Finnegans Wake


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Finnegans Wake

Avr 20, 2007, 1:13 pm

It's taken me over four months, but I am bound and determined to finish Finnegans Wake. In fact, I am ReJoyce-ing that I have fewer than 100 pages to go.

I had NO IDEA what FW was like before I started it. I've read Joyce's other books, and assumed that FW would be similar. I didn't know that it is its own creature entirely. I confess that I am reading it (yes, often out loud), but I cannot say that I am understanding it. I can comprehend many words, some phrases, even whole paragraphs now that I am nearing the end and it starts involving people (see,, but I really don't "get" it.

So, I'm curious -- who in this group has read it all the way through? Comments? Thoughts? How did you do it? And why?

Avr 20, 2007, 2:45 pm

You go, ggchickapee! You are further than I've gotten. I'm on my second attempt; and like you are determined to get through it this time. I've read Joyce's other books multiple times.

The catalyst for my current attempt was the re-printing of A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by Joseph Campbell et al. I really admire Joseph Campbell and was very inspired by a series of lecture by him on Joyce. I think I saw them on PBS or something. So I'm using the Skeleton Key to help me through it. Maybe you should check it out after you finish.

Avr 20, 2007, 9:20 pm

I saw that the Skeleton Key was available, but since it is really long and complicated in itself, it seemed even more daunting to read FW using the Key than to just read the darn thing. But I plan to check out the Key after I've had time to recover.

In the meantime, 68 pages to go. I keep reminding myself of the enduring words of William Hurt in The Big Chill, "Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you."

Avr 20, 2007, 10:20 pm

I second jveezer's "you go, ggchickapee!". I read FW as a graduate student forty years ago in a James Joyce seminar (a twentieth-century seminar was required, and that semester the Joyce one was it). I found that trying to understand FW made reading it much more difficult than just reading it and letting it wash over me, so to speak. I don't recall much of it now, but I do recall wonderful rushes of experience as I let the text take over. I don't think I'll ever go back and re-read it, but you never know.

Avr 23, 2007, 11:47 am

Thanks for the good wishes!

And I am THRILLED to say that just this morning I finished Finnegans Wake! Now I can "shun the Punman" -- I'm done!

Actually, I am a little concerned because I seemed to understand it better after about page 500. I hope this means it just hits an easier patch as it gets to the end. I hope it does NOT mean that I had learned enough FW language to comprehend more, because then I would be tempted to start over at the beginning!

Of course, that is what Joyce intended, right? I read that he wanted to publish it in a spiral binding without covers, so there would be no official beginning or end. As it is, it starts in the middle of a sentence. The final sentence in the book is the beginning of the sentence that starts the book.

Avr 24, 2007, 1:36 pm

Having now had a full day to recover, I've been mulling over my experience with FW.

It was definitely the most difficult book I have every read, and I don't think anyone should read it unless they are compulsive about finishing their book lists (me), or are REALLY into James Joyce. But I like the idea that there is a structure to it (even if I couldn't follow the structure). For me, it was like that famous Hieronymus Bosch triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights. I don't like it. I think it is weird. It takes to long to look at and there are so many things in it that I don't see or understand. But, I admire the mind and talent that created it.

That said, I am THRILLED to be done with it! I keep thinking of that joke about the 85-year-old widowed rabbi who goes into the confessional at St. Mary's and says to the priest, "Father, I just had sexual relations with a 24-year-old aerobics instructor." The priest says, "But Rabbi, why are you confessing? You aren't Catholic." The rabbi says, "Confessing? Are you kidding? I'm telling EVERYBODY." That's me -- I'm telling EVERYBODY. Of course, many people have never heard of Finnegans Wake, and most don't know that it is crazy.

7danconley Premier message
Mai 18, 2007, 11:20 pm

I read The Wake for the first time this winter. For the first half I followed the Skeleton Key religiously and also read Bishop's book (Joyce's Book of the Dark), but then I became annoyed with being weighted down and so I let myself get lost in Joyce's language the rest of the way. I'm going to take a (non-credit) class at the University of Chicago this summer that will cover Part Two section one. One of my twin boys is named Finnegan, so I felt obliged to give it a sporting try ... and I liked the book enough that I'd like to dig in a little deeper.

Fév 10, 2008, 3:50 pm

Wahoo!!!! After a year of determined reading I just finished the Wake! I used the Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake to help me through and prepared myself by going back and re-reading Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses. Now I can go on "vacation" and read something quick and easy...

In the buginning is the woid, in the muddle is the sound-dance and thereinofter you're in the unbewised again, vund vulsyvolsy. You talker dunsker's brogue men we our souls speech obstruct hostery. Silence in thought! Spreach! Wear anartful of outer nocense! -p378

Mar 28, 2008, 10:22 am

Well, having had Finnegan's Wake on my shelves for five years - a present from my wife on the birth of our eponymous son - now I am preparing to enter the fray. Over the years, I've read Ulysees, Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and thoroughly enjoyed them, but have never been able to get beyond the first few pages of Finnegan's Wake. However, a few months back I had the luck to pick up William York Tindall's A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake in a local used book shop, and just reading the Introduction fires my enthusiasm to take on FW seriously. "A Reader's Guide..." is a chapter by chapter summary and I plan to read it before tackling the relevant sections of the Wake. But, because it is not a key to the allusions, I decided I would postpone battle until I could order some additional heavy artillery, namely Roland McHugh's Annotations to Finnegans Wake, which should arrive in April. As mentioned by Robmaher42 on another thread, there's a vast, annotated Wiki Wake at which, I imagine, is similar to McHugh.

So I find myself in a sort of phoney war, itching to begin my reading of the book I've been wanting to get to grips with now for many years. If I come across any useful tips along the way, I may post them here, and I would be grateful for further comments from others. Otherwise, I'll have more to say when I finish the book - some time next decade...?

Juil 23, 2008, 10:17 pm

i read the whole thing somewhere around the beginning of this year or the end of last year...terrible book on every level...and i've been known to like books that don't make any wasn't even good on an aesthetic just sounded stupid...i found it to be not much more than a lump of unfunny puns strung together...i know others have gotten more out of it than i have, and the majority of whatever was going on was over my head, but that doesn't make it a good book...

Jan 21, 2021, 11:06 am

I wish I had thought of referencing this group long ago. I have owned FW and Ulysses since high school, Christmas presents from my parents, and always dreaming that I am a scholar I have made a few try's at reading them. I just purchased a copy Tindall's Guide to FW and started with the introduction. Which left me wondering if there was a guide to reading Tindall? But reading thru the comments above I think I should just keep reading both books and hope some how it comes to make sense.

Jan 21, 2021, 1:18 pm

>11 thosgpetri: I don't know Tindall but I liked reading Joyce with Ulysses Annotated adn with A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake...I'm also rereading the Wake along with the somewhat dormant FB group Blotty Words, one page a week.

Jan 23, 2021, 12:24 pm

>11 thosgpetri:
This might (or not) help for the Wake

For Ulysses this is an amazing resource. Unfortunately Frank died suddenly in 2017 but the material that is there is fabulous.