From THE DEAD by James Joyce, collected in DUBLINERS
Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet. Hardly had she brought one gentleman into the little pantry behind the office on the ground floor and helped him off with his overcoat than the wheezy hall-door bell clanged again and she had to scamper along the bare hallway to let in another guest. It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also. But Miss Kate and Miss Julia had thought of that and had converted the bathroom upstairs into a ladies’ dressing-room. Miss Kate and Miss Julia were there, gossiping and laughing and fussing, walking after each other to the head of the stairs, peering down over the banisters and calling down to Lily to ask her who had come.
The above excerpt is the beginning of THE DEAD, a novella collected in DUBLINERS (1914).
WHY READ IT?
Joyce portrays a holiday party brimming with the bonhomie, familial love, contentiousness, flirtation, and mutual misunderstanding of a clever array of richly-drawn Dublin characters. As the story builds, it retreats from the bustle of the party and into a quiet conversation between a husband and wife. And that story within the story gives life to unforgettable imagery that has moved many people to call THE DEAD the greatest short story ever.