Date: Sunday, 2/1/09, 7:00-10:00 P.M.

Location: Park Slope

Players: TB, BK, JE, EG


Kickoff. JE brings Apricot juice, brand “Ceres.”

TB: “Latin, goddess of growth. See, Norman O. Brown’s Apocalypse and/or Metamorphoses, excerpt on the etymology of ‘corn’ and ‘horn.'”

Q & A.

1. Have you been in a book club/reading group before? (Yes, says BK.)

2. Why do you want to read FW? What are you looking to get out of this.

Discussion of major ideas/themes. It took JJ 17 years to compose FW. It was transitionally titled Work in Progress and selected chapters were published in lit journals (transition).

Review of supplementary materials: Our Exagmination, Tindall’s guide, McHugh’s Annotations, Burgess’ Rejoyce, Campbell’s Skeleton Key, etc.

TB: FW is a book of the night (like Ulysses = day), it is or is like a dream and the text functions like one, form reflects content.

BK on dreams.

“Plot” — what is it? What does “plot” mean in a non-linear narrative like FW, versus straightforward prose?

“There is no plot.” “I don’t know what’s going on.”

TB on “character” — the idea of a unified agent or ego, who’s responsible for his/her thoughts and actions, singularly, is almost irrelevant in FW. Since JJ “evokes” multiple beings and identity landscapes, surpassing limitations like time periods/ages and geographical settings. E.g., HCE is all Finnegans and patriarchs (Finn MacCool, Tim Finnegan, Huck Finn, Parnell, Christ, Tammuz, Adam, Noah, Isaac, Abraham, et al.); we can view a “character” in FW more like a “psychic state” (cf. intro in the flawed Penguin edition). Somewhat like Jung’s “archetype” … but not really.

BK and TB eye JE’s Viking edition with envy.

Conflict — Joyce’s thesis is that the root of all conflicts in history primordially stem from familial relationships — the family dynamic in FW is key: HCE as father/patriarch, ALP as wife/mother, brothers Shem and Shaun (or Jerry and Kevin or Mutt and Jute) as brothers in arms or opposed (like Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau), Isabel or Issy as daughter, temptress (HCE’s incestuous/adulterous complex). Offspring, litter, dumps.

We discuss the title. No apostrophe — why? We’re at the wake of someone named Finnegan, but also, all Finnegans are waking, resurrecting, recirculating. A fin, the wake of water (BK). Fin, the end (JE). How JJ’s title reflects his method in FW: multiple-meaning’d words. Double/triple/quadruple entendre.

Cycles of birth, marriage, burial, resurrection: Vico’s 4-stage system of historical allegory in The New Science (age of gods, age of heroes, age of the people, chaos/ricorso; see Beckett’s essay in Our Exagmination). Giordano Bruno and the reconciliation of opposites, enantiodromia.

JE: Joyce is considered a modernist.

TB: Like Beckett, Woolf, Eliot and EZRA.

You say enVIrons and I say ENvirons (BK, TB).

BK on Hollyhead/Hoodie Head, ambivalence of Irish toward the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park (Willingdone Museyroom).

BK on Peninsular Wars as Napoleonic.

JE on “rory” = dewy, Romulus and Remus, Latin dude who spoke with a deer, the Roman Catholic version of the Bible, textual corrections in 6th C. Gk. manuscripts, what a bitch they are.

BK on deer and love’s pursuit. TB adds Ovid, Apollo/Daphne.

Everyone clueless about Tristan and Iseult legend. Net search provides: T steals I in Ireland for French, King Mark, a love potion involved, ruins everything, adultery, love triangle, like Arthurian romance.

BK on the cad: Shakespeare’s Henry VI’s Jack Cade perhaps?

BK consulting McHugh’s Annotations: “‘Old. Rom’ what is that?”

TB from the kitchen: “Old Romanian!”

JE on Herodotus, the etymology of “history” (histae), versus the style in … who wrote Peloponnesian War again?


The first thunder on p. 3: breakdown of languages. TB on all 10 thunder-words, each 100 letters, but the last, 101, equaling 1001 letters in all = Scheherezade, another book about night (Arabian Nights).

JE: “Knight as in K-N-I-G-H-T?” TB: “Night as in Night.”

Vico big on thunder.

BK on Bruno: pantheist or many gods.

TB on JJ’s language and its musicality.

We listen to [PM] reading FW, the audiobook (thanks to DM): Willingdone Museyroom episode. TB: “I have the audio files if anyone wants them. Mp3s.” EG: “Now I can further alienate my coworkers.”

BK: Lipoleum sounds like Napolean.

We read aloud the ballad, “Finnegan’s Wake,” an old vaudeville song. An alcoholic hod-carrier named Finnegan falls off a ladder, dies, at his wake, a barrel of whisky breaks and blesses his corpse, he wakes up and bitches at those present, ‘D’ye think I’m dead?'”

TB on JJ’s favorite whisky: JJ & Sons and how it’s distilled from the Liffey.

We break down the first page. “[V]icus” = Latin, “street,” Vico in Latin.

Dublin in Laurens County, Georgia. Mark Twain. Huck FINN (hello). Twain called his wife, “Livvy.”

TB on Roman numeral LIV = 54 = symbolic number for ALP. JJ and numerology, Gematria and Kabbalah (“it’s fun and provides structure, I wouldn’t take it too seriously”). “1132,” cf. Bloom’s recurring thought in Ulysses about the speed of falling of bodies (32). St. Laurence, whoever he is, patron saint of Ireland I think (BK: “well Patrick really outdid him”) I know for sure was born in 1132 A.D.

TB on JJ’s sigla. A capital E on its back represents HCE; Delta or triangle represents ALP. JE: is HCE’s sigla a lower-cased omega?

BK: Are you sure HCE is Scandinavian?

TB: Yes. (Citing Tindall on Scandinavian Elements as suggested reading and p. 47 in the “Ballad of Persse O’Reilly” (“Scandiknavery”))

BK on “venisoon”: Venice, [another association]?

We discuss why FW begins in the middle of sentence, how it connects with the last sentence. TB on Heraclitus and flux. Conceptions of time. Cliche about “you can’t step in the same river twice.”

“Violer.” Fr. “thief/thievery/to steal”? BK is right.

We discuss how it is possible to misread FW, by seeing meanings and interpretations (especially within words) that Joyce did not intend.

We need to read up on Parnell and Jonathan Swift’s relationship with Stella and Vanessa.

Rainbow or German “regginbrow.” Joyce on rainbow as an eyebrow on the face of the waters, “aquaface.”

Augenblick = “eyegoneblack,” a moment. JJ’s blindness and eye patch.

“Parr” = TB: “I know that means the early development of salmon. I’m not kidding.”

“wallstrait oldparr” = the fall symbolizes all falls and crashes, “phallus,” etc. Lucifer, Adam, Tower of Babel, stock market, etc.

“pftjschut” sounds like a ladder. TB: “Not as in, like, Chutes and Ladders, but you know …”

“Miscegenations.” Incest, interbreeding, “primitive” religions and culture, “consorts” of gods being brothers and sisters. JE (paraphrased): “everyone was fucking their brother or sister or mother or father back in the day.”

Humpty Dumpty. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, made-up words. Hunting of the Snark.

Oranges and green, BK on color significance.

JE on Aristophanes’ Frogs. What is “Koax Koax Koax Ualu Ualu Ualu” … TB checks references, can’t find it. TB: “That looks Mexican to me I know that sounds horrible. Or Aztec, Incan … one of those.”

Plot, anyone?

TB: first four paragraphs are JJ’s broad strokes addressing theme, the “passencore” or Fr. “pas encore” = “not yet.” JJ alludes to events which haven’t yet occurred, and past events which have, all of which are interrelated. After that section, Finnegan’s fall and wake, the intro of HCE, he commits an ambiguous crime in Phoenix Park involving two young women, witnessed by three soldiers, then later meets a Cad with a pipe who innocently enquires what time it is, and HCE, a Scandinavian tavern-keeper (also running for local office), spits out a bizarre defense of something, the Cad goes home, grumbles, his wife overhears him, they discuss, she confides/gossips to her priest who gossips with randoms, and at the end of Chapter II, we have a ballad composed by randoms about HCE’s crime, which is pure gossip. JJ is alluding to the nature of oral history and storytelling.

TB: “Earwicker” = “earwigging” which is Irish-Anglo for “eavesdropping.”

JJ’s biographical details. BK on Lucia and Joyce’s horrible descendants who feel “royalties” not pain and control the copyrights. Bastards.

We made it through pages 3-4!!! Essentially the first page and one-third of the second.




Filed under FW

Roaratorio, Anna Livia’s Fireheaded Son

Holiday music:  John Cage‘s Roaratorio, Writing For The Second Time Through Finnegans Wake and Laughtears.

Conor Cruise O’Brien dead at 91 (Irish Times &  NYT).
Acquired:  Roland McHugh’s Annotations, Anthony Burgess’s Re Joyce, Dettmar’s The Illicit Joyce.
Happy holidays!

This was Joyce’s favorite Irish whisky [sic]: he explained why to Gilbert Seldes: ‘All Irish whiskies use the water of the Liffey; all but one filter it, but John Jameson’s uses it mud and all. That gives it its special quality.’ And the next day, which happened to be Easter, a bottle of John Jameson’s arrived with a card inscribed, ‘James Joyce presents Anna Livia’s fireheaded son.’  (Ellman 604)

Leave a comment

Filed under Ellman's James Joyce, FW, James Joyce, Real Life

tarabom, tarabom

Reading FW aloud makes such a difference, as Joyce noted. I’m listening to Patrick Healy’s unabridged audiobook (thanks to D) while reading.


Yeats’s Vision.

I’ve painted the following wheel as a mural in three apartments I’ve lived in. Now it’s wonderfully relevant:


B’s reading Italo Svevo.

Finished the Anderson pictorial biography. Interesting:

Paul Léon, who for many years acted as Joyce’s secretary, pointed out that ‘Mr Joyce trusts one person alone, and this person is Lucia.’ … Their psyches were strangely alike, even in some of their deviations from the ‘normal,’ at the same time as they were radically different. As Jung put it, they were both going to the bottom of a river, but Lucia was falling and Joyce was diving. What might seem to many to be ‘mental abnormality’ in Joyce’s writings, Jung said in 1932, ‘may also be a kind of mental health which is inconceivable to the average understanding.’

And from Tindall’s intro in A Reader’s Guide to FW:

Besides Webster’s dictionary the books that, writing my book, I found most useful were Clive Hart’s Concordance, which locates almost every word, David Hayman’s A First-Draft Version, which shows what the Wake was like before Joyce complicated it, and Dounia Christiani’s Scandinavian Elements.

1 Comment

Filed under FW

The Map Is Not The Territory …

But here’s Joyce’s key sent to Miss Harriet Weaver (his patron), corresponding to the first draft of Work in Progress, dated 15 November 1926 (595):

Howth (pron Hoaeth) = Dan Hoved (head)
Sir Amory Tristram 1st earl of Howth changed his name to Saint Lawrence,
b in Brittany (North Armorica)
Tristan et Iseult, passim
viola in all moods and senses
Dublin, Laurens Co, Georgia, founded by a Dubliner, Peter Sawyer, on
r. Oconee. Its motto: Doubling all the time.
The flame of Christianity kindled by S. Patrick on Holy Saturday in
defiance of royal orders
Mishe = I am (Irish) i.e. Christian
Tauf = baptise (German)
Thou art Peter and upon this rock etc (a pun in the original aramaic)
Lat: Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram
Parnell ousted Isaac Butt from leadership
The venison purveyor Jacob got the blessing meant for Esau
Miss Vanhomrigh and Miss Johnson had the same christian name
Sosie = double
Willy brewed a peck of maut
Noah planted the vine and was drunk
John Jameson is the greatest Dublin distiller
Arthur Guinness ” ” ” ” brewer
rory = Irish = red
rory = Latin, roridus = dewy
At the rainbow’s end are dew and the colour red: bloody end to the lie in
Anglo-Irish = no lie
regginbrow = German regenbogen + rainbow
ringsome = German ringsum, around
When all vegetation is covered by the floor there are no eyebrows on the
face of the Waterworld
exaggerare = to mound up
themselse = another dublin 5000 inhabitants
Isthmus of Sutton a neck of land between Howth head and the plain
Howth = an island for old geographers
passencore = pas encore and ricorsi storici of Vico
rearrived = idem
wilderfight = wiederfechten = refight
bellowed = the response of the peatfire of faith to the windy words of
the apostle

Leave a comment

Filed under FW, James Joyce, Skeleton Key, Work in Progress

“Why is Jung so rude to me?”

“He doesn’t even know me,” Joyce said to Dr. Daniel Brody, the owner and manager of the Rhein-Verlag in Zurich who asked Jung to write a preface for the third edition of the German translation of Ulysses.

“People want to put me out of the church to which I don’t belong. I have nothing to do with psychoanalysis.”

Brody replied, “There can only be one explanation. Translate your name into German.” (641-2)


What a zinger, since Joyce in German is Freud.




Last weekend I found Chester G. Anderson’s illustrated James Joyce (Thames and Hudson, 1967) at the Strand for $5. The first time I ever purchased a book for its pictures.

From the NYT:

This ”outstanding” pictorial biography of James Joyce has ”a good text, careful, accurate and perceptive,” reviewers said in 1968. Its profuse illustrations, they added, ”have in many cases an almost magical power” to evoke the Dublin of 1904.

My favorite:


James Joyce with Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and John Quinn, ca. 1923.
Gelatin silver print photograph
Courtesy of The Poetry Collection, SUNY At Buffalo

Leave a comment

Filed under James Joyce, Real Life, Ulysses

O Death!

Virginia Woolf to Sydney Schiff on Jan. 15, 1922,

“About Joyce, and my endeavour to be doubly fair to him because I have been perhaps unfair and captious. Oh, I can’t get over a great great deal. I can’t get over the feeling of wet linoleum and unemptied pails and far worse horrors in the house of his mind–He’s so terribly unfein; that’s what it amounts to. There is a tremendously strong impulse in me to beg him not to shock me!”

(The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, ed. J. Middleton Murry (London, 1928), vol. II, p. 173.)


I came across this gem while reviewing Ellman’s biography. On Saturday, B. and I see The Waves at Lincoln Center. Here’s an e-trailer of the production.

Leave a comment

Filed under James Joyce, Real Life


It’s Friday. Today’s FW thoughts:

1) Donald Barthelme’s “After Joyce” (in Not-Knowing); Joycean musicality in Barthelme’s novel, The Dead Father.

2) Marshall McLuhan’s FW quotes and Joyce discussions in War and Peace in the Global Village. Prankquean’s “Clothing As Weaponry.” Also, “Marshall McLuhan and James Joyce: Beyond Media” by Donald and Joan Theall.

3) Norman O. Brown, Apocalypse and/or Metamorphoses and Love’s Body. I remember the night I discovered Apocalypse, via Branwynne, who rang me up that evening, 12 years ago at C.U and said, “You have to see something. Come over” [paraphrased]. I was 19 years old. We sat in her room and perused his essays, specifically, “Daphne and/or Metamorphoses.” The bizarre chapter break flourishes. She asked, “Have you seen anything like it?” I sighed, “No.” But anyway, this work changed my life w/r/t Joyce and beyond.

4) I need to find my notes for Michael Seidel‘s C.U. class, “Joyce and His Contemporaries [Woolf and Beckett].” I took it in 1995, and just found out via this article, that Seidel offered an FW seminar at Columbia in 2001.

5) I ordered Tindall on Amazon today and should get Ellman [I link to this music Joyce site (which cites the Ellman biography) because it’s amazing] and McHugh out of storage.

6) Totally unrelated: my favorite future novelist Elif Batuman has a new article in the LRB and issue 7 of n+1.

7) ReJoyce: I miss Paris and Bloomsday 2008.

Here’s my Circe route in the Marais area:

Leave a comment

Filed under Criticism, FW, James Joyce, Real Life, Ulysses

Unsatisfied Customers

Ezra: “I will have another go at it, but up to present I make nothing of it whatever. Nothing, so far as I can make out, nothing short of divine vision or a new cure for the clapp, can possibly be worth all the circumambient peripherization.” (145)

Stanislaus: “With the best will in the world I cannot read your work in progress. The vague support you get from certain French and American critics, I set down as pure snobbery. What is the meaning of that rout of drunken words?” (216)

Harold: “I try very hard to understand that book but fail completely. It is almost impossible to decipher, and when one or two lines of understanding emerge like telephone poles above a flood, they are at once countered by other poles going in the opposite direction….I truly believe that Joyce has this time gone too far in breaking all communication between himself and his reader. It is a very selfish book. (34)

Leave a comment

Filed under Criticism, FW, Skeleton Key

Samuel Beckett’s “Dante…Bruno.Vico.. Joyce”

… has a great summary of Vico’s philosophical system (in Scienza Nuova) as it pertains to FW.

But first, Beckett’s opening lines:

“The danger is in the neatness of identifications. The conception of Philosophy and Philology as a pair of nigger minstrels out of the Teatro dei Piccoli is soothing, like the contemplation of a carefully folded ham-sandwich.”

Anyway, I will quote here in (somewhat) full:

“Giambattista Vico was a practical roundheaded Neapolitan. It pleases Croce to consider him as a mystic, essentially speculative, “disdegnoso dell’ empirismo.” It is a surprising interpretation, seeing that more than three-fifths of his Scienza Nuova is concerned with empirical investigation. Croce opposed him to the reformative materialistic school of Ugo Grozio, and absolves him from the utilitarian preoccupations of Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Bayle and Machiavelli. All this cannot be swallowed without protest. Vico defines Providence as: “una mente spesso diversa ed alle volte tutta contraria e sempre superiore ad essi fini particolari che essi uomini se avevano proposti; dei quali fini ristretti fatti mezzi per servire a fini piu ampi, gli ha sempre adoperati per conservare l’umana generazione in questa terra.” What could be more definitely utilitarianism? His treatment of the origin and functions of poetry, language and myth, as will appear later, is as far removed from the mystical as it is possible to imagine. For our immediate purpose, however, it matters little whether we consider him as a mystic or as a scientific investigator; but there are no two ways about considering him as an innovator. His division of the development of human society into three ages: Theocratic, Heroic, Human (civilized), with a corresponding classification of language: Hieroglyphic (sacred), Metaphorical (poetic), Philosophical (capable of abstraction and generalization), was by no means new, although it must have appeared so to his contemporaries. He derived this convenient classification from the Egyptians, via Herodotus. At the same time it is impossible to deny the originality with which he applied and developed its implications. His exposition of the ineluctable circular progression of Society was completely new, although the germ of it was contained in Giordano Bruno’s treatment of identified contraries.”

[Continued here.]

1 Comment

Filed under Criticism, FW, Our Exagmination, Work in Progress

Notes on Borges’ Notes on Joyce

Emir Rodriguez Monegal.

Gerald Martin.

L.A. Murillo.

B: “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” “Funes the Memorious.” “The Aleph.”

Mario Vargas Llosa.

John Irwin.

“The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde.

Joyce and Borges: blindness.

“Autobiographical Essay.”

Irish and Argentinian Politics.

At age 9, J and B publish.

“The Shape of the Sword.” Parnell as hero and traitor.

Black Finnegan in “Death and the Compass.”

Borges refers to Norah as “Miss Norah Healy.”

Affinity: death of a parent.

Homer, J and B: blind bards.

Daniel Balderston.

DQ = Borges. Ulysses = Joyce

Work In Progress/Obra-en-gestacion.

Ireneo Funes. Brilliant failures.

“Fragment on Joyce.”

Matei Calinescu.

The Aleph and totality.


“The pun is the philosopheme of this ear tuned to the other.” (Ulmer)

Valery Larbaud.

Samson Agonistes.

“Secular phoenish.”

B not as impressed with J’s wordplay. Other writers before J: Jules Laforgue and Lewis Carroll did “a better job” with calembours, portmanteaus, wordplay.

Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandhithering waters of Night.

[Continued here.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Criticism, FW