Monthly Archives: February 2009


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