Singular Collection, Multiple Mysteries

by Rachel Baker on June 27, 2014

This is a nice piece in the NYTimes Book section honoring James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ a hundred years after it was published.

After my Irish mother died, 15 years ago now, my siblings and I took eons to shake our paralysis of grief and deal with the physical things she left behind. When finally I mustered the energy, or courage, I found, to my surprise, a 1958 paperback edition of “Dubliners” in her night stand.

Although she never graduated from high school — not on the to-do list of an orphaned immigrant eager to make her way — my mother had brains and wit, and found her intellectual cardio workout in The New York Times Sunday crossword. But after grunt-work days in a factory office and taxing nights in the familial scrum, she did not, as far as I remember, then reach for the linguistic puzzles of her countryman James Joyce.

Besides, my mother was from the rural west of midcentury Ireland, from where O’Connell Street might as well have been the moon. So: Why a copy of “Dubliners” in that night stand?

And why, in the yellowing bed of its pages, did she keep a ripped-out newspaper item — dateline Dublin, circa 1990 — about 570 passengers stuck for 30 hours on a storm-tossed ferry in Rosslare Harbor?

Here’s the Article:
Singular Collection, Multiple Mysteries

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