Book Review – Walking into Eternity

Joyce book N4

Ulysses is certainly a book worth reading, something of an adventure given its size, prestige and depth of detail but getting a start can be a challenge.

For many, particularly the fabled ‘average reader’, the intimidation factor is high. The novel is celebrated for its evocation of various literary styles, its deep interiorised portrayal of its three main characters and an apparently pedestrian plot which camouflages Joyce’s sense that the mundane and the mythological are one and the same. These are among the novel’s strengths but they can create the impression that Ulysses is a chore rather than a pleasure.

Rodney Devitt will be best known to Dublin Joyceans for his walking tours along Sandymount Strand on Bloomsday. His new chapbook Walking Into Eternity is an embodiment of these tours and provides an excellent foot-in-the-door for a willing reader who feels excluded from the text.

Intended to be read in a single sitting, Walking Into Eternity addresses the chapters of the book specifically concerning Sandymount and neighbouring locales. Sandymount Strand is, of course, the site of Stephen Daedalus’ ‘walk into eternity’ (after which the book takes its title). This is where he muses on his philosophical preoccupations and the immediate sensory details of a morning’s walk on the beach.

Devitt, in discussing this scene, presents its possible appeal for a reader by sharing his own enthusiasm for the accuracy of the descriptions. He also sketches a little history of the area to communicate the significance of Joyce’s artistry, and his eye for the critical little details of place.

The second section of Walking Into Eternity, for instance, provides a brief account of the development of Sandymount as a residential neighbourhood, providing context for the relevant episode of the novel.
The art design of the book intersperses colour images with choice quotes from the novel and encourages a leisurely consideration of the pages and, by extension, its subject. Walking Into Eternity is a fine and friendly starting point for budding readers of Joyce’s great work.

reviewed by Ruairi Conneely