I’ve been preparing for the new class starting this week, ‘Meet the Dubliners‘. Written more than a hundred years ago, these are individual short stories, yet read together they provide a portrait of Dublin city in early 1900, and are sometimes thought of as a novel.
Whoa-there though, did I just suggest you could think of Dubliners as a novel? Hesitantly, I say yes.
Why am I hesitant? Because I believe that to get the most from literary short stories like Dubliners, we need to approach them as we do literary poetry. For me, that’s a slower read than I tend to give to novels.
It’s a single process too. I don’t want to move onto the next piece of writing (or chapter) until I’ve had chance to immerse myself in the words.
My favorite sorts of poems and stories aren’t just capable of being re-read, they respond to it. When I revisit them they give up an additional layer of meaning that I couldn’t have picked up without spending more time absorbing the meanings embedded between the lines and in the multiple interpretations our language is capable of providing.
So why suggest Dubliners could be read like a novel? Well Joyce designed a reading order for us to follow, and taken together, the stories deliver a coded pattern to be unraveled. A surprising number of critics do liken this to reading a novel.
Yet it is a collection of short stories. The proof of this is that any one of the sections will stand a lone reading, and two of them, Araby, and The Dead, have been included in a variety of anthologies.
So, does it matter whether we call this a novel or a story collection?
I think that’s one of the questions I’m going to be asking the reading group.