These quiet, realistic but lyrical slices of life in Dublin make up what might be the greatest short story collection ever. Joyce would go much further but he was already one of the 20th century’s greatest authors at this early stage. Every story is masterful in its own way. One of my favorites is “An Encounter.” I recall once having a conversation with someone who was incredulous at the concept that terrible things like abuse and rape happened in the “good old days.” This story, among other things, demonstrates how we never know what kind of evil and twisted people might be lurking in the most beautiful places.
However, I think the absolute best story in the book is “A Painful Case.” This heartbreaking, quiet tragedy will definitely get the tears flowing. It is a brilliant deconstruction of a human being who doesn’t realize how diconnected he is from others until it is too late. There are many more wonders to discover in Dubliners. Just don’t expect to smile very much!