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James Joyce was an Irish, modernist writer who wrote in a ground-breaking style that was known both for its complexity and explicit content.
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To keep his family above water (the couple went on to have two children, Georgio and Lucia) Joyce continued to find work as a teacher.
All the while, though, Joyce continued to write and in 1914 he published his first book, Dubliners, a collection of 15 short stories. Two years later Joyce put out a second book, the novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
While not a huge commercial success, the book caught the attention of the American poet,
Ezra Pound, who praised Joyce for his unconventional style and voice.
The same year that the Dubliners came out, Joyce embarked on what would prove to be his landmark novel: Ulysses. The story recounts a single day in Dublin. The date: June 16, 1904, the same day that Joyce and Barnacle met. On the surface, the novel follows the story three central characters, Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertising canvasser, and his wife Molly Bloom, as well as the city life that unfolds around them. But Ulysses is also a modern retelling of Homer's Odyssey, with the three main characters serving as modern versions of Telemachus, Ulysses, and Penelope.
With its advanced use of interior monologue, the novel not only brought the reader deep into Stephen Bloom's sometimes lurid mind, but pioneered Joyce's use of stream of consciousnesses as a literary technique and set the course for a whole new kind of novel. But Ulysses is not an easy read, and upon its publication in Paris in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, an American expat who owned a bookstore in the city, the book drew both praise and sharp criticism.
All of which only helped bolster the novel's sales. Not that it really needed the help. Long before Ulysses ever came out, debate raged over the content of the novel. Parts of the story had appeared in English and American publications and in the US and the UK the book was banned for several years after it was published in France. In the US, Ulysses's supposed obscenity prompted the Post Office to confiscate issues of the magazine that had published Joyce's work. Fines were levied against the editors, and a censorship battle was waged that only further hyped the novel.
Still, the book found its way into the hands of eager American and British readers, who managed to get hold of bootlegged copies of the novel. In the US, the ban came to a head in 1932 when in New York City Customs Agents seized copies of the book that had been sent to Random House, which wanted to publish the book.
The case made its way to court where in 1934 Judge John M. Woolsey came down in favor of the publishing company by declaring that Ulysses was not pornographic. American readers were free to read the book. In 1936, British fans of Joyce were allowed to do the same.
While he sometimes resented the attention Ulysses brought him, Joyce saw his days as a struggling writer come to an end with the book's publication. It hadn't been an easy road. During World War I, Joyce had moved his family to Zurich, where they subsisted on the generosity of English magazine editor, Harriet Weaver, and Barnacle's uncle.
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