Member No.: 8
Joined: 17-May 11
So I've been obsessing over Joyce a lot lately and figure a space to gush could be handy. I'll start by giving a brief overview, for those who have not yet dived into the Irish Shakespeare's writing, of who exactly this guy was and why I called him such a weighty compliment a second ago.
(First, fun fact: Joyce's works have all recently slipped out of copyright, so they're in the public domain and can be found for free on the internet. I'll give links as I ramble.)
James Joyce was.. well, an Irish author. Born in the late 1800s, died in 1941. Lived in poverty and later comfort and fame. Had a wife, had some kids, all the usual stuff. He had a theory on aesthetics, a strong belief in the value of epiphany, a love for the comedy of life and language, and an eye for literally everything and anything that ever existed. His supporters in life included Yeats, Einstein, T. S. Eliot, and Hemingway, and his supporters in death span the likes of Joseph Campbell, Marshall McLuhan, Stephen Fry, Anthony Burgess, Jacques Derrida, and the guy who discovered the quark. Off the top of my head. You could say he was a little impressive, even if in his personal life he was a drunkard and rather arrogant.
That's all well and good, but why don't we cut to the chase? What did he actually write, and what's so special about it?
His first publication was a book of short stories, each dealing with some event in the life of an average citizen of Dublin at the turn of the 20th century. The writing style was minimalist and apparently called "free indirect discourse," which basically means they were in the third-person but pulled lexicon and beliefs from the minds of the protagonists. *shrugs* Words.
The stories of Dubliners are structured sorta by age: They start out about children, then show us adolescents, then adults, and then span out to incorporate the general public life of the city, and it all wraps up with the most famous story, "The Dead." Joyce's intention was to demonstrate the paralysis of Ireland, a country controlled by the church and by the English, a people stuck in a rut so vicious their lives were miserable and their own flaws meant they couldn't break out. Each character in Dubliners lives a sad life, and there are no truly happy endings. Joyce hoped to show us why, and he left it up to us to figure it out-- the moment of realization being what he referred to as an "epiphany."
This book is beautiful, and it introduced many things we'd see in all of his later works. The most obvious are the location of Dublin, and a budding interest in using narration to explore a character's inner world.
(Publication fun facts: Joyce tried for years to get this thing published, but publishers objected to the controversial portrayal of real-life locations and celebrities. One publisher tried to set fire to every last copy, but Joyce managed to snag one before leaving Ireland behind, after which he never returned, not even once.)
His first proper novel (some would argue his only proper novel), Portrait was pretty much what it said on the tin: A (fairly) autobiographical novel about the childhood and mental/artistic development of Stephen Dedalus (Joyce's pseudonym, and a significant last name at that). The writing style this time is an extension of Dubliners' free indirect discourse, played with pretty heavily. When Stephen is a little kid, the narration is simple and playful. As he grows up, it becomes gradually more and more complex, sometimes dabbling in sheer poetic beauty.
Portrait is a simple chronological six-chapter tale of what life was like growing up in a Catholic household shortly after the death of influential political figure Parnell. Stephen's father, at first a prosperous and rich man, falls into austerity which disrupts the whole family and means Stephen has trouble finishing his education. But that's hardly the only obstacle-- a Jesuit education has traumas of its own, and Stephen's desire to explore sexual activity gives him intense conflict which he cannot rectify with the religion he's been brought up with. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll marvel as he watches language lose meaning around him and tries to find a place for his thoughts.
..admittedly this is my least-favourite of Joyce's books, though believe me, that itself is still high praise. I just haven't really fallen in love with it yet. It does introduce the character of Stephen, who will become much more relevant when we see the exciting sequel!
This is the big one. This is the one everyone knows, the one that put Joyce on the map (or well Dubliners did that but this is the one that cemented him in the map!). A good eight years of planning and experimentation gave us this definitive modernist epic about what all happened on June 16th, 1904. The writing style... wait, which one? Imagine language waking up, stretching its legs, warming up, telling a story, changing its mind, making music, and then embarking on an odyssey before bringing it all home and getting ready for sleep. We see it all here, every genre you can imagine, every writing style you can think of, it's all there. One can't talk about the writing style without simultaneously discussing the plot. So let's do that.
The first three chapters, in an extension of Portrait's brand of free indirect discourse, show us our familiar friend Stephen Dedalus, back from life in Paris just in time to watch his mother die. Well, that's already happened. We watch him spend his morning having breakfast, teaching a class about history, ask for his paycheck, and then take a stroll and a reverie on the strand. His internal thoughts are much more prominent here, blending with the narration but primarily being the narration.. but there's still clearly a third-person omniscient narrator taking us through things. The second three chapters take us back to the start of the morning to see someone completely different: A married advertisement salesman of Jewish heritage by the name of Leopold Bloom. His son died eleven years ago, his daughter is away, and his wife Molly is going to commit adultery today. So what does Poldy do, faced with that knowledge? He cooks some liver, feeds his cat, takes a shit, talks about metempsychosis, talks to friends, thinks about religion, reads a letter, buys some soap, takes a bath off-screen, and attends a friend's funeral. It's more riveting than it sounds. The style here is the same as before, though that third-person omniscient narrator seems to be fusing with Leopold's thoughts more, almost.. responding to them, playing with them. And that's when the real novel begins. In the next chapter, it's midday, and Bloom is at work securing advertisement space and whatnot. (Stephen even shows up!) It's the centre of the city, everyone is running about, in and out, in and out, the wind blows in, blows out, breathe in, breathe out, the trams outside go in, out, in, out, and the narration...
>> YOU CAN DO IT!
..well. The narration interjects every few paragraphs with loud statements that seem to resemble newspaper headlines vaguely related to what's going on. The narration has woken up entirely and is at work. The book is alive, and it wants to offer its own interpretations of events. This only lasts for one chapter, but it's a good demonstration of Ulysses's nature: Playful, experimenting, alive, language on an odyssey. Over the course of the rest of the day, there are a few more chapters in a somewhat "ordinary" indirect-discourse-y style, but the bulk of the book from here on out is written in anything ranging from "language mimicking music" (as Bloom eats dinner and listens to singers), "cheesy romance novel" (as Bloom publicly masturbates), "absurdist stage play (before absurdism was even a thing)" (as Bloom and Stephen get drunk and go to a brothel), "religious catechism" (as Bloom takes Stephen home and the day takes inventory)... there's even a chapter whose style is "a complete chronology of the development of the English language," corresponding with Bloom and Dedalus attending a friend's childbirth. Furthermore, every chapter corresponds with an episode of The Odyssey, with a part of the Torah, with a body organ, with a colour, with a mechanical function... there's a lot going on, and it all seems to revolve around this odd day where a son without a father (figure) and a father without a son happen to meet.
Ulysses is a labyrinth. It's hilarious, it's touching, and it is dense. It dwarfed everything else Joyce had written and landed him eternal fame, like the "A Day in the Life" to the Lonely Hearts Club Band that is the rest of his work. He could have been happy just with Dubliners and Portrait, he was already highly respected, but no, he had to put out a near-impossible work of unimagined complexity. So now, at last, he could rest and allow his works their well-earned space on the literary canon...
(Publication fun fact: Ulysses was banned for obscenities, mostly in the masturbation scene and in some, uh... really kinky sexual fantasies during the brothel chapter that may or may not have made me blush and hide the book while reading at work. Banned pretty much everywhere. Took twelve years for the American supreme court to unambiguously rule it as unpornographic, just a really good work of art.)
..what's that? "That was only three?" Naaaahhh, it was four, re-count it or something, you wouldn't want to hear about his Necronomicon.
I.. okay. If you insist. We're gonna need a bigger post, second post incoming.
So after Ulysses, Joyce took a year off. Didn't write a single thing. Then he got an idea, and that idea spiraled into 20,000 pages of drafts over the course of seventeen years. He slowly went blind, had to start wearing an eyepatch. His father died, his daughter diagnosed with and soon institutionalized for schizophrenia. World War II began. But still through all of this he kept writing, and when he was too blind to write he dictated (sometimes even to Samuel Beckett!).
After a while the world started getting, serialized through magazines, excerpts from something simply titled "Work in Progress." The problem is no one could make heads or tails of what they were reading.
One of the most murmurable loose carollaries ever Ellis threw his cookingclass. With Olaf as centrum and Olaf's lambtail for his spokesman circumscript a cyclone. Allow ter! Hoop! As round as the calf of an egg! O, dear me! O, dear me now! Another grand discobely! After Makefearsome's Ocean. You've actuary entducked one! Quok! Why, you haven't a passer! Fantastic! Early' clever, surely doomed, to Swift's, alas, the galehus! Match of a matchness, like your Bigdud dadder in the boudeville song, Gorotsky Gollovar's Troubles, raucking his flavourite turvku in the smukking precincts of lydias, with Mary Owens and Dolly Monks seesidling to edge his cropulence and Blake-Roche, Kingston and Dockrell auriscenting him from afurz, our papacocopotl, Abraham Bradley King? (ting ting! ting ting!) By his magmasine fall. Lumps, lavas and all. Bene! But, thunder and turf, it's not alover yet!
When the finished product came out and readers found it was an entire book (almost 630 pages) of this language, they declared Joyce had finally gone mad. His brother dismissed it. His most avid supporters gave up. And then two years later Joyce died, leaving one great mystery to the world.
This, ladies and germs, is the Wake. It's not too late to turn back! Ulysses looks mighty comprehensible this time of year. If you read on, I promise I'll make it worth your while, but I'll understand if you decide to stay out of these depths. Just don't dismiss it. It's not madness.
"Alright, Deej. I'll bite. If it's not madness, what is it? What is Finnegan's Wake about?"
First, no apostrophe in the title. "Finnegan's Wake" was an Irish ballad, about a builder who fell off a ladder and broke his skull, only to wake up during a fight at his wake. Joyce took the name and turned it into a multilayered pun: Multiple Finnegans wake up, the wake of Finnegan, Finn MacCool again is awake.
Second, after a good 75 years, we, uh.... we don't know what the Wake is about. Not definitely. But everyone has their own idea, and most of these ideas agree on some key stuff: There is a man who has a great fall, his sons fight to take his place, and his wife forgives him, and this is a cyclic thing. And it probably might maybe be a dream or at least written as if one?
You saw the example above, the Wake is hard to read. Like, it is legitimately difficult, it has a reputation as being the single most difficult book ever written (I like to call it "the final boss of the video game that is literature"). But it is not impossible. It is readable. Its style is a language of puns. Everything is a pun, usually on multiple levels. Take the subtitle to this thread:
"Ore you astoneaged, jute you?"
Say it out loud. "Are you astonished?" But "are" turns into "ore" and "astonished" merges with "Stone Age" to give us "astoneaged." (The "jute" part isn't so much a pun as it's the name of the person the speaker is speaking to, I got that from the "Mutt and Jute" sketch in the first chapter.) Of course, if it were only a matter of puns, this book would be a cinch. Joyce pulled words from 70 different languages in writing this, and he uses a good 40 of them a lot. And there are constant allusions to every book you can imagine, we're talking the entire wealth of fiction, history, philosophy, politics, contemporary pulp, I mean everything wound up in this. And everything is relevant.
See, the Wake is.. I like to describe it as a demonstration of philosophy regarding history and psychology, presented in a book that extends Ulysses's "the book is self-aware" style to its logical extreme. While also an uber-archetype. And a comedy of language. And then when I'm feeling particularly gushy I call it a sculptured symphony of words.
"Cut to the chase already! What about characters or something?"
Now, patience; and remember patience is the great thing, and above all things else we must avoid anything like being or becoming out of patience.
You can't just jump into this thing. It's like running into a brick wall. You have to open your mind and take it slow.
In terms of characters, the Wake has thousands, and it also has about five. The easiest to spot is HCE, a family man, a politician, a king, a giant, a mountain, a city, a masterbuilder, a pub-owner, a god. See, a lot of times in the Wake you'll run into words that have the initials "HCE," and every time you do you can assume he's being talked about. Or you might find mention of Finn MacCool, or Noah, or Duke Wellington, or really a lot of famous leader-types. They're all him. HCE is the archetypal father and husband, and he's the one who has a great fall-- yep, just like Humpty Dumpty, that's the point. Simultaneously, whenever you find the initials "ALP" you'll know you're in the vicinity of his wife. She's the river Liffey, and she is all rivers, she is all water, she is every mother. She protects her family from gossip, she washes her husband's sins and washes her sons and carries them all home. Now, whenever you see a group of two characters, usually two males though there's arguably one instance of them being two females, you've met Shem (the Penman) and Shaun (the Post), the sons. Shem is an artist, Shaun is a mailman. Shem is Lucifer, Shaun is Michael. Shem is every minority, Shaun is every institution of power. Shem is low, Shaun is high. Shem is time, Shaun is space. Shem is an elm, Shaun is a stone. Shem is the written word, Shaun is the spoken. Shem is like his mother, Shaun is like his father. These two will always fight, then they will always unite, then they will always fight, then they will always grow distanced, and the cycle will always repeat. Shem takes the focus for the first half of the book, Shaun takes the focus for the second. And then the odd one out is little Issy, the daughter. Issy is the object of the father's and of the sons' desires. You can usually tell she's around by a number of motifs: Woords miight have dooubled letters standiing iin foor her eyes. There might be a rainbow (mentioned, represented as seven girls, or the entire rainbow might suddenly be spoken in the text). Mirrors, clouds, and the mythical Iseult are also good clues. Issy is, you could say, the younger ALP, so obviously instead of the river she is the cloud that will later rain down to form the river. She also has a mirror twin, a darker twin, but that twin doesn't actually exist, she's only in her head. And finally, there's the narrators: The Mamalujo. That's Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (and John's donkey, who is the most eloquent character in the book). They're also Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connacht ("Ulstria, Monastir, Leninstar, and Connecticut"), and the Four Masters of the Irish Annals, and members of Joyce's family (wife Nora, daughter Lucia, son George-- Mama, Lu, Jo). In practice, these guys act as judges when characters are on trial, they interrogate characters where they can, and they spend most of their time as narrators trying to figure out what's actually going on. So they're kinda in the same boat as us. Unfortunately, they're a bunch of old perverted coots, so they make it even harder to follow things. And you could argue Mark is also HCE. But that's.. that's for your minds to figure out, not this overview. The Mamalujo are also related to and usually accompanied by the "Morpheus," which is a cast of twelve ordinary Dubliners. You can tell they're around because the narrative will suddenly give off a list of twelve objects or people or what-have-you. They're most notably patrons of HCE's pub. ...oh, and there's Joe/Sackerson and Kate, the family's servants, who are probably HCE and ALP as old people, but they have important roles to play as well.
Phew! What a warm time we were in there but how keling is here the airabouts!
Already you can probably start to put a few pieces together, but I assure you, this is a book that will keep you guessing. It took me seven months to read it for the first time, and as soon as I was done I started reading all over again, this time taking lots of notes.
"I'm still lost, how can the characters be that abstract?"
Well, okay, I'll bring up the "dream" interpretation again just for the sake of analogy. Picture a dream. In a dream, one person could be, say, a friend from work, and your sister, and your mother, and a fictional character, and a reflection of your psyche all at the same time, right? And in a dream, your location, and even the reason you are there, it's all fluid and you don't question a thing, it all runs on the logic of your subconscious! The Wake is often interpreted as a dream and it's a really believable interpretation for these reasons. Plus during writing Joyce had said some comments that made it pretty clear he was at least working with some aspect of our night-thoughts.
"Okay, okay, okay. Can you talk about something a bit more encouraging, a bit more tangible? Like the book's structure or something macro like that."
The Wake's structure? Its structure is a square circle, an infinitely subdivisible cycle of cycles, and separately (but complementarily) a chain of temporal cycles converging on each other, forming a figure-8 of macroscopic wonder. Its structure is not that tangible either. It's my favourite part, though.
(BIT OF CONTEXT: You might want to brush up on your Vico, but basically Vico had this theory that human society was a cycle of three Ages: The Age of Gods [when we believed gods were literally in the world around us], the Age of Heroes [when gods were more abstract and metaphorical, and our stories were now about humans performing great deeds], and the Age of Man [science! democracy!], followed by a brief "ricorso" as everything shifted back to the first Age. The Age of Gods begins when humans hear thunder, interpret it as the voice of God saying his Name in disapproval ["PA"], and hide away in caves, forming the first families, the first hierarchies, the first religions, the first rules. Whatever it was they were doing during the thunder-- usually sex-- is now assumed to be frowned upon.)
Literally speaking, there's four "Books." The first Book has eight chapters, the second and third have four, and the fourth has one. So in that regard it's kinda like a pyramid too? Rather appropriate, as the book often parallels the Book of the Dead. ANYWAY
The first Book, which probably represents the Age of Gods, is probably subdivided into two "cycles" of four chapters. - Chapter 1 (probably also Age of Gods) is a sort of overture, Finnegan falls off his ladder and they hold his wake, the Mamalujo start looking into history, Mutt and Jute (Shem and Shaun!) discuss the viceking's graab (their father's tomb, who killed him?), we briefly explore the birth of the alphabet, we see an early example of literature (the tale of the Prankquean), Finnegan tries to wake up but he's ushered back to sleep-- he wouldn't like the world he'd see, he's already been replaced by the man "ultimendly respunchable for the hubbub caused in Edenborough." - Chapter 2 (probably Age of Heroes) gives us something easy to follow. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, a rural man made famous after being named by a king (he was trying to catch earwigs), takes a walk in the park when he encounters a cad with a pipe. This cad asks him for the time in Gaelic. Humphrey hears a clock strike, thunderously, ten. So he stands at an angle that, on an analog clock, reads "11:32," and tells the cad it is 12, and then he proceeds to basically say "AND ABOUT THOSE RUMOURS THAT I DID A SEXUAL THING WITH TWO GIRLS IN THIS PARK, THOSE ARE ALL FABRICATIONS." The cad, confused, goes home and tells his wife. His wife tells a priest. The priest is overheard by people in a restaurant. The word basically spreads across Dublin until it gets to a down-on-his-luck bard named Frosty Hosty, who pens the "Ballad of Persse O'Reilly," complete with sheet music! (hint: google "persse oreille") - Chapter 3 (probably Age of Man) shows us how everyone who spread the rumours eventually died. We see the rumours live on, though, as people all around the world give their take on what HCE's crime was, his fall. HCE hides out in his pub, he has a fantasy about being an old man and having two young girls as wives, and then a rowdy foreign tourist bangs on his pub front door and shouts insults at him. HCE stays quiet. - Chapter 4 (probably the ricorso) shows us HCE's tomb, which magically disappears. Meanwhile, a Festy King is put on trial in his place (this is probably Shem), and an angry witness tries to get him convicted (probably Shaun), but the judges recognize his bias and let Festy go. The judges then discuss the trial and bring up the Letter-- whatever it is, it's crucial to HCE's ultimate fate, it might exonerate him or convict him further. - Chapter 5 (probably Age of Gods) invokes ALP our water goddess and discusses her mamafesta-- this chapter's all about the Letter. Dictated by ALP, written by Shem, delivered by Shaun, discovered in a dump by a hen. No one knows what it says, but its language is eldritch, it's described with Lovecraft puns. And there are a number of features of the Letter (the name "Maggy," four holes-- "Stop," "Please stop," "Do please stop," "O do please stop,"-- signed with an X, and ends with a tea stain) that we will see in the Wake again and again. - Chapter 6 (probably Age of Heroes) has Shaun answering a radio quiz (probably given by Shem): Twelve questions, each corresponding to either a character or feature from the Wake. For the eleventh question, Shaun responds with a long academic discourse where he tells two stories (including "The Mookse and the Gripes," which is the Fox and the Grapes but also Shem and Shaun and also HCE and the cad and a surprisingly deep philosophical discussion!). - Chapter 7 (probably Age of Man) is what I like to call "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Shem." We get Shem's early biography, as told by the Mamalujo but with a strong Shaun bias, and it heavily parallels and parodies Joyce's own life (Shem writes his "usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles," for instance). - Chapter 8 (probably the ricorso) shows us two old women washing dirty laundry in the river Liffey, gossiping about HCE's family. As night approaches, the Liffey expands, the women find it harder to see and hear each other, and finally they are left transformed as an elm and a stone. (LOOK, JOYCE HIMSELF READS THE END OF THIS CHAPTER FROM PAGE 213).
The second Book, which probably stands for the Age of Heroes, is.. the densest Book. It's the exact centre, and it is really tough and psychological. This Book actually gives me nightmares. <:D And the few times I hallucinate, I tend to hallucinate imagery from its third chapter. - Chapter 1 (probably Age of Gods) shows us a pantomime: The Mime of Mick, Nick, and the Maggies-- the three children at play arguably reenact the Wake itself. It starts with a continuation of Shem's biography as Issy has him try and guess what colour she's thinking of (it's the colour of her underwear!). Shem and Shaun fight, Shaun is lauded, ALP carries the sons away, and then HCE calls the kids in for homework and bedtime. - Chapter 2 (probably Age of Heroes) is the children studying. Issy learns literature, culminating in learning how to write a letter. Shem and Shaun learn geometry, culminating in Shem teaching Shaun Euclid's first proof, their "eternal geomater," the first ever equilateral triangle (hint: it's ALP's genitals). The chapter ends with teatime, after which Issy doodles a nose-thumbing that doubles as a skull and crossbones, and the three kids write the ominous Nightletter: It's a Christmas card that promises their parents will die. This chapter is especially hard to make sense of, as not only is its text deliberately as obtuse as it gets, but this chapter has three sets of footnotes-- Issy is the bottom, Shem is on the left, Shaun is on the right, and halfway through the chapter Shem and Shaun switch places. Have fun. - Chapter 3 (probably Age of Man) is often regarded by critics as the central chapter in the book (though I've read a convincing argument that this is merely the epicenter and that Chapter 2 is the true center). HCE is in his pub, whispering to his patrons because he doesn't want certain people to hear (us?). As both he and a radio tell the story of Kersse and the Norwegian Captain, we can easily interpret it as the tale of how HCE married ALP, culminating in their first coitus. HCE is then called out of the pub by Kate, and Shem and Shaun wander down. The patrons ask them to tell a story. Shem and Shaun (and a television) tell us the story of How Buckley Shot the Russian General-- how Shaun killed his father (how Shaun became his father?), in the origin of thunder, at "the abnihilisation of the etym" (the splitting of the atom, the death of the word). The kids leave, HCE comes back, and.. chaos ensues. Joe escorts the mob of patrons out, and the chapter ends with HCE, now Roderick O'Connor (last king of Ireland), drinking his customers' last dregs of alcohol before slumping down into a defeated sleep. Damn. - Chapter 4 (probably the ricorso) takes us to Mark of Cornwall watching Tristram and Iseult elope-- Mark is now Mark of the Mamalujo, who ramble around and around in circles about the teenagers they like to watch fuck.
The third book, which is probably the Age of Man, is considerably easier to follow, but that doesn't make it much easier to understand. Its chapters roughly parallel and parody the trials of Christ carrying his cross, as well as the four Roman watches of the night (and probably the four Buddhist watches of the night too?). - Chapter 1 (probably Age of Gods), beautifully narrated by John's donkey, shows Shaun on his quest to deliver the Letter as he floats backwards in a barrel up the river Liffey. Along the way he's interrogated about the contents of the Letter, and instead he just keeps insulting Shem (and he tells the story of "the Ondt and the Gracehoper!") - Chapter 2 (probably Age of Heroes) has Shaun (or Jaun), now younger (we're still going backwards!) and further up the river, give a long and passionate (and insecure) sermon to Issy, followed by her brief reply. - Chapter 3 (probably Age of Man) has Shaun (or Yawn), now a baby (still backwards), lying on a hill-- becoming the hill, perhaps-- and trying to sleep. The Mamalujo approach and give a really long interrogation about everything they can think of, this chapter's basically one long dialogue but without any dialogue tags whatsoever, so it's really hard to interpret properly. But general critical consensus is after a while the powerful voice of HCE speaks through Shaun, defending himself, declaring his achievements. - Chapter 4 (probably the ricorso) now shows us a typical Irish family asleep in the middle of the night, as narrated by (the Mamalujo? Shem and Shaun?)-- the parents, aged, are woken up by cries of their son having a nightmare. The mother ushers him back to sleep, and then the parents go back to bed and fuck.
And then finally the fourth Book, which is probably the Wake's own ricorso, shows dawn breaking over Stonehenge and slowly making its way to Ireland. We see St. Patrick defeat the arch-druid, we see Muta and Juva (Shem and Shaun!) discuss their father's tomb-- now there's someone rising up out of it, we see ALP's Letter, and the Wake ends with a beautiful soliloquy as a wife tries to wake her husband up (and then.. dies? becomes one with the ocean?).
...haha no the Wake never truly ends. It famously ends with the line "A way a lone a last a loved a long the" ..and begins with "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs." The book is cyclic.
So okay, I gave much more of an exegesis than I'd originally intended, aren't you guys lucky?
The point is that Finnegans Wake is.. well, my favourite book, my favourite work of art. I'm not even sure about a lot of details in that summary, and I'm sure as hell not entirely sure what it all might ultimately mean. This began as a simple thing, "I want to read Joyce's books," and then it turned into what is probably technically religious studying. I read as many analyses of the Wake as I can find-- and there's a lot. I'll link to some in another post.
This book is.. life. I can't recommend it enough. It's not an easy book to read but y'know what, when you get the hang of the language it becomes the most natural thing in the world. It's like interpreting a dream, complete with the hours of contemplating what that dream says about you. And it's an eternally funny book. Some people may think puns are the lowest form of comedy, and even if that were true, Joyce takes them to heights never before imagined.
Ulysses may have dwarfed the rest of his works, but Finnegans Wake dwarves the entire literary canon. ..in my opinion.
So. So. Ore you astoneaged, jute you? 'Cause oye am thonthorstrok, thing mud!
CRITICAL ANALYSES AND SCHOLARLY STUFF Genetic Joyce Studies (Releases several scholarly essays about all things Joyce every spring!) The Modernism Lab, on James Joyce (Like Ulysses? Here's Yale giving essays about it!) The James Joyce Scholars' Collection (All the Joyce criticism of the past century that has since gone out of print, uploaded to one source! There's some cool Ulysses stuff here but it's mostly gorgeous books about the Wake.) The Wall and the Letter and other cool stuff (A website with some pretty cool doodads to browse through, including a pretty extensive analysis of the Wake!) A Manual for the Advanced Study of Finnegans Wake in (over) one hundred and eleven volumes (You fucking read that correctly. There's a university in Romania that asks a good majority of its students and professors to work on this manual, "because Finnegans Wake is important." Most of this manual is for educational purposes, so you won't find too many answers or even interpretations, but the resources are just as valuable and worth a browse.) "Finnegans Wake: The Agency of the Letter in the Conscious" (A 700-page dissertation that attempts to make sense of the structure of the book, including why the thunderwords are positioned the way they are, why Book III is backwards, and what exactly happens in chapter II.2. Also contains the most in-depth and helpful analysis of "How Buckley Shot the Russian General" I've ever found, offering a reading based on context developed through all of Joyce's previous books. It even gives a pretty convincing answer to "What was HCE's fall?" and "What was the Letter?" This is seriously a really good dissertation and offers a lot of food for thought.)
Other than that, Google and Wikipedia are your allies-- they're how I found everything here. I'll add more to this list as I find them. The good news is now that Joyce is public domain we'll only see more of this stuff.
*bows* Thank you for your time. I hope people can understand a little more of why I am obsessed.
Member No.: 8
Joined: 17-May 11
This can certainly be a reply-type thread! I'd be happy to have discussions about Joyce and to see what cool resources and knickknacks other people can find. I had no idea McKenna had done a talk on the Wake, and while I find he misses out on a lot of the more complex parts I do love the enthusiasm and the colourful praise he has for it. And it's always fun to listen to someone read from the book.
I'll add both these links to the big link masterpost.
ALSO FUN FACT: One way of comprehending Finnegans Wake is to look at it as Joyce's response to Dante's Divine Comedy. The parallels are most blatant in chapter II.2, during the geometry lesson. Shem is the Virgil-like guide to Shaun's Dante as they travel down into a very Freudian inferno, through the seven circles of satirical sin in the deep dark caves of their mother's genitals. At the same time, the geometric diagram itself is almost like a parody of the idea of a bright vision showing us the perfect geometry of a triune God. ;D Joyce, with his Jesuit education, had plenty of reason to admire Dante like crazy. And writing his own response, a secular comedy through the psychological and historical equivalents (with the reader as the ultimate Dante and Joyce himself almost as the creator, the artist type paring his fingernails as he writes himself out of the context of the story itself), a poem-type journey through the lowest of all dialects, where meaning is processed literally, historically, allegorically, and all the other-ally, where numerology is practiced arguably to incomprehensibility... well, that would be just like Joyce, to try and one-up a writer he himself worshipped. (But Dante is hardly the only formidable foe he sought to one-up. The Quran was backed up, by Mohammed, as being definitely the divine word of God based on one criteria: "It is so complex, show me any mortal man who can create a text so complex and perfectly crafted!" I guess this is Joyce raising his hand. (ONE LAST POINT OF ONEUPSMANSHIP. At the heart of a Jesuit education, even past the Dante, is a certain iconic work of literature, a book where a single pun spawns an entire Church. Yes, Joyce out-punned Jesus. ....by quite a large margin.)
What I'm trying to say is there's a lot of ways to read the Wake and all of them are probably true. And I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes of the author himself: "Some of my puns are trivial. Some are quadrivial."
Member No.: 414
Joined: 3-January 15
Personally I find Terence Mckenna a bit hit and miss, however I respect him for what he did, and in the words of Timothy Leary, Terence Mckenna was 'The real Tim Leary' Anyway, back to Joyce, I've read Dubliners, Portrait and Ulysses, but I am far to scared to read Finnegans Wake, although one day I plan to. Also, my family had an Irish Wolfhound called Finnegan, named after the book.
Member No.: 376
Joined: 10-March 14
Welp, I must get over my fear of Finnegans Wake (fear of Finnegans Wake- Camper James Joyce, anyone?). My class had a reading project where we had to read a specific book and say how it was influenced by history, and I got put with the Wake... I'm excited and terrified!
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