~ James Joyce, "The Dead"
Not everyone is merry at Christmas time. That's one of the more obvious lessons of James Joyce's classic story, "The Dead." The final piece in Joyce's 1914 short story collection Dubliners, "The Dead" follows Gabriel Conroy to the Morkan sisters' annual Christmas party in Dublin in 1904. (This photo shows Joyce in that same year.) Conroy is a rather awkward man, somewhat lacking in the small talk department. Amid the rituals and obligatory gaiety of the party, he struggles to enjoy himself and find common ground with others and, at the story's end, to make sense of life and its mysteries.
You can read "The Dead" here in its entirety courtesy of Nebraska's Creighton University. Don't miss its final, haunting line:
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."I offer this in memory of my cousins Joel Morkan, streetwise scholar, professor of Elizabethan literature and author of scholarly works on Milton and Wordsworth, and Neil Morkan, who ran recklessly through life as if knowing death was chasing him. They burned bright and died young.