Surviving Success

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Joyce relentlessly made things more and more difficult for readers, as if success actually prevented him from producing more of the same, so determined was he to be nobody’s servant. Hence the lucid and fluent Dubliners becomes the more difficult Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, then the far more difficult Ulysses, packed with passages that many felt were obscene, and finally, when that brought even more success, the completely indigestible Finnegans Wake. Joyce would read sections of his “Work in Progress” to friends to see how they responded; when he felt they had understood too easily, he would go make it more difficult.

For the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks writes about how being successful changed the way different authors wrote.


P.E. Garcia is an Editor-at-Large for the Rumpus and a contributor to HTMLGiant. They currently live in Philadelphia, where they were recently accidentally elected to be Judge of Elections. Find them on Twitter: @AvantGarcia. More from this author →