“The Dead” is the last – and most memorable – short story in James Joyce’s first book, Dubliners. Set during a New Year’s feast in 1904, the story focuses on Gabriel Conroy, a plump, bespectacled young man who is painfully aware of his own social ineptitude. As he navigates one minor faux pas after the next – making a poorly received joke here, clumsily parrying a barbed joke there – he comes to realize over the course of the party that his beautiful, distant wife has a past he never knew.
James’s story is filled with such humor, attention to character and musicality of language that it seems to cry out to be read aloud. The NPR series Selected Shorts heeded that call and presents the entire story performed live by Cynthia Nixon, of Sex and the City fame, who reads the first half, and by Irish author Colum McCann, who reads part of the second.
The reading will be added to our collection of Free Audio Books. Also find the text of James’ great story in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices. To learn about the long and difficult publication of Dubliners, check out Sean Hutchinson’s post over at Mental Floss.
Note: you can download the audio as MP3s by clicking the download arrow at the top of each audio clip above.
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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.