The Dead

 63 “A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window.  It had begun to snow again.  He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamp post. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.”

Toward the end of the school year, just around the corner from where my Form A students begin the bittersweet leave-taking of their childhood picture books and comfortable rereads of popular series, we meet the long awaited companion – classic literature. This “le coup de foudre” fills the library with ideas and questions flashing sometimes like lightning; other times, gently, like fireflies. Tentative with the first formal encounter, they greet the literature openly.

Try one classic.  Maybe, another.  Another?  Perhaps later in your life.

In the dense days of summer, I decide to take my own advice.

Try one classic.

So it was – a novella, “The Dead” by James Joyce.  I knew only two things about him: he was an Irish author; the other, one winter evening, I sat riveted to the TV screen because of a movie – The Dead – based upon this novella. Shamefully, I admit here that I had never read any Joyce. This July all my children’s and YA books sit shrouded in the corner of the studio while an inconspicuous stack of new paperbacks are waiting to breathe. Following my usual method of a disorderly reading style (see post, “Everyone In Their Place”), I decided to go back and read Dubliners, finishing with a rereading of “The Dead.”

Lorsque je l’ai lu, c’était le coup de foudre.

During this upcoming school year when I once again introduce the concept of “classic literature” to my students, I will resurrect these responses to Joyce, both visceral and intellectual.  This is my opportunity to become a better teacher.


Joyce, James. The Dead. 1914. Reprint. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House Pub., 2004. Print.


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