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James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake"
May 18, 2012 6:58 PM   Subscribe

simply read Finnegans Wake. Since it is said to make more sense when recited aloud, you could start with this recording of James Joyce performing a passage from the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" section - which has been described as "one of the most beautiful prose-poems in English".

There are also these illustrations - which have been featured in the blue previously.

When you're ready to wade in, there is FinnegansWiki - which will satisfy your long-standing curiosity about what "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk" means. And out in the deep waters is Finnegans Wake Extensible Elucidation Treasury.

But you'll need some kind of help. One does not
posted by Trurl (40 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
what you did there.

I see
posted by robcorr at 7:16 PM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


An uber-expensive emended edition with some 9000 corrections & amendments enjoyed a limited release not too long ago.
posted by Hesychia at 7:20 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, Cortex! Check out the search results in the last link

Butts:

–003.11+ Butt [.10]
–003.11+ Colloquial butt: buttock (Cluster: Body Parts)
–003.11+ Parnell ousted Isaac Butt from leadership of Irish Nationalist (Home Rule) party
–006.07+ Butt Bridge, Dublin
–007.12+ Butt (Motif: Butt/Taff [.13])
–013.14+ butt
–013.14+ Butt Bridge, Dublin
–016.20+ Butt (Motif: Butt/Taff [.22])
–023.32+ butt

LOL:

–034.31+ Jespersen: An International Language 34: (of Volapük) 'the stem itself must always begin and end with a consonant. Accordingly Academy becomes kadem. R is avoided: fire is fil, and red led. As s is the sign of the plural, no word may end in s: rose is made into lol.
–034.31+ Volapük lol: rose [.29]
–254.23+ United States Slang lollapaloosa: wonderful
–494.25+ United States Slang lollapaloosa: an extraordinary thing, the cat's pyjamas
posted by msalt at 7:23 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This has inspired me: when I move next month and get my books out of storage, Finnegan's Wake will be my first project.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:26 PM on May 18, 2012


Incidentally, somewhere in said storage is a hand-out from a presentation at the National James Joyce Conference in 2005 with "required" supplementary materials and a suggested reading order of the sections. It probably isn't too hard to find, but I'd be happy to send it to anyone when I can get to it after Aug 1.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:30 PM on May 18, 2012


To my ear, it sounds that Joyce lifted sounds from this great poet
posted by Vibrissae at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2012


I enjoyed this from Wikipedia:
Owing to the work's expansive linguistic experiments, stream of consciousness writing style, literary allusions, free dream associations, and its abandonment of the conventions of plot and character construction, Finnegans Wake remains largely unread by the general public.
Normally that type of statement on Wikipedia would be disputed and not last, since you know, I read it myself and I'm part of the general public (says some random Wikipedia editor).. but in this case I doubt anyone could challenge it. Here are some review snippits from LibraryThing:

*"..have absolutely no idea what it was about. "

*"bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronnt​uonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!" [this got three thumbs up]

*"everything finally made sense only on the last three of 600-or-so pages"

*"I spent over a month on the first two pages"

*"odis ufjnms pqoiskj as sjhhsug iufjv eisls oiucmb; odus jfbxa hu hu opsldks; etc.etc" [this got 23 thumbs up]

*"Whenever the party gets dull, pass out Finnegans Wake." [unclear if "pass out" is a pun here]

In support of this FPP, two reviewers say it is best read aloud and savored like a drink of whiskey.
posted by stbalbach at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was lucky enough to snag the Patrick Healy audiobook version of FW when it was up on Ubuweb a while back. Of course, it's been removed now, sadly.

It's super lengthy. 19h40m, originally 17cds long.

I haven't gotten into it yet, but I plan to one of these days.
posted by hippybear at 7:32 PM on May 18, 2012




riverrun
posted by yellowcandy at 7:43 PM on May 18, 2012


The Patrick Healy is read way to fast.

I have read it three times plus. I have lived with this book most of my life. Find some people. Read three to five pages a week. Gather together to read it out loud. Discuss. Share questions. Share insights. Laugh. It is one of the funniest books ever written. Also share food and drink. This book is a triumph over reading comprehension. You get what you get. You will pick up what is difficult sharing with other people and rereading. Remember it is a circle. Don't get caught up in commentaries. Just listen to the sounds of the words spoken out loud and shared by diverse people all lost within its beautiful maze of text.
posted by njohnson23 at 7:58 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]




I concur about the Patrick Healy and add: not only reads too fast but also without inflection. It makes no impression.
posted by argybarg at 8:04 PM on May 18, 2012


I have read it three times plus.

Re-Joyce.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:04 PM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


James Joyce doesn't pass a Turing test.
posted by humanfont at 8:09 PM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


One more note. Ubuweb has Mary Ellen Bute's film version of this book. Based on a play version written by Mary Manning.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:13 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


HCE
posted by sammyo at 8:21 PM on May 18, 2012


Finnegans Wake is just a bunch of Gaelic in-jokes loosely translated into something vaguely resembling English...
posted by ovvl at 8:34 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: just a bunch of in-jokes loosely translated into something vaguely resembling English
posted by hippybear at 8:39 PM on May 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


When Joyce's daughter, Lucia, went mad and they put her in the asylum, Joyce said “Whatever spark or gift I possess has been transmitted to Lucia and it has kindled a fire in her brain.”

Not an endorsement of Kindle Fire.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:47 PM on May 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Reading Finnegans Wake at 16, or rather trying to read Finnegans Wake at 16, was one of the defining moments in my life. You get the book out of the library, open up to the first page, and three seconds later you're aware that life is stranger and funnier than anything you've ever imagined, and that you can do anything if you care enough about doing it.

I'm amused by people who proclaim the book incomprehensible and baffling and therefore a failure. It accomplishes what all literature tries to evoke – delight, surprise, wonder, awe – in its first few lines, and it rarely encounters somebody without moving them almost immediately.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:49 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It also has the single best masturbation joke in the entire English language. The book opens with a passage that's simultaneously recalling Adam and Eve, Humpty Dumpty, and the original ballad Finnegan's Wake, in which a drunk Irishman falls off a wall by accident. It builds up to this passage, which is one of my two favorite Joyce passages ever:

His howd feeled heavy, his hoddit did shake. (There was a wall of course in erection) Dimb! He stot-tered from the latter. Damb! he was dud. Dumb! Mastabatoom, mastabadtomm, when a mon merries his lute is all long. For whole the world to see.

Our high school didn't have senior quotes, I don't think, but "when a mon merries his lute is all long for whole the world to see" would have been a finalist for me.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:51 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


When Joyce's daughter, Lucia, went mad and they put her in the asylum, Joyce said “Whatever spark or gift I possess has been transmitted to Lucia and it has kindled a fire in her brain.”

Joyce took her Jung, who diagnosed her compulsive punning as evidence of her insanity. Joyce defended her by observing that he too thought in puns.

"You are a deep sea diver," Jung said. "She is drowning."
posted by Trurl at 9:01 PM on May 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Joyce was first of all a bard. His writing is intended to be read aloud. I love it all but I cannot read it continuouly, silently. I read it aloud until my vocal chords tire. Then I read silently until my brain tires. Then repeat the next day and eventually I have had a pretty cool literature experience, even if only for four days and the first hundred pages.

On Bloomsday they read the sucker out loud. This seems Joyce's intent.
posted by bukvich at 9:39 PM on May 18, 2012


tldr: gkasksdofuhr, 47. Rosebud.

[collect doctorate]
posted by Camofrog at 9:45 PM on May 18, 2012


I have no idea what this passage is about, but hearing Joyce read it his ownself, lilting and rolling and gentle, gruff here, still musical, fleeting lulls in the wash of words and painting a something, a some place, a when that feels so exotic and homey, reassuring that a hundred years ago in that place these things we can't say exactly what actually did happen, but the ripples are there in the cadence and the rushing, roiling music of that river flowing by, putting my baby son finally to sleep, finally finally those hours of fussing and looking at all the things that can't possibly be real yet, those tones, those words, those soft repetitions of soothing, touching, eight minutes, thirty eight seconds, scratchy wire or cylinder recording, on the youtube and iphone by his head, the sound here through baby monitor as parents finally exhale and adult if only for a few minutes, close by the baby boy, Joyce close by as yet another uncle, friend, relationship, reading a child to sleep; are you going to sleep now, child? Not yet as we all do, and if only some day you can find something from another place a time a specifically evoked world, out there past the asteroids it's dark and cold, but your son, your girl, your love will sleep soft and well. And tomorrow, the world is still bright and full of bookcases and flowers and the sound of the coffee grinding and sweet comfort of the smile at mama's nipple, right there.
posted by bigbigdog at 10:45 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


On Bloomsday they read the sucker out loud. This seems Joyce's intent.

I'm pretty sure that on Bloomsday, they read Ulysses aloud.
posted by hippybear at 11:05 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yup, Bloomsday is a reading of Ulysses, and it's wonderful. Many years ago, I had sex in the balcony of Symphony Space while the Molly Bloom chapter was read. I don't know that I need anything else on the to-do list ever.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:37 PM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


artin Amis once described Finnegans Wake as a “700-page crossword clue, and the answer is 'the.' ”
posted by WhitenoisE at 2:19 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep, I going to FW now.
Ulysses's is so amazing it pretty much stopped me from reading.
After finishing it (meaning decoding and collecting reference books and listening)
I walked back to the library and asked myself "What is next?"
And it seemed there was nothing.
Took me a while to shake that feeling but here we go again.
Wheee!
posted by epjr at 4:40 AM on May 19, 2012


[M]artin Amis once described Finnegans Wake as a “700-page crossword clue, and the answer is 'the.' ”

It's unfortunate that we don't spell 'the' with an initial 'c,' but in certain fonts if you squint your eyes just right...

I walked back to the library and asked myself "What is next?" And it seemed there was nothing.

A good number of folks in my Finnegans Wake reading group (which I should admit I've barely attended over the last year but have been a part of for around ten years now -- we meet once a month and read, on average, maybe a page an a half; we probably have a couple more decades to go) have strong feelings about William Gaddis.
posted by nobody at 5:22 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


William Gaddis is amazing. The recent Dalkey Archive reissue of "The Recognitions" looks like a great edition.

And I would love a Finnegan's Wake reading group. But given that my reading group already accuses me of hazing-by-book choice, I may have a hard time convincing them that this is a good idea.

Many years ago, I had sex in the balcony of Symphony Space while the Molly Bloom chapter was read.

I blush as I write this, but damn, that's hot.
posted by thivaia at 9:22 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


William Gaddis is amazing. The recent Dalkey Archive reissue of "The Recognitions" looks like a great edition.

Yes to both of things. But if you come to Gaddis expecting Joyce, you're going to be disappointed. They're very different writers. If you're looking for an American Joyce, maybe James McCourt is your best bet?

A good number of folks in my Finnegans Wake reading group

As a member of, I'm pretty sure, the same group, let me point out that a group is maybe the best way to read Finnegans Wake: the text is basically designed to be read aloud in a group setting. Everybody approaches the text in a slightly different way: the resonances that I find in a word aren't quite what you find, and vice versa. I wouldn't claim Joyce as my favorite author, but there's something deeply pleasant in this sort of communal close-reading.
posted by with hidden noise at 10:13 AM on May 19, 2012


Interesting how Joyce's accent sounds quite countryish and not Dub at all. I'd have expected him to sound more like Old Mr. Brennan.
posted by kersplunk at 7:21 PM on May 19, 2012


I had a ball reading Finnegans Wake all the way through (with Roland McHugh's book of annotations) earlier this year. It's a damn funny book, and I found that reading it aloud was very helpful.

The audio of Joyce reading from the Wake has always struck me as awkward and staid. For a guy who was known for his tenor voice, Joyce doesn't sing very often. Considering how bad his eyesight was at the time, he was probably struggling to read the text.

"Allapolloosa! Up the slanger! Three cheers (and a heva heva heva!) for the name Dan Magraw!"
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 7:28 PM on May 19, 2012


Considering how bad his eyesight was at the time, he was probably struggling to read the text.

The story goes he recited the whole thing from memory.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:14 AM on May 20, 2012


"In August 1929, Joyce was in London to consult an ophthalmologist. While he was there, he met with his friend and admirer, C.K. Ogden, an authority on the influence of language upon thought and the founder of the Orthological Institute. Ogden persuaded Joyce to come to the Institute to record the last pages of the Anna Livia chapter. The text had been prepared for Joyce in half-inch-high letters, but the lighting in the studio was so poor that he still could not read it easily. The recording was done nevertheless, with Joyce prompted in a whisper throughout. To our knowledge this is the only recording of Joyce reading from the Wake."

Incidentally, I highly recommend The Restored Finnegans Wake. It's a fine companion piece to the original text, and it's finally available in hardcover from Penguin Classics.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 4:54 PM on May 20, 2012


–034.31+ Jespersen: An International Language 34: (of Volapük) 'the stem itself must always begin and end with a consonant. Accordingly Academy becomes kadem. R is avoided: fire is fil, and red led. As s is the sign of the plural, no word may end in s: rose is made into lol.

Isn't that just the old SNL sketch sbout the Decabet? http://snltranscripts.jt.org/75/75rdecabet.phtml
posted by wenestvedt at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2012


One of the first books published that tried to help elucidate the mysteries of Finnegans Wake was A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake co-authored by Joseph Campbell, (later to become famous for The Hero with 1000 Faces and The Power of Myth) and Henry Morton Robinson. The book is, thankfully, back in print, so if you're looking for some help in figuring out what's going on, this is a good starting place.

The authors also happened to notice a number of striking similarities between Finnegans Wake and Thornton Wilder's play The Skin of Our Teeth and subsequently wrote a magazine article, "The Skin of Whose Teeth?" practically accusing Wilder of plagiarism.

(Also I highly recommend Campbell's Mythic Worlds, Modern Words, a collection of his lectures on all the novels of James Joyce. Campbell lived in Paris in the 20s for a time, around when Ulysses was being published, and his encounter with Joyce's works greatly shaped his ideas about the functions of mythology and how modern art relates to them.)
posted by dnash at 12:59 PM on May 21, 2012


Campbell's Skeleton Key is invaluable in making narrative sense out of difficult passages. I was grateful for his help while slogging through the long, dense Earwicker's Pub episode (II-3).

But too often Campbell's facile Jungian analysis seems to miss the joke. Joyce used everything from Wagner to the Kabbalah as grist for the mill, and he parodied all of it mercilessly. As serious as Campbell (and mystical-schmistical readers in general) take the stuff, Joyce was sending up all that Golden Dawn numbnuttery in episodes like the Keystone Kops séance in Book III.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 2:24 AM on May 22, 2012


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