A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.
Today’s story, for day eighteen – Araby, by James Joyce.
Read it online here:
When I read Araby… re-read, actually. Of course I’ve read it before… many times. It is part of Dubliners… and reading that is necessary to life, sort of like oxygen or water. I’ve read it many times and every time I read it I discover something new.
When I read Araby I thought of Harry Potter. I thought of The Hunger Games. I though of why I don’t like to read Young Adult Fiction very much.
You see, the overarching idea of Young Adult fiction is to portray an ordinary young person, one usually somewhat downtrodden but mostly terribly ordinary, and reveal that they are something special. The world opens up, and through struggle, shows how important the young person is, how necessary, and how extraordinary things will be from now on.
It isn’t hard to understand how attractive that is. It is escape, it is fantasy, it is hope. Everyone dreams of being a special person with special talents and a special destiny. A Young Adult work of fiction puts a structure on that hope and shows the way (through plenty of challenges) into a bright shining future.
It is, of course, complete bullshit.
“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
And that is where literature comes in, real literature. Like Araby. It shows the truth.
Araby tells the story of a young man in the thralls of his first love. It is something we all experienced and all remember. He does not completely understand what is happening to him.
He does not understand what will happen in the future but decides to go with it anyway. He does not understand what will happen.
But he finds out.
The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.
I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.