JOHN STANISLAUS JOYCE by John Wyse Jackson

JOHN STANISLAUS JOYCE

The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce's Father

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this exhaustive work, Dubliners and Joyce scholars Jackson and Costello (the latter the author of James Joyce, 1993) portray the Joyces’ paterfamilias as a colorful figure from a fading world, and his orbit as a priceless source for much of James’s fiction. Write Jackson and Costello, “in a real sense John Stanislaus Joyce is the ur-author of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.” A supporter of Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish home rule, John Stanislaus Joyce (1849—1931) is described as his son’s primary literary inspiration and as providing the context to almost everything he wrote. The only son of James Augustine Joyce and Ellen O’Connell, John entered Queen’s College, Cork, in 1867, but he would not complete his higher education. He began his professional career as an accountant in Cork. Money was a lifelong struggle; though he was never quite officially bankrupt, the family moved residences, as the authors show, with shocking frequency, and John changed employers constantly. A prideful father, John watched his eldest (and favored) son, James, abandon his medical studies in Paris for journalism and later fiction writing. James, they say, was always “eager to draw on his father’s memories and extravagant idioms,” including a deathbed interview arranged to create lasting documentation of John’s world. (James also built up character sketches in his notes, some reproduced here, for use in his fiction.) Jackson and Costello are likewise determined to locate, or at least observe, James’s countless real-life sources—names, places, characters, anecdotes—in his father’s “voluminous” life and milieu. They recount the aging John’s bestowing custodianship of the Joyce family portraits to his son in a symbolic passing of the family torch. Later, in Zurich, James would “turn memory into literature.” A readable biography, undeniably a useful contribution to Joyce studies, though overlong and over-detailed for most casual fans. (16 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18599-5
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998




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