- Written in My Heart: Walks Through James Joyce’s Dublin by Mark Traynor and Emily Carson
Walking tours of Joyce’s Dublin are nothing new. As Senator David Norris writes in his foreword to a joyful new book, Written in My Heart: Walks Through James Joyce’s Dublin, he and others (including Joyce’s own nephew, Ken Monaghan) have led tours for at least forty years. To some extent, their jobs were easy, since many of the houses, pubs, alleyways, streets, avenues, schools, churches, hospitals, landmarks, statues, parks, and shops that appear in Joyce’s work are still there in at least partially their original form. A few streets may have changed names, a couple of apartments may have swapped numbers, and the neighborhoods may have new additions, but the spaces Joyce, Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Joyce’s other characters inhabited are still standing, except that now they are more revered than they were in Joyce’s time. Quaint, ruddy apartments that were previously of little importance are historic landmarks cherished by the city and the wider literary world, thanks to [End Page 387] the prodigious attention paid to them by Joyce. Written in My Heart is an excellent, highly accessible guide suitable for academics and book-lovers alike in their quest to understand more intimately Joyce’s oeuvre or, as the title suggests, his heart.
I do not refer to his heart frivolously, and neither do the authors. By following the several trails laid by Mark Traynor and Emily Carson, one gets a deeper (or, at the very least, a more visual) understanding of Joyce’s work. The places listed in the book are either mentioned in his work or were important during his lifetime. Given the autobiographical nature of his writing, they inevitably overlap. The trails include the house where he was born in Rathgar and the various domiciles he occupied in his childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood, right up to the time he left Dublin for the Continent. Traynor and Carson provide detailed descriptions of the relevance of these locations. They cover great swaths of the city as well as the surrounding suburbs. From the north inner city, which is a “focal point for much of Joyce’s work” (15), to the coastal suburbs of Fairview and Clontarf in the north and Sandycove and Bray in the south, these trails cut through Dublin with ease. Not only does the book include an impressive list of haunts, but the paths are quite simple to navigate. Many of them are close to local train stations (such as the Dublin Area Rapid Transit or DART), providing simple points of reference. Each route comes with a map masterfully illustrated by Fuchsia Macaree, replete with miniature sketches of the structures that make them hard to miss. These are especially handy for those not familiar with the city.
The pathways themselves are thoughtfully composed and can be completed in under an hour (with the exceptions of the Phoenix Park and southern coastal suburbs trails, which are quite spread out with the latter requiring use of the DART). Each byway includes locations mentioned in Joyce’s work, but some of them feature buildings or neighborhoods only peripherally cited. The “Viking Heart” route, for example, includes the Coombe, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Christ Church, all of which are found only a few times in his work and are perhaps more associated with Dublin than with Joyce per se. Yet this trail includes 15 Usher’s Island, the “dark gaunt house” that serves as the setting for “The Dead” (D 176). A more substantive path, one that includes several backdrops from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, is the first one, the “North Inner City.” It begins in the James Joyce Centre (where Traynor happens to be the director) on North Great George’s Street (where Norris happens to live). The former site of a dance academy run by Professor Denis J. Maginni, a character who appears several...