Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I are planning a New Year’s Eve dinner party here in Sea Cliff. How I would love to add a literary piece to the evening’sfestivities! We would need something short, meaningful, and seasonal.
Literary New Year’s Reveler
Dear Literary New Year’s Reveler, I have the perfect piece for your dinner party: James Joyce’s “The Dead”- the finest short story ever written. This is the tale of a dinner party to celebrate the new year at the home of two elderly sisters in Dublin over one hundred years ago. The descriptions of delicious food and drink, the sparkling conversation and lilting music make for delightful reading but there is so much more going on here. We meet the self-important, courtly Gabriel, the sisters’ adored nephew; his wife Gretta; the easily intimidated and intoxicated Freddy Malins; his tedious, complaining mother Mrs. Malins; Lily, the young troubled servant girl… plus a whole array of colorful partygoers. There is a feverish litany of past parties, achievements, slights, and political barbs with the story’s climax coming as the party ends. Gretta is in a melancholy mood as she remembers a boy she had known many years before. Gabriel immediately becomes jealous and questions her fidelity only to learn the boy had died decades ago. Michael Fuery had despaired when Gretta decided to leave their small village for boarding school; he came to her window on a brutally bitter night to bid her farewell. He died shortly after, but the devotion he showed that night was still vividly alive for Gretta these many years later. Gabriel laments his own pettiness and lack of passion in contrast to young Michael Fuery’s. The story ends with Gabriel looking out as the snow covers Ireland, falling “upon all the living and the dead.” Highly, highly recommended!
The people who brought you the Scrooge Stroll and the Joyce Jaunt are preparing a dramatization of “The Dead” early in 2017. Watch for more details!