Friday, March 21, 2014

Seven pleasures of Finnegans Wake

As you may know from my recent post I have stumbled upon the wordlery wonderlandabus known as Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce. I have no clear idea yet what really differentiates it from a long screed scribbled in pencil by a deranged homeless person, but to my surprise I am sort of reading it a little, if, that is, we can stretch the concept of what reading is to include occasionally looking a chunks of printed material in a confused and wondering manner. I think I might really even like it. And as a person who has now "read" parts of dozens upon dozens of sentences in Finnegans Wake I am eager to share with you:

The Seven Virtues of Finnegans Wake


Sevenus virtuetides rollinguponus lolly and backus all the tithes fruiting forward

1. My library copy, dating from the sixties, is aged, but strangely fresh, as if many people checked it out but no one has ever read it. Someone did self importantly make little pencil checks and brackets along side the text, but abandoned the project at page nine.

2. It curiously and simultaneously makes me feel like I'm in way over my head with genius and yet that I could easily write like this too. Like, if I were at a conference with the most advanced physicists in the world and had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, but also had this weird sense for it and felt it was natural to me. If I thus spoke flowingly about these super advanced physics all but about 200 people would think I was speaking very amazing advanced physics. The 200 people though who knew the deep truths about these advanced physics though would think I was being a complete fool, which would be fair enough.

3. I constantly muse on the idea of giving up any idea of audience on my blog, any sense of service to a public. Yes, I imagine continuing to write publicly, but entirely devoted to my own sphere of imagination, writing like I'm in an isolation tank, seeking visions evoked by pure sensory deprivation. Finneagans Wake seems to whisper to me "Come, join me in this endeavor." Well, except it says it more like "Unifluctuous, regard the follwarple fabulists, dallyland the lownely upon."

4. Forty-five minutes with Finnegans Wake will make carefully reading Faulkner seem like one is skimming an article in People Magazine.

5. I love bringing up that I am haplessly reading minute bits of Finnegans Wake to my co-workers. They surprise me by looking all mercurial and mysterious and knowing. They give me the strange feeling that they have all read this book, but found it a tad challenging, and so remember it in an aching bittersweetness.

6. I like that none of the pages are dogeared. This may sound like a repeat of virtue number one, but now that it has been established that all my co-workers have read and practically memorized Finnegans Wake I am through with the "No one reads Finnegans Wake" jokes and find all the pristineness to be a symptom of the mystical reverence each borrower of this book holds for it. I myself have smeared no homemade aioli on my copy, unlike all the other thousands of library books I check out.

7.  If one reads a paragraph of Finnegans Wake aloud the comprehension rate goes from two percent to eight percent. If you read that paragraph 10 times the comprehension rate goes from eight percent to 37 percent. I have not ventured beyond this point, but the deep woods look like they go just about forever from there.


  1. Google+ brought me here, apparently so I could find the only other person who has read Finnigans Wake who is not doing a Phd dissertation on it. My take on FW is here:

    May I add a link to your post on mine? I'll go ahead and add it, and if you don't like that, come by and tell me to take it down.

    I'm glad I found your blog! Please stop by Rose City Reader when you get a chance.

  2. Your adding a link to me is only a nice honor, and certainly more than acceptable. I read your post and looked at your interesting blog and there is a major difference here in that you actually read Finnegans Wake, in its entirety, which is a shocking accomplishment that not many besides you, doctoral students, and all my co-workers have done! I just sort of poked Finnegans Wake with a long stick and figured what sorts of amusing blog posts I could write about it before moving on to an eleventh reread of Winnie the Pooh.


If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

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