“The ordinary is the proper domain of the artist,” said James Joyce once, “the extraordinary may be safely left to journalists.” This sentiment explains why he pursued the events of a single summer day in 1904 with a focus that changed world literature.
In The Real People of Joyce’s Ulysses, author Vivien Igoe has conjured the real people who inspired Joyce’s fictional portrayals. She has provided detailed information such as where they lived, died and are buried – and often how they lived and died.
Not all of Joyce’s characters were fictional composites. Some appear in the book under their own names and had already attained real life notoriety; others were simply ordinary Dubliners who were nevertheless known to Joyce and somehow stumbled into eternal life.
What Igoe reminds us, and what this book helps to celebrate, is just how deeply the author knew and drew upon his subject, the great streets and the little streets of the city itself, and the characters that traversed them.
All of this would have been known to the Dubliners of the period of course, but it has been lost to time and to accurate scholarship until now.
Growing up in a chaotic home where money was always tight, the Joyces moved frequently from house to house, which gave the young James an unusually intimate knowledge of the city and environs.
Based on the evidence provided here, it’s safe to say that Igoe would have made an ideal companion for one of Joyce’s epic perambulations. She knows Joyce’s characters and his city better than any other living writer, and so this guide brings to life a lost world with a meticulousness that the author himself would have admired.