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James Joyce: Portrait of a Dubliner: A Graphic Biography

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A dazzling, prize-winning graphic biography of one of the world's most revered writers. Winner of Spain's National Comic Prize and published to acclaim in Ireland, here is an extraordinary graphic biography of James Joyce that offers a fresh take on his tumultuous life. With evocative anecdotes and hundreds of ink-wash drawings, Alfonso Zapico invites the reader to share Jo A dazzling, prize-winning graphic biography of one of the world's most revered writers. Winner of Spain's National Comic Prize and published to acclaim in Ireland, here is an extraordinary graphic biography of James Joyce that offers a fresh take on his tumultuous life. With evocative anecdotes and hundreds of ink-wash drawings, Alfonso Zapico invites the reader to share Joyce's journey, from his earliest days in Dublin to his life with his great love, Nora Barnacle, and their children, and his struggles and triumphs as an artist. Joyce experienced poverty, rejection, censorship, charges of blasphemy and obscenity, war, and crippling ill-health. A rebel and nonconformist in Dublin and a harsh critic of Irish society, he left Ireland in self-imposed exile with Nora, moving to Paris, Pola, Trieste, Rome, London, and finally Zurich. He overcame monumental challenges in creating and publishing Dubliners, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan's Wake. Along the way, he encountered a colorful cast of characters, from the Irish nationalists Charles Parnell and Michael Collins to literary greats Yeats, Proust, Hemingway, and Beckett, and the likes of Carl Jung and Vladimir Lenin.


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A dazzling, prize-winning graphic biography of one of the world's most revered writers. Winner of Spain's National Comic Prize and published to acclaim in Ireland, here is an extraordinary graphic biography of James Joyce that offers a fresh take on his tumultuous life. With evocative anecdotes and hundreds of ink-wash drawings, Alfonso Zapico invites the reader to share Jo A dazzling, prize-winning graphic biography of one of the world's most revered writers. Winner of Spain's National Comic Prize and published to acclaim in Ireland, here is an extraordinary graphic biography of James Joyce that offers a fresh take on his tumultuous life. With evocative anecdotes and hundreds of ink-wash drawings, Alfonso Zapico invites the reader to share Joyce's journey, from his earliest days in Dublin to his life with his great love, Nora Barnacle, and their children, and his struggles and triumphs as an artist. Joyce experienced poverty, rejection, censorship, charges of blasphemy and obscenity, war, and crippling ill-health. A rebel and nonconformist in Dublin and a harsh critic of Irish society, he left Ireland in self-imposed exile with Nora, moving to Paris, Pola, Trieste, Rome, London, and finally Zurich. He overcame monumental challenges in creating and publishing Dubliners, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan's Wake. Along the way, he encountered a colorful cast of characters, from the Irish nationalists Charles Parnell and Michael Collins to literary greats Yeats, Proust, Hemingway, and Beckett, and the likes of Carl Jung and Vladimir Lenin.

30 review for James Joyce: Portrait of a Dubliner: A Graphic Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    This is a fanboy's introduction to Joyce based on his reading of Richard Ellman's definitive biography, which I highly recommend. To me Joyce is the greatest novelist in English, the pinnacle (and no, I haven't yet climbed Finnegan's Wake) (yet). So this is a kind of way into Joyce as you begin reading, I guess, but I was disappointed because anything about Joyce I will check out. The text is simple and more straightforward than a writer like Joyce deserves. But I haven't read it in the original This is a fanboy's introduction to Joyce based on his reading of Richard Ellman's definitive biography, which I highly recommend. To me Joyce is the greatest novelist in English, the pinnacle (and no, I haven't yet climbed Finnegan's Wake) (yet). So this is a kind of way into Joyce as you begin reading, I guess, but I was disappointed because anything about Joyce I will check out. The text is simple and more straightforward than a writer like Joyce deserves. But I haven't read it in the original, in Spanish, so maybe it lost something in translation? Somehow I doubt it, because it is pretty superficial and reductive, in places. He's not very likable or relatable from this text. The art is solid. Listen, if you have read a little Joyce you might like this as a starter to help you get some background. But beware, there are better sources to get deeper. Like: Read Dubliners and then read sections from Ellman pertaining to it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Lentz

    I have devoured every major work that James Joyce ever wrote, including "Portrait", "Dubliners", "Finnegans Wake" and in the case of "Ulysses" have savored it half a dozen times. Joyce may well be the greatest novelist who ever wrote in the English language. Consequently, I have also consumed a bevy of books about his life as such an understanding informs an appreciation of the creative process and his overcoming the high hurdles of the track of his life. For example, I have read and reviewed on I have devoured every major work that James Joyce ever wrote, including "Portrait", "Dubliners", "Finnegans Wake" and in the case of "Ulysses" have savored it half a dozen times. Joyce may well be the greatest novelist who ever wrote in the English language. Consequently, I have also consumed a bevy of books about his life as such an understanding informs an appreciation of the creative process and his overcoming the high hurdles of the track of his life. For example, I have read and reviewed on Goodreads "The Most Dangerous Book," a tome by Kevin Birmingham about Joyce's life. I have also read Homer's "Odysseus" and "Iliad" a few times in different translations, which serve to frame the literary narrative of Joyce's life as a Dubliner in "Ulysses." Since I have recently published a work of autofiction entitled "The Fine Art of Grace," I am intrigued by biography (Joyce) and autobiography (Knausgard). So this graphic biography intrigued me when my wife brought it home from the library because she thought it might be my cup of tea. She was right, yet again, as it is. Zapico's graphic biography serves a purpose intended by writers to create pictures rendered by the words arising from a flat 2D surface. This book enabled me to understand how the struggles of Joyce shaped him into an immortal writer: he was forced to overcome dire poverty as he was devoted to his writing. He took on menial jobs teaching English in Trieste only to overcome paralyzing debt and was evicted from apartments more than two dozen times. His genius was repeatedly rejected as incomprehensible and censored both by the church and state. He suffered near blindness from painful repeated surgeries for iritis for which one treatment prescribed placing leeches on his eyeballs. His daughter, Lucia, had severe and painful psychiatric issues including a blind, debilitating love of Joyce's colleague, Samuel Beckett. Joyce lived in Trieste during the rise of the Nazis, Ireland during the ascent of the IRA at the height of the Troubles, suffered censorship for obscenity in the USA and the repression of the Catholic Church globally. Clearly, the man suffered for his work and behaved as his own worst enemy. He was incredibly egocentric, as everyone addressed him as a genius, and arrogant: more than once he rudely responded to the collegial kindness and generosity of Yeats, perhaps the greatest poet ever to write from Ireland. He declined an offer by Warner Brothers to take "Ulysses" to the silver screen. He drank far too much and infuriated neighbors with boorish misbehavior after bouts at the pubs. Fortunately for Joyce he met Nora Barnacle who steered him through his enormous personal and social flaws to stabilize his life despite a lifelong battle to stay sober, which was more often lost than won. Once during the writing of "Ulysses," Joyce became so exasperated that he actually threw the masterpiece manuscript into the fire that Nora immediately rescued by quick work pulling it out of the flames. Can you imagine if she were not there and then to save the manuscript of the greatest novel so far written by mankind? Zapico's award-winning, graphic biography portrays scenes from Joyce's real life, which are depicted so vividly in his novels. He brings to life Joyce's ill treatment by a teacher at Clongowes Wood with a pandy bat for accidentally breaking his glasses as narrated in "Portrait of the Artist." Or take Nora and Joyce sleeping head-to-foot because their bed was so small in Zurich like Leopold Bloom and Penelope in "Ulysses." So if you admire the literary novels of James Joyce and want to learn more about how his life bleeds into ink, you should read this graphic biography by Zapico: it's simply well done.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Auntie Terror

    Four point something stars, actually. I liked the style of drawing, and it fit the general flow of Joyce's life which could almost be summed up as "the luck of the Irish". Only almost, though. It is an interesting biographical graphic novel and makes Joyce's life easily accessible, but being that, there is only so much credit the creators can be given for the "story", I think.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    This was disappointing. The art was nice, but the text was simplistic, often juvenile. If it weren't for the occasional nudity and constant talk of drinking and "whoring," this could be given to an 11-year-old with no fear they couldn't comprehend it. I also found the portrayal of Joyce's publication history extremely confusing and kept having to go back and reread parts--and I was already pretty familiar with Joyce's publication history, so I can't imagine how it would be for someone who's new This was disappointing. The art was nice, but the text was simplistic, often juvenile. If it weren't for the occasional nudity and constant talk of drinking and "whoring," this could be given to an 11-year-old with no fear they couldn't comprehend it. I also found the portrayal of Joyce's publication history extremely confusing and kept having to go back and reread parts--and I was already pretty familiar with Joyce's publication history, so I can't imagine how it would be for someone who's new to all of this. But worst of all, this book is missing any sense of Joyce's creative inspiration. He just comes off as a drunken arrogant jerk who constantly gets mixed up in humorous scenarios, and his literary accomplishments seem like an afterthought, or even an accident. This was originally published in Spanish, so it's possible there are translation issues, but either way the end result is not good.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Adams

    A graphic novel treatment of Joyce's biography. Gives historical context and a sense of whimsy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Noninuna

    Like Jane Austen, James Joyce is also one of the famous authors in English literature. Ulysses and Dubliners are some of his creations that been mentioned again and again in other fiction and nonfiction. Through this biography, I learned a lot about who he is and his background as a man and an author. Truth to be told, I was not impressed with what I found. Tho, this graphic biography did deliver what it supposed to!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways My daughter took this one to enjoy

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Quotes: He had to come to realize that a heretical lifestyle was more manageable, and lot more fun, than constant pangs of guilt. Gluttony is English. Pride is French. Wrath is Spanish. Lust, contrary to appearances, is German. Sloth is Slav. The Italian sin is avarice. And of course, for the Irish, I've reserved envy. / And the Jews? What is the sin of the Jews, Joyce? / The Jews? They have none, unless it's the one that is always pinned on them: the deadliest of all. You know, crucifying Jesus.. Quotes: He had to come to realize that a heretical lifestyle was more manageable, and lot more fun, than constant pangs of guilt. Gluttony is English. Pride is French. Wrath is Spanish. Lust, contrary to appearances, is German. Sloth is Slav. The Italian sin is avarice. And of course, for the Irish, I've reserved envy. / And the Jews? What is the sin of the Jews, Joyce? / The Jews? They have none, unless it's the one that is always pinned on them: the deadliest of all. You know, crucifying Jesus... A writer should never write about the extraordinary. That is for the journalist. Do you remember the ballad about the man who gets drunk and falls down the stairs? Everyone thinks he's dead, but in the middle of the wake he smells the whiskey and wakes up? / Finnegan's Wake? / Aah! I've always loved that song. Ezra Pound could make no sense of Joyce's new book either. 'Dear Jim: to me, all this chaos could be a divine vision, or a formula to cure gonorrhea. I understand nothing.' 'So the only thing I can say is, good luck.' Eugene Jolas spoke English, French, and German, and words fascinated him. He and his wife were a remarkable couple. They were searching for a theory of art that would be, at the same time, a philosophy of life. They wrote the 'Manifesto of the Revolution of the Word', in which they espoused freedom and imagination in language. They then founded a literary magazine for creative experiments: 'Transition'. And where would the Jolases find a text that would embody their revolution? Obviously in Joyce's 'Work in Progress' [Finnegan's Wake] In April 1927, it began to appear by installments in 'Transition'. Monsieur Joyce, they say your new book is a mixture of music and literature. Is that true? / No. It's purely musical. / It's a strange book. Is there some hidden meaning to it. / No, no. The text is just meant to make you laugh. / But then, why have you written the book in such a strange way? / Well, it's to keep the critics busy for the next three hundred years. Imperceptibly, Joyce returns to Dublin every day, where his presence and his unique outlook on life remains. A life that is at times dark, often comic, and almost always supremely happy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    I enjoyed this graphic biography on Joyce more than I thought I would. In many ways I feel at a loss, in that I wasn't well versed in Joyce's life story to begin with, only his writings. There's the Ellmann biography, which, from what I understand is a classic, but I haven't read this. But even though I have nothing to compare it to, I'll take Zapico on his domain and assume that he's as accurate as possible (and he even provides a list of references in the back of the book). A limitation of a c I enjoyed this graphic biography on Joyce more than I thought I would. In many ways I feel at a loss, in that I wasn't well versed in Joyce's life story to begin with, only his writings. There's the Ellmann biography, which, from what I understand is a classic, but I haven't read this. But even though I have nothing to compare it to, I'll take Zapico on his domain and assume that he's as accurate as possible (and he even provides a list of references in the back of the book). A limitation of a comics-based biography, though: there's less opportunity, or at least less attempts, to get into the head and psychology of the subject matter, at least compared with prose biographies. In other words, comics biographies strike me as more reportage and event-based than otherwise. Not that comics artists can't use the medium to delve into the interior of their subjects. It's just that with biographies, when the need to cover a lot of ground -- and entire life, in many cases -- is paramount, covering the basics of events is a big task in and of itself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    KaitLphere

    The beginning is a little rough, as the author gives a family history of Joyce without much story narrative. I also found Joyce as a person to be very egotistical. However, as a comic, this was great. It contains a whole lot of information that very rarely felt condensed. The art is grayscale ink wash, and the aritist did a wonderful job of distinguing people from one another. Since there were a ton of characters, many teamporary in Joyce's life, that's very impressive. Even with the rejections an The beginning is a little rough, as the author gives a family history of Joyce without much story narrative. I also found Joyce as a person to be very egotistical. However, as a comic, this was great. It contains a whole lot of information that very rarely felt condensed. The art is grayscale ink wash, and the aritist did a wonderful job of distinguing people from one another. Since there were a ton of characters, many teamporary in Joyce's life, that's very impressive. Even with the rejections and poverty and war that Joyce experienced, the story never lost a sense of hope and moving forward.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Asun

    A lovely, heartfelt, illustrative, humorous and overall beautiful comic biography of James Joyce. Though it may not be 100% faithful with certain details, it gives the reader an amazing retelling of his life. P.S.: JAMES JOYCE WAS LITERALLY SUCH A BRAT THOUGH

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vera

    A very nice biography of James Joyce in the form of a graphic novel. The author tells about the life of the Irish writer in beautiful images and with much humor. I am still anxious of reading Ulysses, but I'm even more curious now, as well :)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ije the Devourer of Books

    I thought this was a brilliant depiction of the biography of the author James Joyce. The art was good and the story was not overwhelmed by text. It is a good introduction to the life of James. Joyce and to his writing. I haven't read anything by James Joyce but now I am intrigued enough to do so.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liz Yerby

    This book is clearly very well researched. I found it more telling than showing, but still it kept my interest. While the drawings were very detailed and charming I felt the reading of the book wasn't as intuitive as I would've liked.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    A most excellent biography. Balanced and critical and utilizing the opportunities of the graphic novel to the fullest. Should nearly be required reading for anyone taking on Joyce's works.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mari

    I read this book, because I like James Joyce's Dubliners and I wanted to learn more about this author. The design is really nice and the story is entertaining and really interesting. I'm just not sure if everything is "real", because the facts are presented in a different way in Joyce's Museum in Sandycove and in Dublin... (i.e. the fact that Gogarty shot above Joyce's bed in Sandycove because he didn't appreciate to be called a snob in one of Joyce's poems wasn't mentioned, it was just said that I read this book, because I like James Joyce's Dubliners and I wanted to learn more about this author. The design is really nice and the story is entertaining and really interesting. I'm just not sure if everything is "real", because the facts are presented in a different way in Joyce's Museum in Sandycove and in Dublin... (i.e. the fact that Gogarty shot above Joyce's bed in Sandycove because he didn't appreciate to be called a snob in one of Joyce's poems wasn't mentioned, it was just said that Gogarty was keen on playing with Joyce's nerves and life...whereas there are lots of details in other parts of the book). And I would like to precise that René Schickele, one of the writers mentioned in the book is not an Austrian, but an Alsacian born during the time when Alsace (a french region at the german border) was under german control (at the end of the 19th century), but he had the french nationality. This special identity (german-french-alsacian) played an important role in his work. But the book is really well done, and help one to understand better Joyce's character !

  17. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    I enjoyed reading this as a light introduction to James Joyce’s life and it has made me more interested to read Ellman’s biography on Joyce. I’m not sure if the graphical novel format is the best one to capture such a complex life as Joyce’s seem to have been. For example there are so many different people that are mentioned that Joyce meets and I assume they played some part in his life, but sometimes a box mentions maybe 5-10 people and occasionally it feels more like name dropping than contri I enjoyed reading this as a light introduction to James Joyce’s life and it has made me more interested to read Ellman’s biography on Joyce. I’m not sure if the graphical novel format is the best one to capture such a complex life as Joyce’s seem to have been. For example there are so many different people that are mentioned that Joyce meets and I assume they played some part in his life, but sometimes a box mentions maybe 5-10 people and occasionally it feels more like name dropping than contributing to the story. About halfway through the book I was very annoyed with Joyce’s personality and I wished I knew more about his character and his motivations for his behavior at times. I persevered and I think Joyce became less annoying as he grew older at least. Lol. It was very interesting to learn about how very difficult it was for him to get his books published, learning about his family, his health issues and his daughter’s mental illness. I would like to learn more about this.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Boersma

    Visuals were stunning and interesting. But the written part was over simplified and had terrible spelling and grammar (fault of the translator and English publisher, not the original author). Was it an attempt at a literal translation but failed because Spanish is more expressive of a language? Or just sloppy? Why was there no copy editor? It took away from a potentially interesting presentation of Joyce's biography. I wish I could read Spanish so I could have the opportunity to review the origi Visuals were stunning and interesting. But the written part was over simplified and had terrible spelling and grammar (fault of the translator and English publisher, not the original author). Was it an attempt at a literal translation but failed because Spanish is more expressive of a language? Or just sloppy? Why was there no copy editor? It took away from a potentially interesting presentation of Joyce's biography. I wish I could read Spanish so I could have the opportunity to review the original work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean Kottke

    A straightforward graphic biography of James Joyce. It doesn't dig deeply into his writing or offer the novice Joyce scholar much beyond the story of the author's life, the people he met, and the places he lived. I'm inspired to do a tour of Joyce places, like Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure, getting sloshed at various watering holes near the places he lived and wrote and seeing what sort of creativity or lack thereof it might inspire. This book provides all the details one would need to fin A straightforward graphic biography of James Joyce. It doesn't dig deeply into his writing or offer the novice Joyce scholar much beyond the story of the author's life, the people he met, and the places he lived. I'm inspired to do a tour of Joyce places, like Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure, getting sloshed at various watering holes near the places he lived and wrote and seeing what sort of creativity or lack thereof it might inspire. This book provides all the details one would need to find the requisite cities and neighborhoods for such an adventure.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Macklem

    This is a beautifully illustrated book and quite text heavy. It is quite anecdotal, so while extremely amusing, interesting and fun to read, I'm not sure how historically detailed it is. It also reads like a who's who of the literati of the times - which of course, it should. Even if you are not a fan of Joyce's work, if you are a fan of the time period, well worth the read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Faisal

    A brilliant read about the life of one of the best writers of all times - James Joyce. - Surprisingly, he kept himself away from Ireland most of his life and died in Zurich. - His books especially Ulysses was banned in the USA deemed as too obscene until the 1930s. - He was quite admired, almost famous during his lifetime.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Schwabacher

    I can only thank God I didn't have to live with James Joyce. He really was monstrous as a person. The only thing more monstrous, apparently, was his talent! I thank Zapico for reading all those biographies of Joyce and presenting it in a digestible volume. Now if someone could do the same for Finnegan's Wake!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Excellent. I'm not sure what else I would hope to see from a graphic biography. Joyce is treated objectively, but with a great deal of interest, and everything is clear and well thought out. Highly recommend.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara V. Vaughan

    Clever Biography The language in its book is very concise. World history and the itinerant life of James Joyce are enhanced by Zapico's line drawings and comic book drawings. This is an honest look at the topsy turvy life of a literary genius.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Madhusree

    What a great read. I enjoyed learning more about Joyce and the times he lived in. A wonderful quick read about a difficult time in history. Now, I feel ready to tackle Ulysses, maybe even Finnegans Wake.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Forehand

    James Joyce Interesting to see how Joyce’s life intercepted with history and other historical figures. But not much character development. He was kind of an ass. And it seemed his only life long attachments seemed to be with Nora and his children.

  27. 4 out of 5

    B

    This was very fun to read. The writing was nothing special, but the illustrations were great. Interesting to learn there were so many parallels between Joyce's life and details / episodes of Ulysses.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    wow I had no idea Joyce was such a prick.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A really well done, beautifully drawn graphic biography. Recommended for newbie Joyceans who want to get the lay of the land.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    I read this to be inspired to read Finnegan's Wake or Ulysses. Didn't work. They both sound like I would have to work too hard. I am glad to know a little more about him, and it is a quick read.

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