The Dead, by James Joyce, is a quick read. At 58 pages you can finish it in one sitting. Having a huge interest in how the mind works I recently started exploring psychology and philosophy. The Dead was recommended to me after buying of few of those books.
It was an interesting read for me because I’m a product of contemporary American culture. I could have read the back cover to understand that it takes place in Dublin in 1904. For some reason I didn’t. Instead, after a few pages, I looked for a copyright page or an index in the back to tell me from what frame of reference to approach the contents. I didn’t find any. The waltzing at the beginning should have been a clue, but I was about three-quarters of the way through the short story before realizing the mode of transportation is actually horse-drawn carriages.
The story was suspenseful. Only because I was waiting for something incredulous to happen at the annual dance or at the dinner table. About the worst thing that happened was Miss Ivors calling out Gabriel. That’s it. No crimes. No lewd acts. Maybe something happened to her as she walked home alone I thought. Maybe a cold case was soon to be opened as they look for the murderer. Nope. Nothing like that. It was all very pleasant and proper.
Even Gabriel’s speech after dinner was a hit. He seemed apprehensive prior to it, thinking about what to say and whether to change some of his prepared remarks. Dinner ends and he begins his speech and it was like he was a masterful orator. Where’s the social anxiety? No shaky voice. No one-liners that miss their mark. Just pure compliments and elocution leading to complete audience satisfaction.
Ok, dancing and dinner are finished. What about Freddy? Wasn’t he getting sauced early in the night. He must be misbehaving, right? Nope. Even after who knows how much whiskey, he’s still speaking in full sentences. About “one of the finest tenor voices he had ever heard” nonetheless. That has to be some kind of record, right? Then again it is Ireland.
The suspense is killing me! The story is titled The Dead. I’m on page 50 and nobody’s dead yet. Well, Gabriel is now attempting to keep his primal urges in check using his husbandly protective character. No need. At the end his wife drops a bombshell on him and makes him forget all that and question his sole.
Knowing what I now know, I should probably read it again!