James Joyce
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

James Joyce

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  1,298 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Richard Ellmann has revised and expanded his definitive work on Joyce's life to include newly discovered primary material, including details of a failed love affair, a limerick about Samuel Beckett, a dream notebook, previously unknown letters, and much more.
Paperback, 887 pages
Published October 20th 1983 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1959)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,710)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Lynne King
Where does time go to? I read this years ago.

This book was just recommended to me and searching through the shelves I came across this very dusty book in my biographies' section.

If you want to know everything about Joyce then this is the ideal book for you but it is rather long at over 800 pages, 887 to be precise, including the index. I went through a "biography period" and I seemed to end up with tomes and not books.

There are some fabulous photos of Joyce, and his family, and a splendid one of...more
James Joyce was the poster boy for the avant-garde no-compromise artist who never had a day job (a little bit of teaching once, couple of months in a bank once) and lived his whole life on handouts from his brother and a few rich American women. At the same time he lived a life of utter bourgeois conformity – no drugs, no affairs, no bizarre sex life. Oh, well, okay, he did have a very scatological, voyeuristic, underwear-fetishistic, masochistic fantasy life – good thing the internet wasn’t aro...more
Jun 20, 2014 Kalliope marked it as to-read
I received this today. I don't know yet when I am going to be able to read it but it is very appealing.
Max Nemtsov
блистательная биография, довольно жалкая жизнь. читается как роман, и по ходу укрепляет во мнении, что Джойс - едва ли ролевая модель, конечно. но, как известно, жизнь художника и его творчество - вещи часто несовместные. с одной стороны, от того, что знаешь, откуда у него в романах что и кого с кого он писал, а кого с кем комбинировал, к пониманию результата вроде бы не приближаешься, а с другой тривия и детали все же придают текстам некую дополнительную глубину, потому что общий абрис автора в...more
Every writer should have biography in this same style as Bosworth's Life of Johnson. You never forget what year is being reviewed or how old the subject was at the time, because it is marked on every page. Straight to the point, like a clock with a transparent face, you see what material was the source of every bit of information, as the letter or anecdote or book is either copied right there or noted in the back. It is a fine example of a well-wriiten bio as well as a good picture of what the m...more
This is the literary biography that started the craze for long biographies, only recently broken by brave biographers, often themselves novelists, like Carol Shields' Jane Austen (Penguin). Arguably, Ellman's subject
and his research required a grand scale. This is not always--dare I say, often not--true. So our bookshelves are overladen with fat biographies of doubtful readability. Less true of Ellmann here.
Of course, I read this when I was a Teaching Assistant in a Joyce course, so I had an ad...more
About a third of the way through this ALREADY and it's pretty damn spellbinding. Ellmann knows and admires Joyce's incredible skill, charming brio, and sheer analytical power.

And the fact that he drove his loved ones, companions, and pretty much all his contemporaries absolutely crazy doesn't escape him for a bit.

The Joyce I've been getting is someone worth reading about, even if he did not happen to be the greatest writer of the 20th Century (my bias notwithstanding).

I'm definitely going to ha...more
M. Milner
A detailed look at James Joyce's life that doesn't really try and hide some of his negative aspects, Richard Ellmann's biography is a blast, a book that's both drenched in detail and a compelling read. And it just may change your opinion on one of the best writers of the 20th century.

Most people know Joyce for writing a couple of really dense books, a handful of stories and a book that's almost intentionally unreadable. But there was a lot more to him than such an easy description: he was a tale...more
Previous training and hubris allowed me to waltz into the Joycean buzzsaw completely blind. That summer of 1994 I was recovering from knee surgery, catching a bad relationship in the solar plexus and discovering the World Cup. This tome was such a wellspring of delight during the hot, heady, and hobbled days of that summer.
The best literary biography ever written (maybe the best biography, period).
Essential reading for anyone who care about modern literature and the nature of genius.
Drew Darby
An engaging book about a very interesting figure. The majority of the book, though quite long, is a fast-paced recounting of the events of Joyce's life which gives the reader a very real sense of the circumstances (historical, personal, psychological, etc.) out of which Joyce's works emerged.

The author does not provide much analysis, which is good and bad. It is good in this instance, because its absence gives the reader a feeling of an immediacy of observation as Joyce's life unfolds. It is not...more
J. Clayton Rogers
Finally found the opportunity to finish Richard Ellmann's superb and very readable biography of James Joyce. Whatever you might think of Joyce's writing, the man himself was immensely interesting. I would add that he was an immensely attractive personality, but after what his wife Nora put up with…no, forget it—he was an immensely attractive personality. It’s hard not to like a man who comes up with the following days of the week after the death of his father: "Moansday, Tearsday, Wailsday, Thu...more
Dawn Lennon
This book was a very tough slog. I liked it because I discovered what I was looking for--insight into what drives a literary genius. Long ago I had studied James Joyce and even compared in my thesis one of his stories with one of Hemingway's, by looking a style and structure. But I had never read what was considered the definitive biography of him by Richard Ellmann.

This is a scholarly biography that captures all the people, places, and events of Joyce's life and explains how and where they appe...more
Took forever to finish, but worth the read. Ellmann's biography is as much the story of Joyce the writer and literary giant as it is of Joyce the family-man and friend. He doesn't pull any punches: although Joyce was capable of great generosity, Ellmann doesn't obscure the selfish, arrogant prick that he often was.

I'd read this as a prelude to looking at Finnegans Wake again, but I don't think I'll bother. Ellmann so clearly elucidates Joyce's artistic process and his aims with his great Work in...more
Kevin Maloney
Worthy of its reputation as one of the best biographies ever. Why Bowker even bothered is beyond me.
Barnaby Thieme
An indispensable companion for any reader of Joyce. Ellmann's gargantuan mastery of Joyce's life and work is set forth in this terrific biography, which contextualizes and explains countless details of Joyce's relentlessly-autobiographical writing. At well over 700 pages, it feels short, so engaging and moving has Ellmann made his telling. Any reader of Ulysses or Finnegans Wake simply must read it, without question.
Bill Smith
Definitely one of the best literary biographies I've ever read. Joyce is a living, breathing, mooching human being here and Ellmann has the grace to rpesent him warts and all. We don't always like the forever-out-of-cash myopic writer, but we fully recognize his genius throughout. His brother Stanislau emerges as an unappreciated hero, financially supporting his brother despite the many insults flung his way. And as in David McCullough's JOHN ADAMS we feel a helluva lot of sympathy for the "Grea...more
William S.
If you care to know the history behind possibly the greatest author ever, I would highly recommend this book. I do not read non-fiction often, but this was the best non-fiction book I have read so far. It gives you an understanding of the ideas in his books better than skeleton keys. If you wish to truly understand Ulysses, Portrait, Dubliners, or Finnegan's Wake, this book is a must read.
Apr 06, 2009 Stephanie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
As with Finnegans Wake, no idea when I'll get back to this one (although for different reasons, as it's less of a challenge to read, just long and I like the idea of bios more than bios themselves). However, maybe this year and maybe putting it here will inspire me.

Annoying that there's no cover, though. Almost as bad as the lack of the Arden Antony and Cleopatra!
Matt Lefebvre
Ellmann writes with passion in this very well researched biography. He gives great insight into Joyce as a husband, father and artist. Joyce is alive through the pages, although I would only recommend this 700+ page biography to those fairly obsessed with joyce's writings or those who want to know inner workings of an artist.
Jul 26, 2009 nathan added it
"I don't care if I never write another line. I want to live. I should be supported at the expense of the state because I am capable of enjoying life. As for writing, I may perhaps employ my sober moments in correcting the grammatical errors of the more illiterate among the rugged geniuses" -James Joyce, age 21
Shane Ryan Bailey
The ultimate (and best) biography on one of the most important English-language authors of all time. If you want a shorter and more light-weight biography on Joyce, then turn to the 1999 biography written Edna O'Brien. If you want a comprehensive biography on Joyce, then read this one by Ellmann.
Extensive account of the life of Joyce, which is scholarly but also very readable. The author's respect for the writer is evident throughout, but he remains objective at all times. There is good insight into the major works, and detail about other great literary figures of the time.
Leo Robertson
What more could you want to know?

(PS. I was really hoping this was the "Ecce Homo" he wrote an essay on!
[image error])
Dec 15, 2013 Matt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: bio
Good, but would prefer an edited highlights version, something that builds a picture. All biography is portraiture. This is as much about the "truth" of Ellmann as it is Joyce. How about a bio that goes for the essence instead of the everything.
Erwin Maack
“Estou certo porém de que toda estrutura do heroísmo é, e sempre foi, uma maldita mentira, e de que não pode haver nenhum substituto para a paixão individual como força motivadora de tudo incluindo arte e filosofia.”[246] J.Joyce by Richard Ellmann
Joe Hartigan
This is easily the best biography I've ever read; it reads like a great novel. In the end, you are saddened by Joyce's death while at the same time inspired by the passion he had for his art, his convictions, those he loved, and his way of life.
As far as I can tell this book set the standard for all literary biographies. It's hard to say enough good about it. Comprehensive and rich in detail, with just the right peppering of Ellmann's signature insight and utterly deadpan wit.
Those who have read all of Joyce and want more insight into the author, this will be interesting. To those who haven't read Joyce: read Joyce, not about him. Understand that I am not a great fan of biography in general.
Mar 01, 2007 Nia marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what misguided loyalty to James Joyce made me buy a +700 pages biography. Should books ever be that long? I hope I find the courage to read it, one of these days.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 90 91 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Nora: A Biography of Nora Joyce
  • Re Joyce
  • Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett
  • Ulysses Annotated
  • Stephen Hero
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake: James Joyce's Masterwork Revealed
  • The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats
  • James Joyce's Ulysses: A Study
  • The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society
  • Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910
  • Religion and the Rise of Capitalism
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years
  • The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses
  • Selected Essays
  • The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition
  • The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
  • In the American Grain (New Directions Paperback No. 53)
  • Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance
Richard David Ellmann was a prominent American literary critic and biographer of the Irish writers James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and William Butler Yeats. Ellmann's James Joyce (1959), for which he won the National Book Award in 1960, is considered one of the most acclaimed literary biographies of the 20th century and the 1982 revised edition of the work was similarly recognised with the award of the...more
More about Richard Ellmann...
Oscar Wilde The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry The Norton Anthology of Modern & Contemporary Poetry, Vol 1: Modern Poetry Yeats: The Man and the Masks

Share This Book