Harry Burrell wrote (in Narrative Design in Finnegans Wake; The Wake Lock Pickled in 1996; University Press of Florida) ---- (Page 2) It is safe to say that most people consider the novel unreadable, and yet a few persist in trying to discover a solution. Understanding some of the work's idiosyncrasies will help the unscrambling. The first frustration to overcome is the neologism. In his effort to reorganize the English language, Joyce invented thousands of new words, almost all of which are based on the same etymological principles as standard English. It is well known that he read etymological dictionaries for pleasure; his addiction to word derivation resulted in word synthesis. His artifices have been compared to Lewis Carroll's portmanteau words, which carry a briefcase full of meanings. Joyce's usage is slightly different, however. First of all, the sheer volume of them presents an overwhelming assault on the reader's comprehension. To pause to decipher an occasional word is stimulating, but to be confronted with page after page with no clue as to what is intended is exhausting. The neologisms are not frivolous or merely stuck in as decoration. They all have meaning that is directly connected with the subject matter. The problem, of course, is to discern the topic of discussion, and that is what this book sets out to explain. An example will illustrate the rewards of an effort to unravel the enigmas. "Painapple" is obviously not exactly a pineapple although its rough exterior could be imagined to cause pain if rubbed hard on the skin. As used at 167.15 it is compared to a bomb, so it might be considered a hand grenade, for which “pineapple” is a slang equivalent. But at 246.28-29, we find “the devil took our hindmost, gegifting her with his painapple,” and here we can recognize that it is the apple with which the Serpent tempted the woman. In other words, sex. The gift resulted in the pain of God's curses and expulsion from Eden. But also, as the first usage reminds us, there is the pain of death that resulted from God's refusing access to the Tree of Life. Most of the problem words involve a far more complicated deciphering. There is a process of Wakean logic, which consists of a string of associations mirroring actual brain activity. Without intending a technical discussion, one can say that memory requires neuron connections which the mind records as association of ideas. Improper or false connections are normally discarded by an acculturated screening process so that we usually strive for a logical mental image which projects the "real world." When "unreal" associations remain, they may be labeled insane, creative, or artistic. Somewhere in this latter category the language of Finnegans Wake allows formation of an image which may be dream-like and unscreened by logic processes. Often the associations are only klang words -- that is, words which when pronounced sound similar but whose meanings are logically unrelated. Common figures of speech involve simple one-step associations, but the Wakean figures require successive associations through several steps, each suggesting that which follows. An example of this is "The only man was ever known could eat the crushts of lobsters"(624.35-36). This seems like a straightforward sentence except for "crushts," which if it means that crusts are lobster shells does not express a likely behavior of the "man." Now whenever eating or food is mentioned in the Wake, it is a reference to the forbidden fruit; and as will be shown in Chapter 5, a lobster is equated to an earwig, which in turn represents the biblical Serpent. The implication is that the Serpent "crushed" the fruit, despoiled it by having sex with the woman before the first man Adam did, as some old myths claim. Furthermore, eating crushed fruit seems somehow sinful and therefore results in the Fall. If all this sounds unnecessarily complicated and oblique at this point, it will become clearer as this book develops. To borrow a metaphor from the computer trade, the difficulty you experience in attempting to understand Finnegans Wake arises from the conventional programming of your brain. It is necessary to reprogram it with Joycean software. A word of caution must be offered regarding neologisms: Joyce's vocabulary was so extensive that what often appear to be invented words are actually legitimate, although frequently they are rare or obsolete ones. Therefore unfamiliar words should advisedly be checked in an unabridged dictionary. For example, at 572.24, the phrase "practising for unnatural coits" would suggest that "coits" means "coitus," but it is actually a dialect variation of "coat" and refers to the coats God made for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3.21). Another example is "awn" (154.05), which only a zoologist would know refers to a barbed appendage to a snake’s penis. A second obstacle to comprehension is the ubiquitous use of foreign words. They are usually chosen because they sound as though they might be neologisms or merely English. An example is "Malmarriedad he was reversogassed by the frisque of her frasques and her prytty pyrrhique"(20.31-32). This clause uses the French terms ,frisque, revergasse, and pyrriche (all referring to dances); and frasques, which means "prank" or "trick." An additional reference is to Pyrrha of Greek myth, who, with her husband Deucalion, repopulated the world after the flood (thus a parallel to Noah and his wife). With these clues we can understand the sentence to imply that although "dad'' (Adam, our first forefather) had an unfortunate marriage to Eve, she reversed his discontent by her pranks and dances, and together they populated the world. This example also illustrates the necessity of Roland McHugh’s Annotations, which translates many of the foreign expressions found in the Wake. A third frustration is the lack of quotation marks. Often we can tell that someone is speaking by the indented paragraph beginning with a dash, but only occasionally is the speaker identified. Sometimes the speech may be interrupted by a second speaker in the middle of a paragraph with no punctuation so indicating, as in the middle of ALP's letter at 616.35 (see Chapter 8). At other times there is not even a dash as in Book I, Chapter 7, where Shem and Shaun and sometimes Joyce, the author, speak.
(Page 5) With all these difficulties why should anyone be attracted to Finnegans Wake? Why do some of us spend a lifetime rereading, puzzling, and writing about it? Why has it occupied academics and scholars already for fifty years, and continues to do so, as Joyce predicted it would? The answer has to be that it is esthetically satisfying as no other form of literature has ever been. It is perhaps the epitome of twentieth-century artistic endeavor in all the fields of the arts. The key word of all twentieth-century art is ambiguity; Picasso, Kandinsky and a hundred other painters have changed the way we look at the world by making us wonder about, and pay attention to, what we are looking at. Brancusi, Caro, Cornell, and their contemporaries have replaced the imitation of nature in sculpture by invention of previously unconceived forms and juxtapositions. Stravinsky, Poulenc, and all those Americans who created jazz have introduced new pleasure into the way we hear sound. The one element common to all these art forms is uncertainty; an obfuscation of sense messages which engages our minds. No one will argue that Finnegans Wake is not ambiguous. It passes the twentieth-century esthetic test because it not only intrigues a serious reader but continues to delight and refresh with each rereading: never the same, always new, eternally seductive.
(Page 6) Joyce created thousands of opportunities for esthetically satisfying epiphanies in the Wake. The neologisms, misdirections, puns, puzzles and riddles, the obscurity of the characters, and apparent lack of cohesion and plot all set us up to search for known associations which we call meaning. The fact that they are deliberately obscure and ambiguous makes them all the more challenging and thus the more satisfying when solved. There is a legitimate question of whether all of the obscenity and blasphemy is necessary and productive. Modern readers can probably no longer be shocked, but the censorship and rejection Ulysses received in the 1920s and 1930s may have made Joyce cautious as well as defiant. We do not find the forbidden English four-letter words (with a single exception) in Finnegans Wake, but practically every foreign equivalent -- as well as multitudinous puns and innuendos, and covert sexual descriptions -- is there. It is heterosexual and blasphemous because both support the theology! The problem of enjoying Finnegans Wake arises because we do not have access to Joyce's mind from which to select his intended associations. He used the book as a storage disc for all the bytes of information he accumulated over a lifetime. Previous readers have slowly revealed a wealth of data and recorded it in the literature. McHugh’s Annotations assembles a software windows to enter the Wake computer. The password is Bible.
Derek Attridge wrote ([Reading Joyce; pp. 1-30] in The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce edited by Derek Attridge in 1990; Cambridge University Press) ---- (Page 11) There is no need to begin Finnegans Wake at the beginning; let us imagine that our group of readers decides to start with a passage which seems less crammed with multiple meanings than most, and that one member volunteers to read it aloud:
We are now diffusing among our lovers of this sequence (to you! to you!) the dewfolded song of the naughtingels (Alys! Alysaloe!) from their sheltered positions, in rosescenery haydyng, on the heather side of waldalure, Mount Saint John's, Jinnyland, whither our allies winged by duskfoil from Mooreparque, swift sanctuary seeking, after Sunsink gang (Oiboe! Hitherzither! Almost dotty! I must dash!) to pour their peace in partial (floflo floreflorence), sweetishsad lightandgayle, twittwin twosingwoolow. Let everie sound of a pitch keep still in resonance, jemcrow, jackdaw, prime and secund with their terce that whoe betwides them, now full theorbe, now dulcifair, and when we press of pedal (sof!) pick out and vowelise your name. (FW 359.31 -360.06)
The response is a mixture of frowns at the stretches of apparent nonsense and chuckles as gleams of sense - however absurd - shine through. Some sort of purchase on the passage is obtained when the group quickly agrees that there is a syntactic scaffolding which, though interrupted by parentheses and elaborations, is quite firm, presenting a speaker who uses the first person plural to make a statement and to issue a command to a hearer or hearers addressed in the second person: We are now diffusing . . . the . . . song of the naughtingels . . . from their sheltered positions . . . whither our allies winged . . . to pour their peace . . . Let everie sound of a pitch keep still . . . and when we press of pedal pick out and vowelise your name. 'Syntactic stability is characteristic of the Wake, and it often helps in the unpacking of a passage to trace the bare trellis on which the luxuriant verbiage is hung. The second aspect of the passage on which members of the group quickly begin commenting is the clustering of related terms, some of which are half-concealed in puns and portmanteau words. The most obvious of these clusters concerns birds: everybody hears 'naughtingels' as 'nightingales', and one person who has listened without looking at the text finds the same word in 'lightandgayle'. (When someone else is reading from the Wake, it is often helpful to put the book down, as the visual configurations can mask aural echoes.) With this lead to follow, one member of the group who speaks some Italian realizes that the strange word 'twosingwoolow' sounds rather like a badly-pronounced 'usignolo', which translates into yet another nightingale. No decoding is necessary to add to the cluster the terms 'winged', 'swift', 'sanctuary' (as in 'bird sanctuary'), 'crow', and 'jackdaw'; and someone suggests that 'Hitherzither' could be a description of the hither-and-thither movement of bird flight, perhaps that of the swift. But the group agrees that the main emphasis is on the sounds which birds make, and that a number of the repetitive phrases are reminiscent of conventional representations of birdcalls: 'to you! to you!' echoes 'to whit! to whoo!' (suggesting the additional presence of an owl, another nightbird to join the nightingales), and 'twittwin' suggests a twittering call. Other phrases seem built on similar models: 'Alys! Alysaloe!', 'floflo floreflorence'. Someone points out that the passage contains both 'song' and, buried in 'twosingwoolow', 'sing', while nightingales' song is often said to 'pour'. The syntactic framework is now taking on a body of sense, though that sense is beginning to overflow the rather limited possibilities provided by sequential English grammar. And each time a member of the group finds incomprehensibility suddenly yielding to meaning, or incongruity suddenly revealing a pattern, the discovery seems at once illuminating and ridiculous, satisfying and hilarious. After a pause, someone notices that 'Florence' leads to another 'Nightingale', and this is picked up by someone else who spots a reference to the famous nineteenth-century soprano Jenny Lind (here apparently transformed into a place, 'Jinnyland'), known in Britain as 'the Swedish Nightingale' (which has become 'sweetishsad lightandgayle'). The next suggestion, by a member with an interest in mythology, produces a discussion but no agreement: is 'terce' a reference to Tereus' rape of Philomela, who was subsequently metamorphosed into a nightingale? The cluster of birdsong references is rapidly expanding, it would seem: to human song, to women, perhaps to physical desire. Are the 'lovers' who are being addressed bird-lovers, lovers of opera and other human song, or lovers in the sexual sense? Again there is no consensus, since all these interpretations can be defended with reference to the passage - yet there is no way of holding the various possibilities together in an organic whole. No subtle tone of voice, no imagined human situation, could make all these meanings valid at the same time: Finnegans Wake explodes the belief that language, to be meaningful, must be subservient to a singleness of intention and subjectivity. (So too, we may remember, does 'Eveline'.) Once the group is on the track of human song a new cluster of terms emerges. One member realizes that the initially puzzling 'rosescenery haydyng' introduces two of the most prolific of opera composers. Rossini and Haydn; another suggests that 'twosingwoolow' contains version of 'sing willow', a refrain associated with songs of lover's grief (she cites Desdemona's 'Willow Song' in Othello and - reverting briefly to birds - Ko-Ko's song about a suicidal tom-tit in The Mikado); and third, who is familiar with the traditions of the Western church, recognizes 'prime' and 'terce' as the names of the first two offices sung each day. He adds that 'vowelise' is close to 'vocalise', which as an English verb can mean to 'sing' and as a French noun is a singing exercise. As the discussion proceeds, human song broadens out to music and sound more generally: 'pitch' and 'resonance' obvious belong to this cluster, and someone who has picked up the dictionary informs the group that 'sequence' can mean 'a composition said or sung in the Western Church' as well as a melodic repetition, and that 'partials' are upper harmonics. Soon the group is picking out the instruments of a somewhat exotic orchestra in the passage too: a gong in 'gang', an oboe in 'Oiboe!', a zither in 'Hitherzither', a theorbo (a kind of lute) in 'theorbe', a dulcimer in 'dulcifair', and, by implication, a piano in 'pedal (sof!)'. And a different kind of organized sound produced by humans emerges from 'Almost dotty! I must dash!': Morse Code. The proposal is made that the topic of sexuality should be followed up, to see if it also leads to a set of connected meanings. Several members comment together that 'naughtingels' contains not only 'nightingales' but also 'naughty girls' (or 'gels', if we imagine a certain kind of upper-class English accent), and soon other suggestions are forthcoming: 'waldalure' conceals 'allure' (and 'lure', perhaps, if sexual temptation is in the air) and 'twosingwoolow' contains 'woo'. Girls' names are a likely quarry for connotations of glamour and desirability, and the group may well pause on 'Alys! Alysaloe!,' which, backed up by 'allies', implies the presence of an Alice. Someone recalls that the author of 'Alice in Wonderland' (the originator of the term 'portmanteau word') liked to entertain and photograph little girls, and an enthusiast of the theatre tells the group about a 1930s stage beauty called Alice Delysio and a French revue artiste named Gaby Delys. At this point, a sceptical participant objects that Joyce could not possibly have put all these meanings into the text, and two answers are forthcoming: one is that we cannot know for certain in any specific case that he did not, and the other is that even if we could, it need not make any difference, since Joyce has deliberately created a text with the power to generate more meanings than he had in mind.
Robert Anton Wilson wrote (in Coincidance in 1991; New Falcon Publications, Scottsdale, Arizona) ---- (Page 240) On page 313, Ш is "blown to Adams," dragging us back to Genesis a but foreshadowing nuclear war. On page 333, this comes back in the phrase "split an atam" (which again evoked Atum creating the universe by masturbating). On page 339, somebody speaks in "lipponene longuedge," which can only be Nipponese language, to say "Sehyoh narar, pokehole sann." If this is Japanese, it says "Sayanara, Pookah-sann" (Farewell, honorable Pookah) the Pookah being an ancient Celtic rabbit-god which, oddly, became Puck in Shakespeare. If one looks at the mixed Yiddish and Norse roots, of course, this sentence is also saying, "See the hunchbacked fool," which is also appropriate to the context in which a hunch backed sailor is in conflict with a greedy tailor, and I think the s-t transformation of sailor to tailor suggests Einstein's s-t (space-time) equations. On page 349 we have "the charge of the light barricade" combining Buckley's adventures in Crimean War (the charge of the light brigade, which involved Brown and Nolan, remember?) with Einstein's e = mc2 and the acceleration of particles in a cyclotron. The sentence just before this on page 349 contains "guranium" which is a flower, the geranium, with a heavy dose of uranium, the trigger of the atomic bomb. All of this is explicable on the basis of Joyce's study of what physicists were talking about before he finished his book in 1939, although the Japanese reference is distinctly spooky. What the Rationalist will find most annoying, however, is the reference, within this long atomic chapter, on page 315, to "nogeysokey." I don't know what that can mean except Nagasaki. . .
C. George Sandulescu wrote (in The Language of the Devil in 1987; Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross) ---- (Page 14) What you cannot tell the story of is not a novel. Within the frame of this only apparently negative definition, Ulysses is a novel. Finnegans Wake is not. Or not yet. The suggestion has already been made by James Atherton and Clive Hart that it is a universe simulacrum. I endorse that point strongly with the proviso that the statement excludes the possibility of it being at the same time and simultaneously a novel. A replica of the moon such as the one dished out symbolically by spacemen, Russian and American alike, is not the moon of course, but it is not the concept or the picture of the moon either. It is more than that. It is an abstraction and its opposite -- hence a 'concretion' -- at the same time. So with Finnegans Wake: it has the status of a replica of a possible world containable in 628 pages, more or less in much the same way in which the replica of the moon is 'containable' in a spaceman's palm. The palm is a pragmatic factor: held in the palm of his own hand it means 'I have been there!'. Held in his hand by any of the U.S. or Russian presidents it only means (or meant) 'He has been there' or, and, more precisely, 'I know that he has been there', by metonymy, that man of ours has been there. I am positing here the hypothesis that Joyce was such a spaceman. This point has been made, I repeat, twenty years ago by James Atherton, and then taken up a little later by Clive Hart. What I am concerned with here is to show the necessary inferences from a statement which has largely been made as a figure of speech and as a critic's metaphor, but the idea has never been properly developed to include the consequences.
(Page 16) In reading Finnegans Wake it is another reality that we are contemplating, not a piece of paper. Not unlike perhaps what Beckett mirrors at second remove in Imagination Dead Imagine. In like fashion, what is written about it is by no means 'secondary', but rather something similar to the way an archaeologist or even a mineralogist is looking at and then describing his objects of study: they may be secondary in terms of the supremely primary nature of the reality that he is all the time dealing with, but they can never be said to be secondary in relation to a reality which is in its turn taken for 'secondary'. Such as the novel as a form of art. In that sense, and in that sense only, I do not take Finnegans Wake to be a novel at all. Novels order things for us far too much. The mature Joyce never stoops to conquer that way. It is quite possible that Finnegans Wake was intended by its author to be eligible as an outstanding monument on the basis of a criterion which is completely different from the one applied to the Bible or to Shakespeare. Finnegans Wake claims to be the so far missing member of a Trinity by changing the very nature of the reality it is supposed to be dealing with and, instead, becoming that reality itself. It is conceivable that in a process of most intensely holding the mirror up to nature, the lesser object vanishes. This is just another way of interpreting the phrase 'the word made mountain' or 'the word made flesh'. That latter phrase was the Christian claim that provided the starting point for this whole argument. It is a bold suggestion, a Luciferic suggestion, but I am inclined to think that Joyce, steeped as he was in his Sin of Pride, was simply making a similar claim: the only thing was that he was substantiating it differently. It was his idiosyncratic trans-substantiation that expressly required complete and total silence.
Geert Lernout wrote ([Joyce or Lacan; pp. 195-203] in James Joyce; The Augmented Ninth edited by Bernard Benstock in 1988; Syracuse University Press) ---- (Page 201) My central concern in these remarks has been one of authority and power, not the abstract and subjectless power of Foucault or the nouveaux philosophes, but the concrete power we are confronted with, when we read, for example, Lacan on Joyce. Do we accept a statement on Joyce, on literature, language, or life because of the person who utters it or because it conforms to the facts? To be more specific, about Finnegans Wake for instance, which has become a regular bible in some Lacanian circles (like the Ecrits themselves, which should have been published in English under the title Scriptures), if it is true Lacanians claim that every word in the Wake can mean anything at all, how is it that when they quote from the text, it only means one thing? The strange thing is that Finnegans Wake is lisible, it can be read: if the claim made by Lacanians were true, every reader would drown in the sea of floating signifiers even before reaching the bottom of page three. I hope you will excuse a temporary relapse into narcissism when I add an autobiographical note. When I was an undergraduate, my teachers were Lacanians and Derrideans. I started to read the Wake after I had read Ecrits and De la grammatologie, and, to use Morris Beja's description of' Joyce's novels as tunnels, every time I came out of the tunnel, I found Lacan and Derrida. But at some point, and rather late I must admit, I began to get second thoughts: wasn't I supposed to find James Joyce at the end of the tunnel? Or, for that matter, why not Geert Lernout? I tried it and, lo and behold, I discovered what every Joycean must have found at some point: that Finnegans Wake was about me. When I couldn't sell that theory to other people, I started to rethink Lacan and Derrida. What I discovered was that you can belong to only one primal horde and that I preferred Joyce's. My first experiences with this horde, these last few days at the Joyce Symposium, have confirmed my choice. As primal hordes go, this must be one of the most open and democratic. I would like to conclude by quoting from the end of Freud's Die Zukunft einer lllusion, which seems particularly appropriate in a discussion of Lacan's romantic and anti-rationalist theory: "No, our science is no illusion. But it could be an illusion to believe that we could find elsewhere what this science cannot give us."
Geert Lernout also wrote (in The French Joyce in 1990; The University of Michigan Press) ---- (Page 196) But the translations only intensify a problem that is not peculiar to the French interpretation of Joyce and that holds equally well for Joyce criticism in general. Even relatively short and simple texts such as Dubliners have given rise to completely different and even contradictory interpretations, and this is all the more true for the more complex texts such as Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Interpreting a difficult text consists precisely in supplying a coherence the text itself seems to lack. The result is that a critic will emphasize or even overemphasize some elements and neglect others that contradict his hypothesis. The amount of pressure needed to accommodate the text to the interpretation, on the one hand, and the number of elements that are not accounted for, on the other, define the value of an interpretation.
(Page 239) The French critics accept the privileging of poetry and language over science and objectivity and radicalize this idealism in "textualist" terms. Maybe even more than Heidegger himself, they need witnesses who have escaped metaphysics and logocentrism, and with Heidegger they see Hölderlin as such an escapee. Against Heidegger they include a number of French symbolists and surrealist writers (Lautréamont, Mallarmé, and Artaud) and Joyce in the new canon. With Heidegger, the French critics find inspiration in different marginal systems of thought: the pre-Socratics, Gnosticism, negative theologies, mysticism. Against Heidegger, they stress the importance of Freud's psychoanalytical theory of which they stress the antirationalist, antisystematic, and romantic element. The simple fact that quite a number of nonacademic Joyce critics whose work has been discussed in the preceding pages do not know English and know little if anything about the actual historical conditions in which Joyce lived and worked is not enough to explain their inability to offer an interpretation of a specific text of Ulysses or Finnegans Wake. Their problem is that their reading is always already established: Joyce, like Hölderlin, escapes, deconstructs, differs. The norm may be science, society, phallocentrism, or metaphysics, and the deconstruction feminist, masculinist, Marxist, or Freudian, but the a priori structure is always one of exception; in each case the attempt to describe the aberration is impossible by definition. No text could really (absolutely) escape, and if there were such a text, one could not write about it. The immense power and seductive quality of poststructuralist writing, especially Derrida's, lies in the fact that it has managed to thematize this impossibility.
Robert M. Polhemus wrote (in Comic Faith in 1980; The University of Chicago Press) ---- (Page 332) A11 of this may seem pretentious and grimly labored, however, if we forget that interpretation of the Wake is a clownish process for a faithful foolish few. Oliver Gogarty, so often wrong about Joyce, was right in calling the book "a great leg-pull." Its readers inevitably become the butt of a joke that gives them the most ludicrous aspects of Shem and Shaun. Like Shem we appear to most of the sensible world to be misguided fanatics devoted to arcane, silly writing. Nearly all who study and write on the Wake sometimes feel ridiculous: for whom do we explain things and why? Like Shaun, we become critics analyzing another's "root language"(424:17), knowing that we will never fully understand it and, like him, we are tempted to become zealots of orthodoxy, pretending to be priests of eternal imagination, whose mysteries we never really can know. No author has had more ingenious or industrious readers within the century of his life than Joyce, but Joycean scholarship and criticism sometimes do seem like Shaun's revenge on his creator. Bad-tempered, sanctimonious attitudes stir in much of the commentary on the Wake, and the tone of Joyceans reviewing each other's work often resembles the type of reception that infidels tampering with sacred scripture might expect. (Joyce, getting down both the religious impetus of the Wake and the humor inherent in presumptions of sanctity, refers to his book as "secret stripture" [293, n. 2].) Comic material can harden into dogma, and the dogmatic, proprietary pose becomes, in the wake of Shaun implicit satire. Explication can seem at times to analyze beauty right out of existence, and even the harmless, drudging Shaun-critic of comedy no doubt seems to be murdering humor to dissect it. One of the lessons of the comic gospel is that it can and will often be captured by jealous members of a cult devoted to graven images and idolatry. But Joyce's ideal reader may also take on the best traits of his twins. The Shauns who explicate texts and compile the concordances, the lexicons, the lists of Lithuanian words, and the readers' guides make it possible to read with the synthesizing power of a Shem. Moreover, the more we know analytically, the greater our pleasure when we put the parts together. For the whole of a pun, the whole of "Shem," the whole of the Wake are all more than the sum of their parts: explicating a joke-word is not the same as experiencing the surprising jolt of humor any more than discussing religion is like seeing God. But the language of the Wake is one medium in which the pleasure is not permanently spoiled by analysis; analysis helps us in fact to find the synthesis from which the comic epiphany radiates. The more we know of the parts, the more frequent and powerful are the flashes of wit, the illuminating correspondences, and the stimulating creative bursts of energy of the Wake even if we cannot directly communicate them to others.
John Paul Riquelme wrote (in Teller and Tale in Joyce’s Fiction in 1983; The John Hopkins University Press) ---- (Page 34) So far, I have focused on several related aspects of narration and narrative in Finnegans Wake: the character-as-artist, his letters, beginnings and endings, the title's implications, and the making of texts through writing, printing, and reading. I have suggested that as readers we can compare our own activity to the author's because of the peculiar nature of the narration's structures and techniques. In the Wake the reader’s engagement with the text is affected especially by the teller's linking of end to beginning, by his puns, and by his allusions. The effect of these elements, arising as it does from the large structure of the narrative, from the details of language, and from the rationale for the telling as mythic, can be nearly definitive for our experience as readers. By combining these aspects of his text in various ways, Joyce allows a complex kind of experiential order to emerge from the seemingly disparate details of his mannered prose. That order requires the reader's active engagement with the book, an engagement in which telling and reading involve one another. When we read Finnegans Wake, it is as if we are traveling with difficulty through a dark and brambly teller’s relationship to the character, and they make evident our role as comakers of the text. In all Joyce’s mature fiction (and it is all mature), not just in the Wake, opening and closing are linked. But the details of language vary as Joyce experiments in each of his books with different ways of involving the reader through style. In Ulysses, the style and the involvement achieve particular prominence and vigor when Joyce portrays consciousness (his own, his characters', and his readers') as implicitly mythic. In the Wake, Joyce's earlier casting of minds in a mythic mold for the making of art itself becomes a crucial element in the structure and style for creating the mythic artifact. The making of the mythic artifact turns out to be the making of the mythic artificer as well.
(Page 45) In Finnegans Wake Joyce regularly directs our attention to origins, especially to the sources for his own text. Those sources include the various works and authors to which he alludes and the mechanical process of printing by which the book is made. As we read the Wake, we experience in mediated ways how the text was produced. And we encounter characters involved in producing documents. Joyce cannot give us in unmediated form the experience of his mental processes that result in writing. Instead, he provides a finished document that becomes the raw material for us, to undergo analogous experiences. By waking the Phoenician, he provides his readers with the opportunity to wake the Phoenician. But for us, Joyce himself has become an avatar of the figure to be roused. Joyce represents himself in his writing through characters-as-artists and through styles of language. But this self-representation is not a purely egocentric venture. It includes Joyce's vision of the artist not just as a special person or even as a general type among humankind but as the general type of humankind. Joyce's portraits of the artist, especially in the Wake and in Ulysses, tend toward the portrayal or the evocation of universal mental and social experiences. I make this assertion despite the mannered eccentricities of style in his late works. We cannot separate the large historical and cultural dimensions from the more narrowly aesthetic ones in his fiction. Joyce's writing makes available an "ancient legacy of the past" (614.36-615.1; my emphasis) that combines history with ALP as the source in human consciousness for humankind's story as history. As James Atherton has said, Finnegans Wake is "everyone's dream, the dream of all the living and the dead," emanating from Joyce's persona, the universal mind to which we all contribute.
Frank Budgen wrote ([Resurrection; pp. 11-15] in Twelve and a Tilly edited by Jack P. Dalton and Clive Hart in 1966; Faber and Faber) ---- (Page 13) But of what nature is the resurrection in Finnegans Wake? If I am right, and Finnegans Wake is the story of the twin eternities of spirit and nature expressed in the twin eternities of male and female then, as I see it, only one of the twin eternities suffers death and is reborn. That is of course Anna Livia Plurabelle -- as woman, as man born of woman, as mother nature, as body, as any body, as all things that appear and live and pass away. She is das ewig Weibliche and also alles Vergängliche. She has lain the life long night with her partner, but at daybreak they part company. She leaves his bed to go forth by day alone, and only she suffers the agony of parting. Meanwhile he the male, the spiritual element, indifferent to her agony -- leaving, so to speak, the dead to bury the dead -- is intent only upon meeting and mating with a daughter bride coming down to him from the hills. 'Sonhusband' she calls him in her swansong between Chapelizod and the sea. Why 'sonhusband' if both are twin eternities? It reverses in any case the priority given in the Book of Genesis. It might express, probably does in a minor way, any wife's way of looking at any husband -- as a boy to be cosseted and scolded and as a man to be looked up to as a provider and protector. There is also a slight hint of an Oedipus-Jocasta relationship, but I feel quite sure that this was not intended. Anyway, the parallel does not hold good. I think rather the explanation is that whilst nous, mind, spirit, the male principle is co-eternal with matter, it is, in the time-order of manifestation as self-conscious mind, a late arrival. Anna Livia, nature must die and be re-born continually. He renews himself through constant remarriage with nature renewed.
Bernard Benstock wrote ([Comic Seriousness and Poetic Prose; pp. 171-179] in James Joyce: A Collection of Critical Essays edited by Mary T. Reynolds in 1993; Prentice Hall, New Jersey) ---- (Page 175) Although definitions of poetry are not usually subjective -- the basic elements of rhythm, meter, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and so forth, having been objectively outlined -- no one attitude toward Joyce's poetic medium can necessarily be universally arrived at; the novelist who is many things to any readers is as individually various as a poet. Margaret Schlauch sees Joyce's poetic language in terms of philological awareness, and finds that Joyce's linguistic variants "can easily be classified by a philologist as examples of reduplication, alliteration, assonance, primitive types of apophony, assimilation, dissimilation, sandhi variants and the like." Harry Levin adds that the reader is "borne from one page to the next, not by the expository current of the prose, but by the harmonic relations of the language -- phonetic, syntactic, or referential, as the case may be." Joyce's philological consciousness of words, the shifts of meanings within words, their etymological significances and semantic discrepancies add to the levels of meaning made possible by his skillful handling of language. The philological handling of entomological minutiae in the fable of the Ondt and Gracehoper is very much a case point. In fact, when asked why he hates his literary brother, Shaun replies, "For his root language, if you ask me whys" (FW 424.17), and the tenth thunderclap roaringly follows upon his answer, causing the comment: "The hundredlettered name again, last word of perfect language"(FW 424.23-24). But Shaun brags that he too can perpetrate "Acomedy of letters!"(FW 425.24). A handful of critics have cast an eye on the poetic effects of Joyce’s language, stopping along the way between the labyrinth of explication and the tower of elucidation, commenting on occasional phrases and sentences. Nor could anyone actually expect any major attempt at an over-all commentary on effect, when the most serious problems remain in the area of exegesis, especially when the value of Joyce's poetic techniques exists in the pattern of "sound-sense" created, not in sound alone. In the early Exagmination Robert Sage tackles a sentence in Anna Livia Plurabelle:
She was just a young thin pale soft shy slim slip of a thing then, sauntering, by silvamoonlake and he was a heavy trudging lurching lieabroad of a Curraghman, making his hay for whose sun to shine on, as tough as the oaktrees (peats be with them!) used to rustle that time down by the dykes of killing Kildare, for forstfellfoss with a plash across her.(FW 202.26-32)
Sage calls this "a sentence that is pool-like in its lucidity, that is supple and periodic," and goes on to analyze the poetic aspects of it:
The sentence opens -- with fifteen one-syllable words, the first eleven being accented, the twelfth and thirteenth hastening the rhythm through their lack of accent and the final two returning to long beats. Through this Joyce suggests the weakness and uncertainty of the stream at its commencement (girlhood). Then comes the stronger three-syllable word sauntering, indicating development (adolescence) and leading by a short beat to the epitritus silvamoonlake, signifying full growth (maturity), the further associations with the latter stage being sylvan and the silver moon reflected in the lake. The male symbol is immediately introduced in the three ponderous trochees heavy trudging lurching, continuing to the molossus forstfellfoss, which balances silvamoonlake and suggests first, forest, fell and waterfall, the foss coming from the Scandinavian designation of waterfall. The latter part of the sentence, then, completes the introduction of the two symbols by describing the creation of the first cascade through the falling of the tree across the stream.
Vincent John Cheng wrote (in Shakespeare and Joyce: A Study of Finnegans Wake in 1984; The Pennsylvania State University Press) ---- (Page 108) Nevertheless, Joyce, foreseeing the way critics would mock and misrepresent the Wake, must have wondered (like Anna Livia): "A hundred cares, a tithe of troubles and is there one who understands me?"(627.15). Would such madness as Finnegans Wake ever be appreciated or understood? Perhaps the loveliest answer to the question appears in a passage in which Joyce made a prediction about Finnegans Wake and his own techniques:
But by writing thithaways end to end and turning, turning and end to end hithaways writing and with lines of litters slittering up and louds of latters slettering down, the old semetomyplace and jupetbackagain from tham Let Rise till Hum Lit. Sleep, where in the waste is the wisdom? (114. 16-20)
That is to say: literature (or letters) also has its ricorsos and falls its litters (as in births and risings) slittering up and its latters (later in life, and falling ladders) slettering down. Literary reputations might rise and fall in a seesaw fashion, shifting now to Shem ("see me to my place"), now to Ham ("tham"), and now to Japhet ("jap it back again"). Hamlet ("tham Let"), watching the fluctuations in the state of Denmark, soliloquizes on the meaning of life and death: "Sleep, where in the waste is the wisdom? (Where in the wait is the wisdom? -- Hamlet's recurrent dilemma; also, perhaps an echo of "Death, where is thy sting?"). Joyce-Hamlet philosophically questions his own folios and their chances for acceptance in the literary world, knowing that the immediate rewards in the writing profession are few: there is "small peace in ppenmark"(189.06). He must wait for eventual recognition; but, he asks himself, where in such a wait does wisdom lie? It lies in the "waste," in the middenheap; for the letter/litter (Finnegans Wake) is sleeping, resting in wait and in waste ("twixt a sleep and a wake"), listening until "the cock crows for Danmark" (192.21) and the time to be unearthed by some scratching scholar-hen (some "Misthress of Arths," like Biddy in 112.29) is arrived, waiting until Finnegans Wake can rise from the ashes of the middenpile and be truly appreciated. Perhaps Joyce will eventually, like Shakespeare, have an appreciative Bankside audience. He shares, though, the question posed by Hamlet: to wait or not to wait, to be or not to be -- is there wisdom in the waste of eternal sleep? Sleep, dreams, wakes, Hamlet, and Finnegans Wake are all thematically and inextricably interwoven here. Finnegans Wake did not find acceptance in Joyce's lifetime; but like Hamlet, Joyce learned to wait, believing his Wake to be a real sleeper: "From tham Let Rise till Hum Lit." Joyce must have often told himself to let the Wake sleep ("Let sleepth," 555.01), until, like a ricorsing Phoenix, it will rise from its mound of ashes and be accepted, be recognized as a new Hamlet in the new Viconian cycle. Then it will, at long last, become Hum Lit: it will be read, enjoyed, and appreciated by lovers of the humanities and of literature.
Grace Eckley wrote (in The Steadfast Finnegans Wake in 1994; University Press of America) ---- (Page 1) Since the publication of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake in 1939, the most elusive and enticing clue to its mysteries has been a single broken sentence which hold out a promise as yet unfulfilled: "The keys to Given!"(628.15). George Sandulescu maintains that the quandary is even murkier, that "there was an 'empathy' stance on the part of the author in relation to his sources," and many questions regarding the Wake "will continue to remain unanswered until the readers and researchers are really able to understand the full implications of what Joyce literally meant by resorting to the weapon of silence, which he actually and entirely adopted from a date which strangely enough, lies somewhere between 1910 and 1914". The Wake celebrates a "Great Sommboddy" (415.17) who died on the Titanic between 1910 and 1914. The journalist William Thomas Stead (1849-1912) was such a "great somebody" and the biographical original of Joyce's hero. Stead published around a hundred monographs and thousands of articles. The Pall Mall Gazette in London, with which he startled the world while editing it (1883-1889), was absorbed by the Evening Standard in 1924; and Joyce barely disguises the fact that the PMG was subtitled An Evening Newspaper and Review when one of the mourners at the Wake reads "her Evening World"(28.20). The international journal The Review of Reviews, which Stead originated in 1890, introduced its readers to more languages than those known to exist in Finnegans Wake; through its Language Bureau -- the only one in existence -- it provided Joyce with a French correspondent (Ellmann JJII 77). Each month Stead charted the "Progress of the World" from 1890 to 1912. The Review numbered approximately 30,000 pages through volume 45 in 1912; it ceased to exist with this title with volume 92 in 1936. In 1925 Frederic Whyte brought out his two-volume biography of Stead. This aided Joyce's efforts greatly with Finnegans Wake; but, for much of the world, Stead had fallen into the Great Silence. Both with and without Joyce's help, this one of the "keys" was buried in oblivion. Joyce repeatedly in the text indicates that he was deliberately sequestering the identity of his hero. Stead's birthday on 5 July 1849 differed by one day from that of Joyce's father. Stead's name and his nickname "Bedstead" could be hidden in a thousand puns. Taking the words of Thomas Carlyle about "that good man Stead," Joyce had already closed his first novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with "in good stead"; and after the Portrait he spoke freely about his originating well in advance of finishing the works the significant last words of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
(Page 46) Bits of the text of Finnegans Wake indicate that Joyce researched the geography between Stead's office in London and his home on Hayling Island at the southern edge of England, and pieces of Finnegans Wake indicate that he not only read the Stead publications but also researched the Stead family history and connections after Stead's death. The A3 road from the sea at Hayling Island northward to London borders the basin called the "Devil's Punch Bowl," and Stead often journeyed in the last decade of his life as Earwicker does at the close of the Wake "between the devil's punchbowl and the deep angleseaboard"(582.6). A street in nearby Portsmouth is called Anglesea Road. Sailing from Southampton on the Titanic, Stead had a last view of England -- his Hayling Islar home -- by the deep angleseaboard. At the beginning of the Wake occurs a reminder that a member of Stead's family drove in a Cap-to-Cairo road trial that was aborted after another participant was killed by a leopard: "Death, a leopard, kills fellah in Fez"(28.22). By a commodius Steadway of recirculation, from the end circling back to the beginning, the Stead empathy provides "Lots of" clarification for the "fun at Finnegans Wake!" With the cheerfulness of the children's "Nightletter"(308.20), a "passing," with its purpose the awakening, was not a death but a transition.
William D. Jenkins wrote (in The Adventure of the Detected Detective in 1998; Greenwood Press, Westport) ---- (Page 14) Holmes had a rare talent which made him especially worthy of attention in FW. He was an expert at reading codes and cyphers, and FW itself is a cryptogram written in an invented language called "Djoytsch." Basically English, it employs bits and "etyms" of words from as many foreign languages as the Irish polyglot could include. Furthermore, they are frequently compounded like Lewis Carroll's "portmanteau" words. Hence, for convenient reference, citations of passages from FW are identified by page and line number like this: (324.21), which means page 324 line 21: "Ellers for the greeter glossary of code, callen hom" (All for the greater glory of God, and for a glossary of this code, call in Holmes). Why are Holmes and Watson called Cox and Box respectively in FW? The answer may be found in the first two introductory sentences to The Problem of Thor Bridge, which help to identify the FW personalities of the detective and his biographer in two or three passages and also seem to relate directly to the structure of the book itself.
(Page 16) Included in FW are allusions of varying clarity and significance to at least fifteen of the stories in the Holmesian canon. The Sign of the Four is structurally harmonious with FW, and references to this case are more frequent than to any other Sherlockian source. Among the supporting players in FW are Four Old Men who appear variously as the Four Evangelists, the Four Provinces of Ireland and other well known Fours, including the assignees of the Agra treasure. The Sholto twins make an appearance as Shem and Shaun, and the chart showing the hiding place for the Agra treasure has certain features in common with a mysterious letter from Boston, which is purported to provide a clue to understanding FW itself.
Hugh Kenner wrote (in Dublin’s Joyce in 1987; Columbia University Press) ---- (Page 325) Joyce tells us repeatedly that his ability to write Finnegans Wake depends on his having learned to "read" the things he puts into it: The prouts who will invent a writing there ultimately is the poeta, still more learned, who discovered the raiding there originally. That's the point of eschatology our book of kills reaches for now in soandso many counterpoint words. What can't be coded can be decorded if an ear aye sieze what no eye ere grieved for. F482. Furthermore, the traditional Two Scriptures are explicitly incorporated into the work. They are the letter and the barrow of rubbish, the Word and the World.
(Page 344) And as Ulysses, finally, exploited analogies with the Greek epic, so Finnegans Wake is rooted in Greek drama. There is a tissue of reminiscence from the Oresteia of Aeschylus and the Alcestis of Euripides, but the central situation is that of the Sophoclean Oedipus, already transferred to contemporary axes by Freud. The Oedipus correspondence hasn't the episode-by-episode linearity of the Homeric ground-plan to Ulysses, and consequently isn't easy to summarize in a few pages. Without quoting masses of evidence, however, we can indicate the main resemblances with sufficient precision. Both works turn around the creation, fall, and redemption of the City: Thebes and Dublin. As HCE is the eponymous city-founder, so is Oedipus fourth in line of descent from, and as King the surrogate of, Cadmus founder of Thebes. "Creator he has created for his creatured one a creation", F29. The city, however, lies under a mysterious curse: "What then agent-like brought about that tragoady thundersday this municipal sin business?", F5. And an agonizing enquiry proves Oedipus to be responsible: "he is ee and no counter he who will be ultimately respunchable for the hubbub caused in Eden-borough", F29. Each ruler has a symbolic deformity: Oedipus his swollen foot, HCE his hunchback. Oedipus has unwittingly slaughtered his father: HCE has mysteriously replaced Finnegan. Oedipus answered the Sphinx's riddle about four legs, two legs, and three legs. Joyce uses this motif in various ways. The riddle-motif runs through the book from the moment of HCE's encounter with the Cad with a Pipe, F35; a whole section (I-6) consists of riddles and answers, and the Mime (II-1) turns on Shem's inability to guess a riddle; Shem however does, like Oedipus, know the answer to "the first riddle of the universe", F170, and delights in pestering his brothers and sisters with it. F432, the date of St. Patrick's arrival in Ireland, receives continual salience, F486, and the numbers 4, 3, and 2 (four old men, three soldiers, two temptresses) are buried on virtually every page. Oedipus has inadvertently married his mother, and Anna chatters through Earwicker's dream as "our turf-brown mummy ", F194, and near the end addresses her man as "sonhusband", F627. Oedipus thus became brother to his own daughters; Earwicker projects through his Shaun-self a lubricious spate of brotherly advice to his daughter Iseult. Oedipus when the truth is known blinds himself; HCE after an evening of embarrassment in the pub gets himself blind drunk and staggers up to bed, F381. Oedipus leaves matters in the hands of his wife's brother Creon, a diplomat who parades his virtue, makes much show of his desire to hush the matter up, and becomes the tyrant of the Antigone. Earwicker's mantle descends on his go-ahead son Shaun. Oedipus in the sequel is mysteriously translated into the other world; Earwicker/Shaun vanishes amid ambiguous glory, U471. This exceedingly sketchy survey takes no account of the thematic richness in which Joyce invests the Sophoclean materials. As in the Homer-parallel in Ulysses, he is exploring a situation not unwinding a plot. From this point of view, Finnegans Wake may be regarded as an immense allegorical commentary on the ideal tragic stasis manifested by Sophocles. One or two points about Sophoclean drama may be noted in this connection. The Oedipus is conceived, like Finnegans Wake, as a prolonged agon for one character.
Susan Shaw Sailer wrote (in On the Void of to Be in 1993; The University of Michigan Press) ---- (Page 182) Here is the sound of her voice as she begins the monologue:
Soft morning, city! Lsp! I am leafy speafing. Lpf! Folty and folty all the nights have falled on to long my hair. Not a sound, falling. Lispn! No wind no word. Only a leaf, just a leaf and then leaves. The woods are fond always. As were we their babes in. And robins in crews so. It is for me goolden wending. Unless? Away! Rise up, man of the hooths, you have slept so long! (619.20-27)
What I hear in these lines is a slow, smooth flow of sound, induced at least in part by the predominance of soft consonants such as L, S, and R, a sound appropriate to a river's voice whose currents are calm and steady. The tone is personal, caressing, affectionate, marked slightly by the effects of Irish on English diction and syntax. And here is her voice toward the end of the monologue:
But I'm loothing them that's here and all I lothe. Loonely in me loneness. For all their faults. I am passing out. O bitter ending! I'll slip away before they're up. They'll never see. Nor know. Nor miss me. And it's old and old it's sad and old it's sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms. (627.33-628.04)
Again. I hear a smooth flow of sound, built at least in part on soft consonants as well as on the repetition of words and phrases. Now, though, the pace is somewhat quickened, as befits the seemingly quickened pace of the river as it nears the sea into which it empties. Although the words speak of anguish, their softened sound cushions the impact so that the tone approximates acceptance rather than agony. Let us compare these sounds of Anna Livia's voice with some lines from book I, chapter 8, all of which are generally credited to the two washerwomen. I would claim, however, that based on sound, the middle section of the passage reproduced here should be identified as the voice of Anna Livia:
Are you meanam Tarpey and Lyons and Gregory? I meyne now, thank all, the four of them, and the roar of them, that draves that stray in the mist and old Johnny MacDougal along with them. Is that the Poolbeg flasher beyant, pharphar, or a fireboat coasting nyar the Kishtna or a glow I behold within a hedge or my Garry come back from the Indes? Wait till the honeying of the lune, love! Die, eve, little eve, die! We see that wonder in your eye. We'll meet again, we'll part once more. The spot I'll seek if the hour you'll find. My chart shines high where the blue milk's upset. Forgivemequick, I'm going! Bubye! And you, pluck your watch, forgetmenot. Your evenlode. So save to jurna's end! My sights are swimming thicker on me by the shadows to this place. I sow home slowly now by own way, moyvalley way. Towy I too, rathmine. Ah, but she was the queer old skeowsha anyhow, Anna Livia, trinkettoes! And sure he was the quare old buntz too, Dear Dirty Dumpling, foostherfather of fingalls and dotthergills. Gammer and gaffer we're all their gangsters. (214.33-215.15)
In this passage, I hear first the voice of the questioning washer-woman, followed by the answering washerwoman. Then the questioner asks a second question, but rather than the answerer responding to it, we hear the voice of Anna Livia, beginning with the words "Wait till the honeying of the lune, love!" and concluding with "Forgive me quick, I'm going! Bubye!" In the words that follow we hear the voices of both washerwomen, who remind each other of the work they are finishing up, name their home destinations (Moy Valley and Rathmines), and acknowledge their own and others' relatedness to ALP and HCE, everyone's first parents. The sound of the voice that speaks in 215.3-7 differs from the voices that speak in 214.33-215.3 and 215.7-15. The Anna Livia voice is marked by the presence of the same sostenuto consonants as we observed in Anna Livia's final monolgoue, L, S, and M, whereas the washerwomen voices show more end-stopped and staccato consonants, such as T, D, and K. At least in part because of the different prevailing consonants, the tempos of the two sets of voices contrast with each other, the Anna Livia pace rather slow, as heard for instance in the sequence "Wait till the honeying of the lune, love!" The pace of the washerwomen is faster, heard in "Ah, but she was the queer old skeowsha anyhow, Anna Livia, trinkettoes!" The tones differ, too, the Anna Livia voice projecting a statelier, more personal quality than the gossiping, "fishwife" tones of the washerwomen.
Gerald Griffin (in 1938) wrote ([James Joyce; pp. 149-153] in James Joyce: Interviews & Recollections edited by E. H. Mikhail in 1990; The Macmillan Press) ---- (Page 152) Some seven years ago I witnessed a striking instance of Joyce's equanimity under a very unflattering criticism of the technique of Work in Progress in the late Harold Munro's Poetry Book Shop in Bloomsbury. 'To be perfectly frank with you, Mr Joyce,' said Munro with deprecatory embarrassment, 'I can't make head or tail of your Anna Livia Plurabelle. A friend of mine suggested that it was intended to be read backwards, starting from the end of the book, and that one day you would reveal this clue to the enigma for the benefit of your readers. And indeed it seemed to convey just as much sense -- or rather as much nonsense when I tried this method as when I read it in the normal way.' I glanced sharply at Munro at this point, and realised at once that he was not being cruelly jocose at Joyce's expense. There was a pathetically bewildered expression on his face. 'Munro is an honest critic,' said Joyce after we had left the shop. 'At least he has tried to understand my work, and regrets that he has been unable to do so. He has not suggested that I am indulging in a colossal hoax.' That is Joyce as he is now -- tolerant of all criticism, confident that he is right, yet sensitive to the last degree. The truculent, almost swashbuckling, hard-swearing, seedy-looking young Dubliner has merged into the mellow, genial, quiet, well-dressed man of poise and distinction. Aloof and frigid to gate-crashing journalists, he is the soul of hospitality and generosity to his personal friends.
Ed Jewinski wrote ([James Joyce and Samuel Beckett: From Epiphany to Anti-Epiphany; pp. 160-174] in Re: Joyce’n Beckett edited by Phillis Carey and Ed Jewinski in 1992; Fordham University Press) ---- (Page 168) The importance of the anecdote is that it emphasizes a confident control of language -- nothing need disturb the "master's" handling of it; even "coincidence" has its appropriate place in Joyce's view of language. The notion, in fact, has been so powerfully projected that readers are still offering skeleton keys or prose paraphrases of the Wake to clarify the "vision" which underlies it. Michael Begnal, for example, bluntly states what underlies every effort to summarize or paraphrase or condense Joyce's Wake: "The language is a kind of linguistic shell that surrounds the text". Every desire for a skeleton key for Finnegans Wake, I would suggest, accepts Beckett's particular form of misreading. Read "properly," the text will become visible, the "apotheosis of the word" will occur, the shell will open to reveal its contents.
(Page 169) Numerous critics have shifted from the emphasis on "understanding" the Wake in the terms Beckett suggested in Exagmination to an exploration of the infinite possibilities of the "text." In fact, like Derrida, readers have come to look at the Wake as "the greatest power of meanings buried in each syllabic fragment, subjecting each atom of writing to frission in order to overload the consciousness with the whole memory of man: mythologies, religion, philosophies, sciences, psychoanalysis, literatures"(Derrida). The emphasis is on the intractability of language and the "unreadability" of the text. By overloading consciousness, the mind comes to a stage Derrida calls "aporia," a stage of undecidability and indeterminacy, a stage of "impasses of meaning" (Eagleton).