer

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Friday, February 13, 2004
James Joyce: Overrated? Treason!

Irish writer Roddy Doyle, of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha fame, recently upset a lot of people when he called James Joyce's Ulysses -- widely regarded as the best novel of the 20th century -- "overrated, overlong, and unmoving." He doesn't even think Joyce is the best Irish writer, preferring to bestow that accolade on -- not Swift, Beckett, Yeats -- but on Jennifer Johnston (whom Laura wrote her senior thesis on!).

Now I haven't read Doyle's celebrated book (which has outsold Ulysses on, but having spent one term reading Ulysses, I can tell you that is is not "overrated, overlong, and unmoving." If Ulysses is long, then so too is the Divine Comedy, and there are too many Canterbury Tales, and In Search of Lost Time...well, let's not even get into Proust. I suspect Doyle's antipathy may have something to do with the anxiety of influence that great writers generate in their successors. Whether he likes it or not, Doyle probably owes more to Joyce than he thinks. But again, I should probably read his book first.

More eloquent apologia for Joyce and Ulysses come by way of John Sutherland and John Mullan.