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Thoughts about Finnegans Wake

 
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peter
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2021 8:33 am    Post subject: Thoughts about Finnegans Wake Reply with quote

The first chapter, which I read last night, seemed to be about Finnegan's death and the subsequent wake in which copious quantities of booze were consumed, and the effects of which came out in the narrative.

It was difficult to read at first (Joyce's attempt to shake off the uncommitted reader?), but then seemed to fall into a rhythm that was strangely relaxing and at times seemed to be 'metered' almost in the way of poetry rather than prose. I had read a certain amount of background commentary on the book rather than just 'diving in' (as it were), but in truth this did not seem to be very helpful. Not much of it stayed with me as I entered the work, and I had pretty much decided to just get in there and see what all of the fuss was about. This seems to me to have been a useful approach, and my familiarity with the way that Cornish people speak (not the same, but analogous in the way they elide words together and use difficult constructions of words than is seen in English proper) seemed to help me in making sense of what on the surface might seem like unintelligible prose. Perhaps (and I readily concede this as a possibility) I was (or more correctly my brain was) attempting to introduce sense where there either was none, or where Joyce intended some completely different meaning - but never the less it seemed to be working for while no obvious 'story' was emerging from it, there did seem to be a kind of narrative running through it that I was able to glimpse, chimera like, behind the prose.

The puns and plays on words, some more obvious than others, were fun to grasp when you spotted them and I can see why commentators have said that Joyce was deliberately writing for a more committed type of reader - one that was prepared to put in the work of teasing out the meaning by hours of study and contemplation. I can fully see how this riddle of a book could become an obsession, almost a lifetime's work in its analysis, and while I don't see myself becoming one of those Wake students who pour over every word and sentence {Joyce himself said that there wasn't a single syllable in the book that was superfluous), I'm certainly going to go back for Round 2, and am very much looking forward to doing so.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2021 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joyce himself said that people would argue about this book for 1,000 years. Very Happy And indeed, more words have been written on it than Joyce himself wrote in his entire career.

I personally found it a massive slog, and have never made it through more than once. I've long suspected it was a huge piss-take by the author.

Enjoy. Wink

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2021 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read chapter 2 the night before last. Haven't posted on it because (to be frank), although much less dense than chapter 1, it made less sense. It seemed to be about the introduction of Earwicker (HCE), his 'misdemeanour', and then about a group of guys going on a pub-crawl. It was almost as if in the loosening of the text, the lesser usage of regional dialect and the occasional introduction of a sentence of coherent prose, something was lost.

Also I think, there seemed to be a movement away from the general overarching introduction of the first chapter, in which fun was to be had teasing out some of the clues as to what was being alluded to (and the grandness and scope of the vision thereof), toward getting into the gritty detail of the story (if it can be called that). I found this less satisfying, and maybe my mood was simply not right for it that day, but I couldn't slip into the almost meditation like state of letting the prose run over me that I had achieved in the reading of chapter 1.

Worth saying at this point that I listened to the Terrence McKenna lecture on the book on YouTube which was actually quite helpful in providing a starting point for the exploration of the work. He refers to a book which he considers an indispensable guide, which I may spring for if I progress down the road much further (alas I can't remember of the top of my head what it was), but also I have learned (perhaps from McKenna, perhaps somewhere else - I forget), about the word play of the title. The book is about cycles; the cycles of the universe, the historical cycles of Vico, the cycles of life, death and life again and of course the work famously begins mid sentence, completing the sentence with which the work ends, implying that it can be read around and around, and matters not where you start or finish. But (and here's what I learned) the word play of the title tells us this. Finnegan. Fin - french for end; egan - again. End; again. End. Again. End. Again.......

This is the sort of little stuff that will please me, and I love it that McKenna says that the work is so obscure that despite what other people have written about it, it really is not hard to make original discoveries, to ferret out things that have not been spotted or noted since the day Joyce pur them in there, to be the first one to make a connection that only Joyce has made before. In respect of the work being Joyce's piss take - yes, I think it could well be so. But Joyce was not (by all accounts) a malicious man. The work can be both piss take and meaningful simultaneously. McKenna says that much of what you take away from the work will be dependent upon what you yourself bring to the party. By his account, the book does repay the effort put into it, and serious students of the work don't seem to feel that they are wasting their time. The author himself said that the work had not a single wasted syllable in it, and that if the universe were to end tomorrow, the idea was that armed with no more than Finnegan's Wake, a new Creator God could rebuild it from scratch (a Talmudic idea in the extreme notes McKenna). So piss take, yes - but piss take with purpose perhaps?

(Pragmatic individual that Mrs P is, on watching the lecture she immediately came to the piss take conclusion herself and left it there, so you are in good company there Av. Wink )
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Political genius relies upon extracting success even from the people's ruin. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

....and the glory of the world becomes less than it was....
'Have we not served you well'
'Of course - you know you have.'
'Then let it end.'

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2021 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clearly a lady of discernment. Wink

peter wrote:
But (and here's what I learned) the word play of the title tells us this. Finnegan. Fin - french for end; egan - again. End; again. End. Again. End. Again.......


Ah, wait until you get to the end... Very Happy

--A
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2021 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing Wouldn't hold your breath Av!
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Political genius relies upon extracting success even from the people's ruin. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

....and the glory of the world becomes less than it was....
'Have we not served you well'
'Of course - you know you have.'
'Then let it end.'

We are the Bloodguard
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2021 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL, sorry, I missed the bit in the middle where you revealed you are already familiar with the ending.

Yes, the book is a Moebius strip. It just goes round and round.

And the purpose of the piss-take is, I suspect, to be a piss-take. To give all those high and mighty literary scholars something to argue about forever, going round and round like the book. Very Happy

Read "Dubliners" or "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (a title which inspired a long running series of poems for me) instead. Very Happy

--A
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2021 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Read "Portrait..." as a teen-ager Av, and (I'm afraid to say) struggled with it. I was only (hmm) thirteen or fourteen and I think it was simply not within my capabilities at the time. I dare say now I would receive it somewhat differently.

I'm going to continue with the wake out of bloody-mindesness, but slowly and in my time rather than Joyce's. That'll show him!

Wink
_________________
Political genius relies upon extracting success even from the people's ruin. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

....and the glory of the world becomes less than it was....
'Have we not served you well'
'Of course - you know you have.'
'Then let it end.'

We are the Bloodguard
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