Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Finnegans Wake - James Joyce


First Published 1939 – This edition 1975

As I am awaiting for a few books to arrive, having pre-ordered them, I thought I would give James Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE a revisit, for gestalt real-time review purposes, which would represent a follow-up to similar such reviews in recent months, eg Rameau’s Nephew and Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot, The Inmates by John Cowper Powys and The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. But FINNEGANS WAKE might be a challenge, too far! The passage below represents the first three paragraphs of this book, i.e. about two-thirds of a page, and there are 628 pages in total! But if I do continue with this public review it will appear in the comment stream below.

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.

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer’s rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County’s gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all’s fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.

The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.

  1. In the above quote of the novel’s opening, I have decided to remove any line-
    breaking hyphens and thus, as an example, line-breaking above becomes linebreaking. This may not be Joyce’s intention, but seems sensible as one cannot know for certain if any line-breaking hyphen is a real hyphen or indeed a line-breaking hyphen.
    It seems to me that one needs to absorb this text as best as one is able, without worrying about what it is intended to mean. Then one can hope that gestation in the reading-mind will facilitate some sort of meaning gradually to emerge. In other words, taking not just a run but a riverun at the text’s panoply of assonance, graphology and implied syntax but without meticulously prowling or grubbing around in each known word and in each neologism for the desperate hope of uncovering connective entrails of meaningful semantics!

  2. Well, I’ve read the text in this fashion up to page 10, i.e. up to a a whole paragraph with just one word, this word: “Phew!
    It’s like immersing oneself in Professor Stanley Unwin and Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Cowper Powys all crossed with a Joycean automatic writing of a very rarefied kind, yet one knows that there is a linear sense flow being injected somehow straight into the veins of your brain. From the Aristophanic “Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax!” to a passage that happens to contain the word ‘whorl’ that I used this morning on my main blog in a post entitled ‘Craquelure‘ without realising I would be encountering the same word here. ‘The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction’ IN ACTION, I’d say!
  3. That passage:
    “He’s stiff but he’s steady is Priam Olim! ’Twas he was the dacent gaylabouring youth. Sharpen his pillowscone, tap up his bier! E’erawhere in this whorl would ye hear sich a din again? With their deepbrow fundigs and the dusty fidelios. They laid him brawdawn alanglast bed. With a bockalips of finisky fore his feet. And a barrowload of guenesis hoer his head. Tee the tootal of the fluid hang the twoddle of the fuddled, O!”

  4. “Jute. — Yutah!
    Mutt. — Mukk’s pleasurad.
    Jute. — Are you jeff?
    Mutt. — Somehards.
    Jute. — But you are not jeffmute?
    Mutt. — Noho. Only an utterer.
    Jute. — Whoa? Whoat is the mutter with you?
    Mutt. — I became a stun a stummer.
    Jute. — What a hauhauhauhaudibble thing, to be cause!”

  5. [I have a friend called Jeff, and he has long had a set joke, whereby if anyone says to him: 'Are you deaf?' he always replies: 'No, I'm Jeff!']
An extract: [[There is a plot to this book that several have tried to adumbrate over the years, a special Joycean language that others have tried to nail down with a single word of description, characters that chop and change, themes and threads that also chop and change, all of which elements the critics have tried to plumb (see the book's Wikipedia if you must).....But I contest that any attempt to plumb these things will come back to choke you. So I won't. I just know there is an experience to be had here and I hope by the time I reach the end such an experience will have become the whole of me rather than a part of me that I try to examine from outside. Examining life from within the same life, the mind from within the same mind, all doomed to failure - but Finnegans Wake itself is the only 'death' we shall know retrocausally. Our own death experienced after it has happened? We shall see or, at least, I hope, I shall see: "For dear old grumpapar, he’s gone on the razzledar, through gazing and crazing and blazing at the stars." (Page 65) Now reached page 69.]]

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