Books Magazine

Reading Diary: Finnegans Wake

By Jake Cole @notjustmovies
Reading Diary: Finnegans Wake
I had not planned on keeping a running journal of my reading of Finnegans Wake, James Joyce's final, most elaborate opus, the way I did for Ulysses. However, as I begin to struggle—and I mean struggle—with the Wake, I figure it might do me good to keep a record of my thoughts in some vain attempt to organize what little I've managed to eke out of it so far. It may well be that this journal comes to resemble Robert Falcon Scott's Arctic diary, but damn it I need to do all I can to even start with this book.
I imagine I'll write posts by chapter as I did for Ulysses, though my first entry might consist of the first four chapters as I don't know that I've understood enough of any one of them to have enough thoughts for individual articles. I am slowly, ever so slowly, getting into the rhythm of the novel, even laughing aloud at times, and I plan on getting the famous Skeleton Key companion to give me a bit of a boost in understanding the basics. Worry not, Joyceans: I am not so foolish as to try to "get" Finnegans Wake. But as with Ulysses, I need a more solid foundation before I can slip into Joyce's nocturnal, panlingual orgy of shifting foci and character names and his free-associative wordplay. Still, despite my occasional flashes of pure, seething rage at the impossible density, I am curiously drawn to each page, rereading passages not merely out of necessity but because I can sense the music in them calling even to a tone-deaf id-jeeot like me. As much as I grapple with each page and eventually move on clueless as ever, I have the vague notion that, should I ever make it out to the other end, I'll be a devoted fan. But I suppose we'll see, won't we?

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