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Surviving Finnegan

May 6, 2010

“And even if Humpty shell fall frumpty times as awkward again in the beardsboosoloom of all our grand remonstrancers there’ll be iggs for the brekkers come to mournhim, sunny side up with care.”

Yesterday was one of the happiest moments of my life, when Joseph Campbell’s A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake arrived on my doorstep. And not a moment too soon. Ten pages into FW, I’m a little confused….but here’s the kicker….not completely turned off to it. I can’t explain it. After the lethargic plot of Kim, I’m so grateful to not have to think too much and try too hard to keep up with a plot that just reading words, even nonsense words, is somewhat of a relief.

I’ve read several blogs about FW over the past few days, all with varying degrees of advice for how to read the Wake. The most interesting suggestion I came across was to read the book out loud. The writer says that since Joyce was Irish, and the Irish tradition of storytelling is oral (think of an Irish pub and all the songs!), the book is meant to be read out loud, and if you do this, it will make more sense. And scarily, he’s right. When I started to sound out some of the words I couldn’t read, it was then that the syllables turned into something lucid.

Campbell’s book so far is very interesting. I’ve realized there’s not going to be much in terms of a plot with FW, but there seems to be so much under the surface that I don’t want to miss anything good. Kind of like an archaeological dig. I like riddles and hidden things in literature so this is a bit fascinating to me. The Key is actually very easy to read. Hopefully this open-mindedness will continue.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 14, 2010 9:42 pm

    …the book is meant to be read out loud…

    Not a bad idea, considering that much of Finnegans Wake was dictated by Joyce, rather than written. His eyesight was so poor towards the end of his life that he could no longer write himself. Interestingly enough, the one who took his dictation was the famous writer Samuel Beckett.

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