Thursday, February 9, 2012

Finnegans Wake, Page 1 [3]

I've tried to read Finnegans Wake probably half a dozen times. I'm a fan of James Joyce. I've read his other major works many times (Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses), but his last novel is basically impossible to read with anything close to comprehension. At least the first or second or third time through. Alas, it's something I have to do, and since I really need motivation to post more regularly, I figured I would read FW one page at a time on this blog.

Like this:

So that's page one, which is actually page 3 of the Penguin Books edition I'm reading from, if you want to follow along. In fact it's kind of necessary to look at the text in order to pick up on all of the puns and portmanteaus (you should be able to see the first page here). If you're not familiar with FW, and you thought I was just saying gibberish, that's because FW is written in gibberish. An incredibly well crafted and clever multilingual gibberish. Probably the most meaningful gibberish anyone's ever written. And did I mention this book is 625 pages long? It's going to take me a long time to do this.

I was also tempted to look up commentary on every page and add annotations as I go along. But I think that would be a mistake, because one of my issues with this book has been the sense of being overwhelmed with secondary material. So I'm going to resist that temptation and just read the thing on its own terms. No commentary except my own observations.

But that doesn't mean I wouldn't welcome commentary from readers of my blog. If anyone wants to add annotations in the comments, based on their own reading or secondary sources or Wikipedia or whatever, that would be great.

The only thing I'll say about page one is that it's hard to read the 100 letter word near the beginning of the third paragraph. From what I remember (I did do a fair bit of research during the first few attempted readings) there are several of these long words in the novel, and they're supposed to represent a thunderbolt or something.

Also, I'm not sure what voice I'm going for. When I read Dr Seuss to my daughter I usually end up slipping into an Anthony Hopkins impression, unless it's The Cat in the Hat. Then I do Martin Short. For this first page I can hear a bit of Hopkins with maybe a week Irish accent here and there. I'm sure it will change along the way.


TheUnderToad said...

#1. Are. You. Serious.
#2. Who reads Ulysses multiple times, and then admits it.
#3. Question marks omitted for emphasis.

Sub-sub-librarian said...

Oh shoot. Am I not supposed to mention that I’ve read Ulysses in polite company? Color me oblivious. And to think of all the times I’ve asked someone at a dinner party questions like [spoiler] “Can you believe Molly Bloom and Blazes Boylan are having a thing?” or “How about that Stephen Dedalus? He can be such an ass sometimes,” or “If you had to cast Leopold Bloom, who would you pick? I would go with Steve Coogan. Now hear me out...” I would just get blank stares, but now I know they were actually judging me. Embarrassing. [That last word should be read in an extended falsetto, in the same way Tobias Funke would say “douche chill”.]