Books: Stephen Bloom

LETTERS OF JAMES JOYCE (437 pp.)—Edited by Stuart Gilbert—Viking ($7.50)

James Joyce, the great artificer of words who both revitalized and nearly destroyed the English novel with Ulysses, and left even some of his admirers behind in the labyrinth of Finnegans Wake, will not be remembered for his letters. In them he sounds as relaxed, colloquial, and sometimes as pedestrian as a chatty uncle in Chicago. But they make fascinating reading—something like seeing the Bearded Lady without her whiskers or the Fire Eater spooning ice cream.

This collection contains a few selected letters to Joyce as well as hundreds from him. The first,...

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