On Pretentious Endnotes

I started reading James Joyce’s Dubliners this afternoon for my Irish Lit class. I’ve sort of dreaded reading this book; Joyce has a pretty scary literary reputation (meaning students tend to loathe him for his verbosity). However, I’m finding that I’m enjoying Joyce (at least the first two short stories in the collection), so maybe the reputation Joyce has garnered is in regards to other works like Ulysses.

Anyway…the two stories I’ve read encompass a mere 20 pages in the book. But the editor of the Penguin Classics edition that I own gave 85 endnotes for those 20 pages. 85 ENDNOTES!!!!!

And most of them aren’t even helpful to the story. Guess what, editor? I know what “altar” and “chalice” and “Wild West” refer to. Those terms don’t possess some secret coding to which only you are privy. And while I might appreciate you pointing out the significance of “Wharf Road” to Dublin geography, I’d like for you to trust me enough to remember what Wharf Road is just a page later. Seriously…give me an endnote to refer to a previous endnote? Ludicrous! I also don’t need an entire page history of the power station on the banks of the Liffey River. And I know who Thomas Moore and Sir Walter Scott were. Is your target audience a middle-school reader? And what middle-school reader would be reading Joyce anyway?!?

All that to say…I’ll be reading very few of the endnotes of Dubliners. If I tried to read every endnote, I’d never have this book read by Wednesday.

End of rant. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “On Pretentious Endnotes

  1. Harvin says:

    An endnote referring to an endnote? Please tell me you made that up! The editor must’ve had a minimum number of pages to meet, or perhaps they contracted this book to China for a cheaper rate.

    • Haley says:

      Yes. And endnote referencing an endnote that was just nine notes before. The kicker, though, was the next story after this–12 pages with 70 endnotes on its own.

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