Penny Book Review: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I am a rainbow fiend.

Let’s talk 30 Before 30 for a second here. Number 15 on that list, Finish the Penguin Drop Caps series, might be a little baffling to you, so I’ll take a brief moment to explain.

See that pretty picture over there? Those rainbow books are the Penguin Drop Caps series in its entirety. (Well, minus book K, which I’ve pulled from the shelf to read this month.) The series is neat: just twenty-six books, one book per last-name letter. So, A is┬áJane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, B is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, C is Willa Cather’s My Antonia, etcetera. The origin story in my house is that I saw one in an airport bookstore and immediately knew I needed the whole series. A couple Christmases and birthdays later, and there we are. A through Z.

Anyway, back to Easily-Attainable 30 Before 30. I knew I wanted to have a reading goal on my list, but Buzzfeed’s list of 65 Books You Need to Read in your 20’s was, um…well, let’s just say I waited a little too long to get going on it. (Actually, I did start it, but I found myself completely not enjoying any of the books.) And for a minute there I had the non-specific goal of checking fourteen books off my ClassicsQuest reading list.

But then I saw the rainbow. And I found my solution.

The good news is, I’ve already read A-I (J now, too). I’ve also read Candide, The Joy Luck Club, and most of Moby Dick. Which leaves me with a healthy 14 1/4 books to demolish in the rapidly-diminishing amount of time I have left in my twenties.

So, on to the review of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: meh.

I told you, I’m not very good at these.

Okay, let me expand on it. I don’t think I get James Joyce. This book was a real struggle to get through. I didn’t engage with the plot at all–the one interesting bit I found was the preacher’s ridiculously long hellfire-and-damnation sermon. Other than that, I was reading the words but not the story.

It’s unfortunate, but there’s my review. Perhaps I’ll return to it when I’m much further along in my quest for literary mastery. In the meantime, Ulysses will stay on my shelf until I’ve neared the end of my ClassicsQuest list.

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