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Gordon Bowker has written highly acclaimed biographies of Malcolm Lowry (Pursued by Furies, a New York Times Recommended Book of the Year), George Orwell, and Lawrence Durrell, and articles and reviews for The Observer (London), The Sunday Times (London), The Independent, The New York Times, and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in Notting Hill, London.
Praise for James Joyce:
“The biographer of Orwell, Lowry and Durrell returns with a massively detailed narrative of the life of the author of Ulysses. Bowker (Inside George Orwell, 2003, etc.) begins with several of the myriad epiphanies Joyce valued—the first, a moment when he was 16 and lost both his virginity and the Virgin (he decided that was fun, and no Jesuit priesthood for me). The author then announces his intentions—to show the complexities and contradictions of the man—and proceeds to do so in detail that is . . . impressive . . . Our guide is wise and the journey is wondrous.” —Kirkus
“Bowker’s splendid, insightful, and witty biography illuminates the connection between Joyce’s erotic imagination and humane spirit, offering a clear-eyed celebration of his perverse comic genius . . . Drawing on material published since the 1982 revision of Richard Ellman’s classic Joyce biography, including biographies of Nora herself and their troubled daughter, Lucia, Bowker . . . explores Joyce’s inner landscape, most of it shaped by Dublin and his Jesuit education. Bowker captures the human comedy that surrounded Joyce, describing Ezra Pound, whose review of Dubliners in 1913 launched Joyce’s career, as ‘Literature’s own fairy godmother.’ As Joyce’s reputation grew, he retreated into a circle of friends and family and the increasingly interior world of his writing. His last years were increasingly darkened by illness and concern for his family. Joyce thought his daughter Lucia’s strangeness was untapped genius similar to his own and fought to keep her out of the hands of doctors and clinics—egocentric in the extreme, but far from heartless.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Wonderfully detailed and gripping . . . It is different from most literary biographies because Joyce’s life and work are so tightly bound. Bowker sets it down: there would have been no Stephen Dedalus without James’ father, no Molly Bloom without Nora, no Leopold Bloom without Alfred Hugh Hunter . . . Here we meet the models for everybody . . . And the final success of this book is that when you snap shut the final page there is nothing your hand wants to reach for except a volume of Joyce.” —Chris Proctor, Tribune Magazine (London)
“[A] deft, accomplished biography . . . It shows Joyce’s recognition of his creative vocation as a gift to the world, though it cost so much in the way of poverty, misery and mortification.” —Richard Davenport-Hines, The Telegraph
“No book on James Joyce goes half as far as this one in establishing connections between passages in the classic texts and incidents in the artist’s life . . . This study will be valuable to students as a summation of our current biographical knowledge of Joyce. It captures recurring features of his art [and] shows how difficult he could be even to his greatest admirers; yet it also evokes the heroism of a man who, confronted by poverty, ill health and endless uprootings, somehow found in himself the courage to write epics in celebration of ordinary people and the intricacies of their minds. It is in its way an example as well as an account of dignified audacity.” —Declan Kiberd, The Guardian
“Both learned and readable . . . There have only ever been three important biographies of Joyce, including the present volume.” —Edmund Gordon, The Sunday Times (London)
“This new book extends the record—and not only the record, but the entire epistemology of the Joycean discourse. Taking previous biographies and published records as a series of knowing but politicised texts, Bowker has restored Joyce to his contradictory, ambivalent humanity. Digging deeper into personal archives, Bowker explores the complex family background . . . [A] shrewd and highly readable biography.” —Thomas McCarthy, Irish Examiner