Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New documentary "The Joycean Society" follows FW Reading Group

A brand new documentary, "The Joycean Society", about a Finnegans Wake reading group has been making the rounds at film festivals lately and getting some very positive reviews. Spanish artist Dora Garcia researched Joyce and the Wake for years and followed along with a reading group in Zurich led by prestigious Joyce scholar Fritz Senn, documenting the unique world of Wake reading groups in her short feature.

From a review/report about the film:
"Finnegans Wake is a book that chooses its readers; however, it’s not a book that touches everyone,” Garcia says. “It’s a book for people who want to understand the world absolutely, almost Indiana Joneses of language. So it’s an elitist book, but not for the rich or the beautiful, but for the brave who are skeptical at the same time."
From another review in The Hollywood Reporter:
In theory a "highbrow crowdpleaser" should be a contradiction in terms, but Dora Garcia's delightful featurette The Joycean Society comes mighty close to squaring that circle. In less than an hour, the film immerses us in the playfully erudite company of what must be one of the world's more rarefied reading-groups, a gathering of James Joyce enthusiasts who each week meet in Zurich to go through his experimental magnum opus Finnegans Wake page by page, line by line, word by word. The result is an accessible, original, amusing and thought-provoking enterprise, of a length ideal for small-screen slots and of a quality eminently deserving big-screen film-festival exposure.
Some more words about the film from Dora Garcia herself can be found here and here:
I have always been attracted to Joyce in relation to concepts such as “the destruction of the English language”, the “explosion of language”, “the end of literature”. This had, of course, a punk, countercultural quality I was very attracted to.
Hopefully the general public can get a look at this intriguing film soon.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Adam Harvey performs from Shem chapter

Adam Harvey is an actor from New Mexico who holds the distinction of being capable of reciting long portions of Finnegans Wake at length from memory, with dramatic effect. I had the privilege of seeing him perform the Mookse and Gripes fable at the 2011 North American James Joyce conference and it was unlike anything I'd ever beheld.

In this video clip, Adam reads the closing passages (pg. 193-195) of the Shem chapter (Book 1, chapter 7). This hilarious chapter, considered a favorite among many Wake readers, features brother Shaun describing the disgusting habits and living conditions of his shameful twin brother Shem. Shem, of course, is a version of James Joyce himself.

A few pages before Adam's selection, while the chapter starts to reach its conclusion, Shaun takes the form of a dramatic personage named JUSTIUS and gets his last words in on his pathetic brother. The whole thing is ridiculously comical as Shaun even asks Shem to help him come up with a proper denunciatory title:
you (will you for the laugh of Scheekspair just help me with the epithet?) semisemitic serendipitist, you (thanks, I think that describes you) Europasianised Afferyank! (p. 191)
At the end of his monologue is the very intriguing description of Shaun either putting the living to sleep, to death, or both:
He points the deathbone and the quick are still. Insomnia, somnia somniorum. Awmawm. (p. 193)
The Latin translates to "Sleeplessness, dream of dreams" while also mimicking the end of the Catholic liturgy which goes "forever and ever, amen."

It is here where Adam Harvey's wonderful selection begins.

Here in the final pages of a chapter spent deriding him in the absolute lowest of terms, Shem appears (under the dramatic personage of MERCIUS) to confess his sins and reverts toward a sad self-hatred until, so perfectly demonstrated in Adam's peformance, the ever-forgiving, ever-renewing river mother suddenly flows through him: "O me lonly son, ye are forgetting me!, that our turfbrown mummy is acoming."

She carries news headlines, playful trickling splashy watery language, "as happy as the day is wet" and has "tramtokens in her hair," our "giddygaddy, grannyma, gossipaceous Anna Livia."

And with the affirming, renewing, forgiving mother energy having revived the reviled Shem, we get that magnificent juxtaposition against his brother's "deathbone" curse:
He lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak.
The final spoken "Quoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiq!" features seven repetitions of the French "what" as Shem revives the dead/sleeping human race but it also takes the sound of ducks quacking, presumably along the flowing river and perfectly leading into the next chapter, the famous ALP chapter of a thousand rivers (which you can hear Joyce himself recite from here).

Here is an interview with Adam Harvey by my good friend and the curator of the long-running Venice Finnegans Wake/Marshall McLuhan reading group, Gerry Fialka.

You can hear Robert Anton Wilson recite this passage and another from the same chapter in Part 2 of his excellent interview about Finnegans Wake.