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lunababymoonchild

The Dead - Discussion Proper

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I have finished reading this.  I'm glad that I'm taking part in a group read because as far as I can tell it's a short story about one night in an Irish man's life set somewhere in time when horse and carriage was the common conveyance.

 

The prose was amazing but as for anything deep and meaningful/symbols/commentary, I just didn't see it.  

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I finished it the other evening.  I'm glad it's a group read too, because yegads, I did not like it, and I want to know why others do.  "The greatest short story ever written" -- huh?? 

 

The writing felt so flat to me.  There's a party.  The party isn't very interesting, and neither is the dialogue.  It drags on and on.  Everyone tuts at the drunk man.  Gabriel carves the goose and worries about his speech.  His wife's behaving oddly.  I was wondering when the great reveal would come.  When it does, it's a damp squib.  What Gabriel takes away from this, is that essentially when one dies it's better to be remembered as an object of passion, otherwise what's the point of being remembered at all?  Ay caramba!

 

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THIS WHOLE THING IS A SPOILER

 

I haven't read it this time around,  although I plan to, but here is what I remember:  these people have all known each other forever and it's very important to the two old ladies that they have this gathering even though they are barely up to it financially.  So everyone makes a big deal of everything they do, especially since this is probably the last year they will all gather.  It is touching the way Gabriel makes such an effort with them, knowing that one of them will probably not be there the next year (the one who sings so poorly and is praised to the skies).  Everyone knows that the drunk son is always drunk and his mother impossible and they do the best they can to keep the damage to a minimum.  I think the mother is old enough that she probably won't be there next year.  The poor downstairs maid is pregnant, so my guess is that she won't be there next year either.  The only cheerful part of this for Gabriel is that he's finally getting away for a night with his wife for whom he is feeling a great deal of unexpected lust.  He's in a frenzy to get back to the hotel and then she collapses weeping.  The song she's heard sung reminds her of her first boyfriend who died from his love of her, about which Gabriel knew nothing at all.  It seems unbelievable (to me, and obviously to Gabriel) that a middle-aged matron could be so overcome with ancient heartbreak, but that's because "[t]he past is never dead.  It's not even past" (quoting Faulkner for Luna's reading enjoyment).  

 

There is a dramatization with Angelica Huston that is very good (and you can hear the song sung beautifully), but it wasn't exactly what I pictured when I read the book, so I didn't love it.  But my friend who forced me to read the story and then to watch the movie loved it.  

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2 hours ago, Binker said:

THIS WHOLE THING IS A SPOILER

 

I haven't read it this time around,  although I plan to, but here is what I remember:  these people have all known each other forever and it's very important to the two old ladies that they have this gathering even though they are barely up to it financially.  So everyone makes a big deal of everything they do, especially since this is probably the last year they will all gather.  It is touching the way Gabriel makes such an effort with them, knowing that one of them will probably not be there the next year (the one who sings so poorly and is praised to the skies).  Everyone knows that the drunk son is always drunk and his mother impossible and they do the best they can to keep the damage to a minimum.  I think the mother is old enough that she probably won't be there next year.  The poor downstairs maid is pregnant, so my guess is that she won't be there next year either.  The only cheerful part of this for Gabriel is that he's finally getting away for a night with his wife for whom he is feeling a great deal of unexpected lust.  He's in a frenzy to get back to the hotel and then she collapses weeping.  The song she's heard sung reminds her of her first boyfriend who died from his love of her, about which Gabriel knew nothing at all.  It seems unbelievable (to me, and obviously to Gabriel) that a middle-aged matron could be so overcome with ancient heartbreak, but that's because "[t]he past is never dead.  It's not even past" (quoting Faulkner for Luna's reading enjoyment).  

 

There is a dramatization with Angelica Huston that is very good (and you can hear the song sung beautifully), but it wasn't exactly what I pictured when I read the book, so I didn't love it.  But my friend who forced me to read the story and then to watch the movie loved it.  

 

Aw thanks Binker.  I love William Faulkner, as you know. Did not spot that the maid is pregnant, got Gabriel's lust for and confusion about, his wife, understood her distress and the rest all makes sense now.

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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I have started The Dead and wondered why it is so highly regarded or is it the author's celebrity that is the attraction.  It seems to mirror so far old Victorian prose with, in my copy, unusual words which are annotated.  Or maybe I haven't read enough Joyce to appreciate it? Help!

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I enjoyed it. First book of his I’ve read.

 

I liked the way, that in such a short novel, Joyce managed to describe a small gathering of people at a party. The cold weather as soon as they arrive, taking of their coats, galoshes etc....how they behaved, the description of the food that was served, where it was placed, the music, the ballgowns, the description of the house inside,  upstairs/ downstairs - the characters, the small talk, everything in fact. In that way, the Dead is a little gem ......EXCEPT the ending.

 

I can’t understand why Gabriel’s wife decided to tell him, (Gabriel)  that the song reminded her of a lost unrequited love - someone who loved her. Why couldn’t Joyce have got her to ‘think’  about it silently?

 

 

Edited by Loretta

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On 30/08/2018 at 17:28, Binker said:

THIS WHOLE THING IS A SPOILER

 

I haven't read it this time around,  although I plan to, but here is what I remember:  these people have all known each other forever and it's very important to the two old ladies that they have this gathering even though they are barely up to it financially.  So everyone makes a big deal of everything they do, especially since this is probably the last year they will all gather.  It is touching the way Gabriel makes such an effort with them, knowing that one of them will probably not be there the next year (the one who sings so poorly and is praised to the skies).  Everyone knows that the drunk son is always drunk and his mother impossible and they do the best they can to keep the damage to a minimum.  I think the mother is old enough that she probably won't be there next year.  The poor downstairs maid is pregnant, so my guess is that she won't be there next year either.  The only cheerful part of this for Gabriel is that he's finally getting away for a night with his wife for whom he is feeling a great deal of unexpected lust.  He's in a frenzy to get back to the hotel and then she collapses weeping.  The song she's heard sung reminds her of her first boyfriend who died from his love of her, about which Gabriel knew nothing at all.  It seems unbelievable (to me, and obviously to Gabriel) that a middle-aged matron could be so overcome with ancient heartbreak, but that's because "[t]he past is never dead.  It's not even past" (quoting Faulkner for Luna's reading enjoyment).  

 

There is a dramatization with Angelica Huston that is very good (and you can hear the song sung beautifully), but it wasn't exactly what I pictured when I read the book, so I didn't love it.  But my friend who forced me to read the story and then to watch the movie loved it.  

 

I haven’t seen the film version, but can easily see it as a stage play in the theatre.

 

You obviously saw more than I did in the story. It didn’t occur to me that they would die the following year.

 

Meant to add - An Irish friend once told me, that music was terribly important at family gatherings. He said there was always someone who could play a musical instrument, and if there wasn’t they’d drag someone in who could. lol 

 

 

Edited by Loretta

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The thing that intrigues me, though, is this:  what is it about this story that has it stamped as one of the best stories ever written?  I just don't get it.  Where's the depth, the beauty, the meaning, that might warrant such a label?  So there are people at the party who are old, and who might not be there next year.  Big whoop.  They're not focused on in enough detail to mean anything to the reader.  It's all too shallow, to my eyes.

Edited by Onion Budgie

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I enjoyed the story and the prose and I know I'm guilty of not being able to see the deeper meaning - I'm better at stream of conscioussness - which is why I'm glad The Dead is the group read.  I have not read Joyce before but I will.

 

I admit that I'm as confused as Oinion Budgie as to why The Dead is considered one of the best stories ever written

Edited by lunababymoonchild
Dodgy typing

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I’ll find out tomorrow.

Someone I know says it’s his favourite book. He doesn’t know I’ve read it yet, so it will be interesting comparing notes.

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Having met up with my friend, I haven’t got any closer as to why The Dead is supposed to be the best short short story ever written. When I asked him about the  ending,  he said it was as if a bucket of cold water had been chucked at it.

Perhaps at the time it was written, the book was some sort of revelation. I can only surmise it’s one of those books people love or hate.I still like it)

 

 

Are we allowed to quote from articles or links to articles, on here? There is one on The Dead which I partly read. It’s very long, I gave up, but someone might be interested in it.

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 I have to admit that I'm not a great fan of short stories but I adored this for the quality of the writing, and because it is a short story I didn't get frustrated with the lack of plot-driven narrative as I often do with literary novels.

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I’ve finished reading The Dead, and I found this one left me...unimpressed. 

 

The description of most of the evening was okay, but just okay - Gabriel’s self-consciousness in almost everything he did was great, but that he was also pompous about everything as well didn’t seem to gel.

 

The tipsy relative was a damp squib...and pretty much everything of the evening... but the revelation in the last paragraphs from Gretta just seemed unnatural and just too passionate (in the character of Gretta) and far too over-dramatic for the plot. 

 

T. S. Eliot called it “one of greatest short stories ever written” - What rot!!

I found the short story as bit dull. 

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I've been puzzling about why I love this story so much.  The detailed descriptions made it possible for me to see each scene and each person, which is probably why I didn't like the dramatization.  Angelika Huston's skirt wasn't exactly right!  But I also thought that it was important that this whole social group was on the cusp of a huge change--that these celebration they had been doing the same way for years and years and years would probably not happen again or would be significantly changed.  At the risk of blathering on about something I don't really know anything about, it seems to me that Irish society and politics were in a period of rapid change, too.  That's why Gabriel's speech about losing the old ways felt so powerful to him and his listeners and why the perky political lady (Molly Ivors) was so incensed by him writing book reviews for a "West Briton" publication (I had to look up what that meant, of course).  But there was longing for what they had lost or were about to lose and that's exactly the overwhelming emotion that poor Gretta was feeling.  Even her description of the time--she was leaving for a convent, her young man had consumption (I think), he sang a song so old that no one hears it anymore--makes it seem like it was from ancient times and yet it broke her heart.  So this is a story about haunting loss, both already existing and soon to come.

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So glad I've read all of the reviews on this book, had started it on my hand-held Kindle and not making much progress so I transferred it to Kindle for PC which is now on my Desktop and I can read it more easily on full-screen and maybe I can get more out of it than I seemed to be doing before.  Will read and report back although having read all the reviews plus Spark Notes (I think that's what I read) the whole story is laid out and it's up to the reader to glean whatever they can from the structure of the writing and descriptions - I guess that's what a group read is all about.:hmm:

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