Thursday, July 6, 2023

Reviews of Five (Mostly) Recent Books on Joyce, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake

Consuming Joyce: 100 Years of Ulysses in Ireland (2022) by John McCourt

Last year in June, I was in Dublin for the James Joyce Symposium at Trinity College where I presented a paper. That was my third trip to Dublin in a span of nine months, prior to which I'd never been to Ireland before. The city was bustling for the centennial celebration of Ulysses, which first appeared in 1922. On Bloomsday, June 16th, after attending some panels at Trinity, I wandered around the city and watched locals in the pubs genuinely thrilled for Bloomsday like they were celebrating a local sports team's victory. Dublin was lit and I had a great time hanging with friends throughout the symposium. 
I acquired a few new books during that trip, including this recently published study by John McCourt detailing the reception and impact of Ulysses in Ireland over the last century. Once I started reading Consuming Joyce, I couldn't put it down. I completed it in one long reading session on the flight back to the US. McCourt's approachable yet academically rigorous study goes decade-by-decade showing how Ireland's initially intense hostility against Joyce (and his devoted readers) evolved into hoisting Joyce up on a pedestal as a national hero.
    As an American in Ireland soaking in and savoring the local connections from Joyce's texts, one thing I found especially compelling in Consuming Joyce was the early hostility from the Irish against American readers of Joyce's work and how much that changed over the century. McCourt's book is peppered with quotes from Irish critics and commentators who, in the initial few decades after Ulysses appeared in 1922, relished the opportunity to trash Joyce's American readership. One example (from a review of Stuart Gilbert's guide to Ulysses which appeared in 1930) delivered Joyce some backhanded praise while needling the Americans who love his work: "Joyce is constantly pulling the long Homeric bow in order to astonish the uninitiated; and he has succeeded to some extent, especially with the Americans, where classical learning is not very widely cultivated." (pg. 60) 
    Joyce's old frenemy from Dublin, Oliver Gogarty (immortalized as Buck Mulligan in Ulysses), published an editorial in a Dallas, Texas newspaper in the year 1950 mocking the "Joyce fetish" of Americans, remarking that they all belong in kindergarten, and concluded, "This is a moment in the history of art where cross-word puzzles, detective stories and distortions take the place of literature and beauty. And when we consider that America is the original home of smoke signals, the popularity of Joyce here can be explained." (pg. 110)
    In 1965, an article in the Irish Times mocked "the Joyce posers (or symposers)" and complained that Joyce would be rolling his grave if he'd known what an enthusiastic international readership he'd attained: 
'The bould Jamsie Joyce was writing for Irishmen and for nobody else. I wish the Americans would learn that simple fact. They would be happier if they did.' Joyce would be 'vastly annoyed if he had the gift of clairvoyance to foresee that his books would take on the veneration which is accorded the Talmud. Joyce is now a money-spinner for Dublin hoteliers and if he revolves in his Zurich grave I shall not be very much surprised.' (p. 169)
McCourt's book is filled with quotes like this. The impression I get was that the trajectory of Joyce's reception in Ireland began as disgust and hatred at his portrayal of his fellow countrymen, followed by a sort of nationalist covetousness which disdained foreign admirers hijacking their hero, until the widespread attitude suddenly flipped in the 1980s after the centennial of Joyce's birth. Ireland as a country had changed drastically from its tumultuous revolutionary period in the first couple decades of the 20th century, to its era of repressive Catholicism and strident nationalism, and now strived to become a cultural and economic force on the global stage. McCourt's tracing of these changes alongside the reception of Joyce makes for an insightful recent history of Ireland. The once-reviled Joyce had become central to Ireland's ambitions as a nation: "The post-nationalistic, anti-Catholic, pro-European (but more crucially pro-capital) Ireland of the 1990s—proudly the world's most global economy—found the perfect symbol in Joyce, who had earlier rejected so many of the pieties that the country was now finally beginning to question and demolish." (pg. 210)
While it is an academic study packed with information and footnotes on every page, Consuming Joyce is also an engaging read and I learned much from it. The book mostly shies away from direct engagement with Joyce's texts themselves, mainly focusing on the Irish reception of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake over the years. Also included in here is a fascinating and informative history of the development of the "Joyce industry" including the stories of how places like the Joyce Tower in Sandycove and the Joyce Center on North Great Georges Street became the Joyce museums they are today, as well as background on the origins of the annual international Joyce Symposium. I've attended several of these symposia over the last decade and it was eye-opening to learn how these events began with hostility from the locals until eventually the widespread ostracism of Joyce and his readership evolved into hero-worship, accepting and celebrating Joyce as a leading source of tourism in Ireland, all leading up to the grand celebrations of Ulysses at 100. McCourt skillfully captures the details of how this all came to be. Towards the end, he also surveys the vast landscape of Joyce criticism and scholarship to have appeared over the decades pointing to some of the open frontiers of untapped research. (McCourt is noticeably dismissive of the John Kidd side of the "Joyce wars" and adopts the party line of Joyce academics in accepting the Gabler edition of Ulysses.) Historical nuggets of interest to Joyceans abound in this study, the context provided will be useful to any Joyce reader, and I expect I'll be drawing more anecdotes from Consuming Joyce for blog posts in the near future.

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The Book About Everything: Eighteen Artists, Writers and Thinkers on James Joyce's Ulysses (2022) ed. by Declan Kiberd, Enrico Terrinoni, & Catharine Wilson

Another book I acquired in Dublin on its publication day on Bloomsday 2022 (at The Winding Stair bookshop on Ormond Quay a few steps away from the Ha'penny Bridge), this is a colorful collection of reflections on Joyce's art from eighteen different contributors from diverse backgrounds. There's some intriguing stuff in here like an Irish Times newspaper correspondent discussing the newsroom scenes of the Aeolus chapter of Ulysses, a Michelin-starred chef from Dublin digesting the lunch-time episode of Lestrygonians, and a Palestinian-born Jewish Irish sociologist insightfully examining the political implications springing from the Nestor episode. Despite eighteen different voices with vastly different approaches to discussing a complicated novel, the prose throughout this book is refreshingly easy to consume, the collection feels well-edited and stands among the best recently published Joyce books for the general reader. 
Even though I thought a few of the chapters deviated too far from the topic, where authors hardly touched on the Ulysses episode they were assigned, or abandoned Ulysses to instead surf around the infinite multiverse of Finnegans Wake, there were also some absolute gems to be found in here. Eric A. Lewis, co-host of the tipsyturvy Ulysses podcast, presents a superb examination of the Ithaca episode arguing that it turns the reader into a surveillance agent gathering intelligence on Leopold Bloom. It's gotta be the most insightful and unique piece of Ulysses criticism I've read in a while. Another standout was Dublin-born novelist Joseph O'Connor's essay on Sirens, captivating for its rich prose and local context. Additionally, Jhumpa Lahiri's wide-ranging analysis of the meaning behind the flittering bat in the Nausicaa episode left a lasting impression, prompting me to seek out more of Lahiri's work. While this collection may not always offer groundbreaking new readings for the seasoned Joycean, it offers a wealth of great material celebrating the author and his work from a multitude of angles.

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James Joyce in Context (2014) ed. by John McCourt

This batch of 32 essays from different Joyce scholars on various topics related to reading Joyce is a dense academic tome. Unlike the previous book above, the authors here don't attempt to get too creative in their prose style, so I would not consider this an engaging or especially enjoyable read. But as a reference text for various topics related to Joyce, it proves helpful. Personally, I picked this up because I wanted to fill in some gaps in my understanding of Joyce, especially some missing contexts that became apparent during a few trips I took to Ireland. Thus, for instance, I appreciated the essay in this collection about post-colonial Joyce by Gregory Castle. I was curious to know more about Joyce's complicated and seemingly contrarian views about Irish politics since, for example, he maintained his British citizenship all his life, never opting for an Irish passport after Ireland gained its independence. There are no easy answers to these questions, but I do think the reader is provided some helpful perspective in trying to understand, Castle puts it, "that Joyce's nationalism takes the form of a transnationalism in which an anti-nationalist position enters into a dialectical relation with pro-nationalist sentiments." (p. 108) Similarly, Brian G. Caraher's essay on Irish and European politics looks at Joyce's political writings from his younger days and sees an affinity towards socialism—Joyce even attended a meeting of the Italian Socialist Party in Rome in October 1906—but the author, making reference to the book James Joyce and the Question of History by James Fairhall, concludes:
Joyce's cultural politics may share in the broad outlines of a general disillusionment consequent upon the betrayals of international socialism in the early years of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, in Fairhall's persuasive reading, 'however we try to define his ambivalent, elusive politics,' Joyce 'was in any event not a passive esthete, but a literary revolutionist for whom writing represented the supreme political act. (p. 290)
These essays attempt to summarize in a limited space the existing scholarship on certain topics. Another very complex subject that was well-explained here is the postmodernist study of Joyce, the semiotic viewpoint of thinkers like Umberto Eco and Jacques Derrida. I also found the chapter chronologically going into detail about the composition and publishing history of each of Joyce's major works to be a useful and accessible refresher with some new info added too. This volume is a good resource for undergrad or grad students studying Joyce, though hardly a top pick for a general reader interested in the subject.

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Beating the Bounds: Excess and Restraint in Joyce's Later Works (2023) by Roy Benjamin

Roy Benjamin teaches English at Borough of Manhattan Community College and has published many articles on Joyce, mostly focused on specific themes and patterns in Finnegans Wake. Among his published articles is a fascinating exploration of the role of axial precession myths in the Wake, a paper whose insights I was inspired to write about at length on this blog several years ago. The publication of a new book-length work by Prof. Benjamin, one of the more prolific and seasoned scholars of Finnegans Wake alive today, is a valuable addition to the canon of Joyce criticism. The new book Beating the Bounds: Excess and Restraint in Joyce's Later Works is published as part of the Florida James Joyce Series (edited by Sebastian D.G. Knowles) printed by the University Press of Florida (side note: ain't it ironic that the state of Florida, of all places, has an academic book production system churning out fascinating scholarly studies of James Joyce? For real though, the series has produced some great books but they need to do something about the exorbitant list prices). 
    Benjamin's Beating the Bounds book presents a wide-ranging exploration of the role of boundaries and limits in Joyce's writing, showing how Joyce had a Jesuit penchant for structured systems organized by boundaries but also insisted on shattering any notion of limits. Beating the Bounds shows Joyce's tendency toward transgressing boundaries in several different aspects of his work. I describe this as a wide-ranging study because, while the book is laser-focused on the subject of creating boundaries and breaking them, Benjamin identifies this pattern across several disciplines; there are chapters on Joyce's treatment of these themes in philosophy, Irish politics, mathematics, aesthetics, ecology, gender studies, and scientific cosmology—while enlisting ideas and quotes from an eclectic array of thinkers like Camile Paglia, Ken Wilber, Marshall McLuhan, Jacques Derrida, Slavoj Zizek, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The approach Benjamin takes in his examination is to crack open specific lines and phrases from Finnegans Wake, using Roland McHugh's annotations, Encyclopedia Britannica and the Oxford English Dictionary, while revealing connections and correspondences to illustrate the repeated dialectic of boundary making-and-breaking. To read of this dialectic playing out thru the realms of ecology in "the mountain and river system" of the Wake or the cosmologies of a bounded or an infinitely boundless universe, all through the freighted language of the Wake is an enlightening experience even if requiring close attention to understand. Benjamin's explications allude not only to the roster of thinkers listed above, but frequently touch on classics like Greek myth, the Bible, and Shakespeare. No doubt, the material is dense, not unlike reading John Bishop's study, Joyce's Book of the Dark—the pages of Beating the Bounds are built of paragraphs weaving in quotes from across the Wake, while annotating the portmanteaus. I'm usually hoping for new perspectives or new notes on specific lines from Joyce's text and Benjamin's book delivers plenty of that. It doesn't always make for easy reading, but also Beating the Bounds successfully avoids bogging down the reader in the analytical jargon of academic theories, managing to thread a needle in presenting a wide-scoped view of a specific subject found evident in abundance all across the Wake.

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James Joyce's Mandala (2023) by Colm O'Shea

Stuart Gilbert's 1930 guide to Ulysses has been criticized for reading too much eastern mysticism into his analysis of Ulysses, even though Joyce himself was supposedly feeding Gilbert information and overseeing his writeup. Joseph Campbell helped to bring the work of Joyce to a wider audience of readers (myself included) with his explication of Joyce finding ample elements from Buddhist and Hindu myths. One of Campbell's vital influences was the German scholar of Indian religions, Heinrich Zimmer. One of Zimmer's books on the study of Maya in Hindu mythology was discovered in the personal library of James Joyce with Joyce's annotations and markings indicating he'd been reading it with interest. This was the trimmed-down library Joyce kept after all the relocations, from his final years in Paris, these were the books he considered important. 
Colm O'Shea's brilliant study of the eastern mystical elements glowing at the heart of Joyce's work begins with the foundation of the notable volumes in Joyce's Paris library. Besides the Zimmer book on Maya there was also a collection of Tolstoy's essays in which Joyce had underlined some striking passages in the essay "Religion and Morality" including these lines: "What is the meaning of my momentary, uncertain and unstable existence amid this eternal, firmly defined and unending universe? … The essence of every religion consists solely in the answer to the question, 'Why do I live, and what is the meaning of my relation to the infinite universe around me?" (O'Shea, p. 2)
Creating frequently compelling comparisons between the meanings involved in the "psychic architecture" of mandalas and Finnegans Wake, O'Shea presents his research in a clear and approachable writing style. James Joyce's Mandala is not only an in-depth study of mandala symbolism in Finnegans Wake, it also provides the reader a fascinating overview of the function of the mandala in eastern religions and meditative practices. The mandala is shown by O'Shea to embody an attempted response to the deep question posed by Tolstoy, "what is the meaning of my relation to the infinite universe around me?" The mandala can be considered a map of psychic states and structures, but it's also seen as a blueprint for the architecture of the universe, centered on a cosmic axis. 
    The chapters of James Joyce's Mandala examine some of the "mandalic motifs" featured in the Wake including the quincunx, the squared circle, and the sphere-cube palace/city structure. The latter structural motif evolves as a more complex version of the world-tree or world-mountain mythic image prominent in eastern myths and prominent in the Wake, as well. Making frequent use of the 1892 study Architecture, Mysticism, and Myth by the English architectural historian William Lethaby, O'Shea identifies intriguing connections with Finnegans Wake, a multi-layered universe which centers around a Chapelizod pub. Parallels are drawn between the three-dimensional versions of a mandala like a stupa or a pagoda and the architectural elements featured in the Wake, where the world-axis is represented as a building which is also a shrine, a tomb or a gate. (There's some correspondence in this part with my comparison of the Wake's portal into the bardo realm with the gopuram entrance to a Hindu temple.)
    O'Shea builds a compelling argument, even providing a whole chapter in the beginning of his book going point-by-point comparing each episode of Dubliners with the structure of the samsaric wheel, conveying the depths of Joyce early interest in eastern mysticism from his earliest writing days (the younger Joyce published a review of a book about Buddhism). One of the more notable links suggested in O'Shea's analysis is the comparison of the two main schools of Buddhism, Hinayana and Mahayana, with the different ways readers might approach Finnegans Wake. The main modes of Buddhism are "river vessels" after all (yana in Sanskrit means "ferry-boat" or "raft"), and the Wake is a book with a river flowing throughout the entire text. O'Shea argues that the Hinayana critic of the Wake imagines they could absorb all the existent critical and scholarly material and eventually reach a meaningful understanding of the text, or enlightenment. While the Mahayana critic of the Wake accepts that the journey from confusion to comprehension never really ends, never reaches a final conclusion. The journey is the point.
    The bulk of the book examines the meanings and uses of the mandala in Buddhism, Hinduism, and psychology while showing the presence and resonance of these in the text and structure of the Wake. Some of these links have been touched on by critics before (a springboard for the book is the explicit assertion that the Wake is a mandala made by Clive Hart in Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake, published in 1962) but O'Shea's study adds immensely to this discussion. The chapters detailing mandalic representations in the Wake yield rich insights. Along the way, O'Shea uncovers noteworthy gems from Joyce's earlier writings like Stephen Hero, Portrait, Ulysses, and Dubliners. I would not hesitate to describe this book as an essential work of Wake criticism (which makes it unfortunate the list price is ridiculously high). Alongside the Wake-as-mandala theories shared, what really draws the reader into this book is O'Shea's engagement with the question of whether Joyce was descending into a psychotic break while writing his final book. At the end of the book O'Shea devotes an entire chapter to this issue.
    In the introduction he states that, "Artistic genius in a work shouldn't obscure possible evidence that it comes from a sense of personal suffering; conversely, signs of psychological 'malfunction' behind the origins of an artifact do not negate the aesthetic, psychological, or spiritual insight rendered within." (p. 22, O'Shea)

    Later on in the last chapter, O'Shea returns to this question:

The Wake bears uncanny similarity to schizophrenic speech. I'm not pointing this out to claim… that Joyce was a latent psychotic and so we should dismiss his work. I think the truth is more interesting: the Wake-as-mandala is a creative defense from psychosis; its construction is a response to the dark night that descends on spiritual refugees. … Joyce's Wake can be read as both a locus of that sickness–a focus lens for obsessional self-reflexivity—and its own unique method of dealing with that sickness: Joyce's act of writing it was his creative therapy. (p. 174-175)

    That conclusion resonates with his earlier description of the different schools of Buddhism: "Intellectual vehicles, such as the various Buddhist schools of thought, that float in the samsaric flood are, non-dually, part of that flood but also aim to save the refugee from it." (p. 140)
    Overall, this a stimulating and thorough analysis of an interesting correspondence which other authors have sometimes alluded to but never before delineated with such depth. O'Shea's book brings new light to some passages of the Wake, it also provides convincing arguments about the structure of the text as a whole, and hardly shies away from some of the thornier questions of Joyce's sanity, all while providing the reader an approachable overview of some of the key tenets of Buddhist and Hindu philosophy.  

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Anatomy Lecture

The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp (1632), Rembrandt. 

On pg 241 of Finnegans Wake there's a reference to this painting by Rembrandt in "Aasdocktor Talop's onamuttony legture" where Joyce places himself in the role of the doctor providing an anatomy lesson. The Wake is on some level a close examination of the inner life of the human body. 

"Aasdocktor Talop" turns the name of Rembrandt's Doctor Tulp into an anagram of Plato ("Talop") while "Aasdocktor" not only recalls the proctologist license plate in Seinfeld, it alludes to the author of the Wake who never shies away from a scatological joke. The double-a "Aasdocktor" line appears within the same extended paragraph (FW 240-242) that gives the Shem/Glugg/Joyce character the cryptic AA name "Anaks Andrum" (FW 240.27) before referring to him as "He, A.A." and the annotations to these lines connect this to the A.A. middle initials of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce.

As a university student Joyce had tried to become a doctor, attending medical school in Paris. In Dublin, he hung out with medical students like Oliver Gogarty who, in the guise of Buck Mulligan in Ulysses, coldly describes seeing corpses "cut up into tripes in the dissectingroom."

In Stephen Hero, Joyce wrote: "The modern spirit is vivisective. Vivisection itself is the most modern process one can conceive." A line later in this chapter of the Wake (II.1) splices together new surgical words with "mortisection or vivisuture, splitten up or recompounded." (FW 253.34)

My review of John Bishop's study of the Wake, Joyce's Book of the Dark, goes in depth on Bishop's theories about the human body underlying everything at play in the Wake. Among other examples, the anatomy lesson angle of the Wake stands out in the introduction to Shem to begin chapter 7 (FW 169) where we get this comical description of his anatomy:

Shem's bodily getup, it seems, included an adze of a skull, an eight of a larkseye, the whoel of a nose, one numb arm up a sleeve, fortytwo hairs off his uncrown, eighteen to his mock lip, a trio of barbels from his megageg chin (sowman's son), the wrong shoulder higher than the right, all ears, an artificial tongue with a natural curl, not a foot to stand on, a handful of thumbs, a blind stomach, a deaf heart, a loose liver, two fifths of two buttocks, one gleetsteen avoirdupoider for him, a manroot of all evil, a salmonkelt's thinskin, eelsblood in his cold toes ... 

Later on in the Wake, during an active seance scene there springs brings forth "A disincarnated spirit...with messuages from my deadported" who is said to disbelieve in miracle cures like the "soulsurgery of P. P. Quemby." (536.06)

Joyce himself had all kinds of medical ailments during his life resulting in many treatments, including a dozen surgical procedures on his eyes. In early 1941 in Zurich, he was suffering severe abdominal pains and underwent emergency operation for a perforated ulcer. Weakened by loss of blood, Joyce died in the hospital following surgery and a blood transfusion. An autopsy showed two ulcers, one which had led to extensive blood loss, and his intestines were badly damaged. Joyce had been suffering stomach pains for years, even mentioned it several times in the Wake including "he's knots in his entrails!" (FW 231.25) but his Parisian physicians kept misdiagnosing him with nervous stomach cramps. Had his badly damaged innards been correctly diagnosed earlier he may have lived long enough to write a sequel to Finnegans Wake.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Notes on Ulysses, Pomes Penyeach, and Textual Materiality in Finnegans Wake

It's evident that by the time he got to Finnegans Wake Joyce's unit of attention had narrowed to the single letter. He had fully absorbed the great lesson of his seven years with Ulysses, that what he was engaged in day after day was not "telling stories," no, but formulating minute instructions for printers, whose habit of attention goes letter-by-letter likewise. - Hugh Kenner, "Shem the Textman" from p. 38 of Finnegans Wake: A Casebook

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Ever since the big Joyce birthday this past February 2nd of 2022, which was also the centennial of Ulysses (1922) being published, I've been thinking about the richness of Joyce's own descriptions of Ulysses provided in the meta-textual-commentaries within Finnegans Wake (1939). These meta-commentaries show how much Joyce emphasized the material qualities of these texts. In a previous post I touched on scholarly work I was reading showing Joyce's intricate intentions for the final textual product of his books. With the first edition of Ulysses, to give one example, there were specific words referring to specific numbers set to appear on corresponding page numbers. These subtle quirks were lost when pagination was changed in subsequent editions. With Finnegans Wake, mercifully the pagination tends to be fairly consistent across different editions. But material quirks reign across its pages, the whole thing is made of puzzling epiphanic typos, "prepestered crusswords in postpositions" (FW 178.03-4), the reader is continually compelled to "Stop and Think" (FW 88.01) and the book has an entire chapter that serves as a metatextual primer on the appearance of the text itself (Book I, chapter 5). Within that chapter are also fascinating insights about Ulysses from Joyce's perspective, including on its materiality qualities. 

Taking a look at the Letter chapter (I.5), starting on page 122 we get this commentary about Ulysses:

the toomuchness, the fartoomanyness...the cut and dry aks and wise form of the semifinal; and, eighteenthly or twentyfourthly, but at least, thank Maurice, lastly when all is zed and done, the penelopean patience of its last paraphe, a colophon of no fewer than seven hundred and thirtytwo strokes tailed by a leaping lasso (FW 122.36-123.06)

How better to describe the blizzard of verbal information confronting a reader of one of Joyce's big novels than "the toomuchness, the fartoomanyness"? Overflowing and excessive, too much information packed into too many digressions, unsolvable riddles, and obscure jokes. Within that outlandish approach is a dynamic mixing of different styles, as with the penultimate or "semifinal" chapter of Ulysses, "Ithaca" which overflows with precise mathematical details, or Xs and Ys, in a cut-and-dry unadorned Q&A fashion, described here as "the cut and dry aks and wise form of the semifinal" (ask and whys or x and y's). "Ithaca" is the 17th or "semifinal" chapter of Ulysses but since he had already completed the 18th and final episode, this was actually the last chapter that Joyce was trying to complete before the final typesetting of the text. (In addition to that, Joyce mentioned to his patron Miss Weaver in a letter from Oct. 1921: "Ithaca is in reality the end as Penelope has no beginning, middle, or end.")

The process of typesetting Ulysses was hectic, not least because the text contains so many idiosyncrasies and the printer Maurice Darantiere ("thank Maurice") was a Frenchman who didn't speak English, but also Joyce kept jotting in more lines to be added into the text.

I recently got to view some of the typescript pages of "Ithaca" and they are filled with these "whiplooplashes" (FW 119), these long curvy lines indicating new blocks of text to insert. This could be in the reference here to "a leaping lasso" the rope-like lines lassoing in new bits to add into the final text. I think it's fascinating that Joyce, within Finnegans Wake, here comments not only on the materiality of his previous book Ulysses (including describing the first edition page count of "seven hundred and thirtytwo") but also the process of its creation, thanking the printer Maurice for his "penelopean patience" in dealing with the frantic final stages of composition.

From Ulysses: A Facsimile of the Manuscript (1975).

The "last paraphe" "when all is zed and done" could refer to a number of things that appear at the end of Ulysses: "paraphe" means initials or signature, a final flourish, which could be the "Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914-1921" at the end of the text; or it could refer to the last long paragraph of the Penelope chapter; the word "paraphe" also is immediately followed by "a colophon" which means a printer's emblem at the end of a book, so the expression "thank Maurice" might actually be an allusion to the final page at the end of the first edition of Ulysses, the printer's emblem.

from the Cambridge Centenary Ulysses: 1922 Text with Essays and Notes (2022).

One other more remote possibility for the final "paraphe" at the end of Ulysses could be that mysterious black dot at the very end of the Ithaca episode: since this was the last chapter Joyce wrote, that concluding black dot might be Joyce's final flourish in writing that work (before moving on to his next book where all the characters have become typographical icons, "the Doodles family" or "Mister Typus, Mistress Tope and all the little typtopies" FW 299.F05, FW 20.13).  At an exhibit on "Women and the Making of Joyce's Ulysses" at the Harry Ransom Center here in Austin, I got to witness up close one of the typescript pages for the end of Ithaca where Joyce added in the final question "Where?" and the famous black dot. The typescript page had handwritten instructions in pencil (too faint to see below) in French, specifically addressing Maurice Darantiere about the final dot—"ne pas oublier le point final" ("don't forget the final point") and "imprimer SVP" ("please print"). Having known about this infamous black dot for years, it was incredible to witness the handwritten notes up close. 

Typescript for Ithaca with Joyce's handwritten notes.
(Harry Ransom Center, Univ. of Texas at Austin.)

Continuing with the meta-commentary from the Letter chapter (I.5):

the ulykkhean or tetrachiric or quadrumane or ducks and drakes or debts and dishes perplex... in the case of the littleknown periplic bestteller popularly associated with the names of the wretched mariner... a Punic admiralty report... had been cleverly capsized and saucily republished as a dodecanesian baedeker of the every-tale-a-treat-in-itself variety... (FW 123)

It seems the word "ulykkhean" is the closest thing to Ulysses that appears in the Wake, besides "his usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles" (on FW 179.27). Perhaps it's fitting that the Danish word ulykke which means misfortune or accident, is echoed here. Not only is the story of the Odyssey about a series of misfortunes at sea, in Ulysses mistakes become portals of discovery, and there are several noteworthy "accidents" both large and small throughout the book. My sense is that Joyce is actually conflating Ulysses and Finnegans Wake in this passage, that word "ulykkhean" meaning accidents or mistakes could refer to the Wake where essentially every word is a mistake, a typo.

The Wake is also a book of dots and dashes or a "debts and dishes perplex" and the cryptic words "tetrachiric" and "quadrumane" here both mean "having four hands" which could refer to the four book structure of the Wake, the four stages of the Viconian cycle, the annals of the four masters (medieval history of Ireland), or the four provinces of Ireland (compare pg 325.32 "our quadrupede island"). We are clearly focused on Ulysses when reading of "the littleknown periplic bestteller popularly associated with the names of the wretched mariner… a Punic admiralty report" which gives strong emphasis to the Homeric parallels with Joyce's book. The word "periplic" refers either to circumnavigation or to a sailor's documentation of the ports, coasts, and routes on a voyage. The Punic wars, referred to here, took place in the Mediterranean Sea where the wanderings of Odysseus would have occurred. Every part of this passage is interesting, but for Joyce to describe Ulysses as "the littleknown periplic bestteller popularly associated with the names of the wretched mariner" is especially funny, combining "littleknown" with a popular best-seller or best-teller since Homer was an oral poet. At the time Joyce was writing this passage (late 1920s), Ulysses was stuck in that in-between stage where it was still pretty difficult for a reader to acquire a copy, yet it was also popular, or rather it was notorious. 

This is where I think he conflates Ulysses with the Wake: this popular book about the mariner "had been cleverly capsized and saucily republished as a dodecanesian baedeker of the every-tale-a-treat-in-itself variety" so it sounds like he flipped that book upside down in some clever way, as if the Wake is a capsized version of Ulysses. It also could be saying the original Odyssey was capsized and turned into the "dodecanesian" twelve Bloom-focused episodes at the heart of Ulysses (more about that shortly), but I think that word "dodecanesian" also echoes dodecahedron the "polydron of scripture" that is the Wake, a book with a geometry lesson in its center (II.2). 

Going further into the Wake, looking at Book II.1 has some interesting stuff about Ulysses as well. In that chapter, the Joyce-based character Shem the Penman is now named Glugg. Glugg gets rejected by the girls in a kid's game and runs off into exile where he then composes his art. The text has become weirder and more opaque at this stage of the book, but the annotations suggest references to the events and context surrounding Joyce's composition of Ulysses. Looking on page 228, the densely constructed lines include several puns on World War I trench-digger dialect (Joyce was writing Ulysses in the middle of the war). Then TS Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) which took inspiration from the early serialized episodes of Ulysses (Joyce responded in kind by borrowing inspiration from The Waste Land in the Wake), seems to be present in "He do big squeal like holy Trichepatte" (FW 228.06) because the original title for Eliot's Waste Land was actually "He Do the Police in Different Voices" (taken from a line in Dickens). And most relevantly, the page mentions "ban's for's book" and "banishment care of Pencylmania, Bretish Armerica" because Ulysses was banned in America and England. Returning to the materiality of the book, we then get this encoded allusion to the final words at the end of Ulysses:

quit to hail a hurry laracor and catch the Paname-Turricum and regain that absendee tarryeasty, his citta immediata, by an alley and detour with farecard (FW 228.22)

"Paname-Turricum" with "tarryeasty" becomes a reversal of "Trieste-Zurich-Paris" which appears after the final “Yes” from Molly to conclude Ulysses. These are the cities Joyce lived in during the composition of Ulysses. "Paname" is a nickname for Paris (apparently from Panama hats, which are mentioned several times throughout Ulysses), "Turricum" is the old name for the settlement that became Zurich (the name is actually Turicum with one r, the double-r here brings in turret a tower like the Martello Tower where Ulysses opens), and "tarryeasty" would be the city of Trieste, but also John Gordon suggests Tara for Ireland of the east. I think it could even be a subtle reference to the Irish name of the city of Dublin, Dubh Linn, meaning "black pool" (hence "tarry") on the east coast of Ireland. I think "regain that absendee tarryeasty" also involves regaining his absentee city starting with the letter D, Dublin which Joyce was exiled from but mentally immersed in while he lived in Trieste, "his citta immediata." McHugh suggests there's also subtle reference to Swift here with "quick, hurry" followed by Laracor which is a city in county Meath, Ireland where Swift was a vicar. Also involved here, one of many Irish authors alluded to in this section is the 19th century Irish author Charles Lever, who wrote the novel The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer hence "hurry laracor." Lever was from Dublin, but he actually died in Trieste where he was living on assignment as British consul. This passage in the Wake centralizes train travel, perhaps recalling Joyce's odyssey across Europe in his years of exile, as he tried to avoid the destruction and turmoil upon the outbreak of the Great War, "detour with farecard." The train ticket could also be a metaphor for Joyce's constantly returning to Dublin inside his head while living abroad.

On the following page is where the names of the middle episodes of Ulysses are presented in the form of distorted Wakese:

Ukalepe. Loathers' leave. Had Days. Nemo in Patria. The Luncher Out. Skilly and Carubdish. A Wondering Wreck. From the Mermaids' Tavern. Bullyfamous. Naughtsycalves. Mother of Misery. Walpurgas Nackt. (FW 229)

These are the 12 middle chapters of Ulysses, the Bloom-focused chapters. The first 3 and the last 3 chapters are excluded. This list suggests a couple interesting points (leaving aside the puns and wordplay on the chapter titles): for one thing, by drawing attention to the episode names this way Joyce seems to be expressing the importance of these titles despite them never actually appearing anywhere within the text of Ulysses itself; and secondly, the absence of the first three and last three chapters from this list highlights the emphasis on the Homeric correspondences embodied in the chapters focused on Leopold Bloom, strengthening the case for Ulysses "the littleknown periplic bestteller popularly associated with the names of the wretched mariner" being very much about navigation and seafaring. My friend Decio Slomp, an engineer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recently published a book documenting all of the nautical references embedded in each episode of Ulysses to argue exactly this: it's all about navigation.

*   *   *

In 1927 Joyce was once again broke, hurting for cash, begging Sylvia Beach for help despite the substantial royalties she'd already been sending him for Ulysses. An exasperated Beach bristled at his pleas, listing out the monthly income he was receiving off Ulysses and suggesting he be a better friend "to me who is your friend if ever you had one" and admit that he was spending considerable sums of money (29 April 1927, see Gordon Bowker's Joyce biography, p. 363). Wishing not to upset the proverbial applecart, Joyce sent her manuscripts for Dubliners and Stephen Hero, the friends made peace and eventually agreed to have Shakespeare and Co publish Joyce poems in a new collection, Pomes Penyeach.

Another edition of Pomes Penyeach was printed in 1932 by Obelisk Press. Joyce scholar Katarzyna Bazarnik writes of this edition:

Pomes Penyeach was published once more during Joyce’s lifetime by the Obelisk Press of Paris in 1932. This was the most beautifully designed of all his books, printed on specially imported Japanese paper (called Japan nacre or iridescent Japanese vellum). It consisted of nine loose folio sheets, folded and laid one within the other, placed in a portfolio bound in pale green silk. The poems were printed in black on recto of each leaf, in facsimile of Joyce’s handwriting and opened with illuminated, multi-coloured initials designed by Lucia. Additionally, the pages were interlaid with sheets of transparent tissue on which the title and text of each poem was printed in green in the lower left-hand corner. (Bazarnik, "Joyce, Liberature, and Writing of the Book" from here.) 

Bazarnik shows a copy of this rare 1932 edition of Pomes Penyeach which belonged to Harriet Shaw Weaver that got damaged in a fire in her garage:

Pomes Penyeach, Obelisk Press, H.S. Weaver’s copy
burnt at the edges by a fire in her garage. (KB here.)

Seeing the imprint of Joyce's handwritten title and signature on the cover of this rare, delicate, and nearly destroyed book of poems (or pomes) further fed my fascination with Joyce's own interest in the material presentation of his writing. These ideas actually converge and resonate when Joyce weaves in a mention of Pomes Penyeach within a very rich passage in the middle of Finnegans Wake, p. 302. The passage is worth looking at in detail, since it appears to describe Joyce "signing away in happinext complete" signing autographs from beyond the grave, and now coming back to life ("Can you write us a last line?") sending messages, his letters to the reader sounding like modern-day text-speak:

me elementator joyclid … the aboleshqvick, signing away in happinext complete, (Exquisite Game of inspiration! I always adored your hand. So could I too and without the scrope of a pen. … Can you write us a last line? From Smith-Jones-Orbison?) ...
And i Romain, hup u bn gd grl. Unds alws my thts.  …
Two dies of one rafflement. Eche bennyache. Outstamp and distribute him at the expanse of his society. To be continued. Anon.
(FW 302.12-30)

Joyce as "me elementator joyclid" intertwines Euclid whose Elements pop up throughout this geometry/mathematics lessons chapter (II.2). The way "joyclid" is described as "me elementator" also includes the word mentator, as in one who mentates, drawing our attention to the person whose mental activity gave written life to the consciousness buried in the pages of Finnegans Wake, a glimpse of "me" "joyclid" breaking the fourth wall. It does seems like Joyce is pulling back the curtain here to reveal himself, "the aboleshqvick, signing away in happinext complete"---the abolished bolshevik, still scribbling his signature from the next dimension beyond the grave "in happinext complete."

The paragraph's emphasis on signatures ("signing away","I always adored your hand") calls to mind a line from earlier in the book (FW115.06-08), "why, pray, sign anything as long as every word, letter, penstroke, paperspace is a perfect signature of its own?" The implication seems to be that Joyce knew by the time he was writing this that he was so famous that anything he ever wrote, scribbled, or signed would become valuable as part of his legacy. 

"Exquisite Game of inspiration!" hints at the creative game known as the Exquisite Corpse, made famous by the surrealists. Since Joyce has already brought himself into the equation here as "joyclid" and alluded to his continued existence after death "signing away in happinext complete" the reference to Exquisite Corpse seems a clever way of suggesting his corpse is constantly revivified by readers playing the game of reading this book. Collaboration among creators who are unaware of each other's contributions is the core of how the Exquisite Corpse game works, thus Joyce seems to be directly addressing the collective game of interpretation involved in reading Finnegans Wake. After all, the text at one point expressly considers whether "His producers are they not his consumers?" (497.01) Readers are active participants or collaborators with Joyce in giving meaning to this chaotic text. As Joyce scholar Alan S. Loxterman described in his essay "Every Man His Own God: From Ulysses to Finnegans Wake":

Joyce was working toward his ultimate achievement, an anomaly in the history of literature which expands the way we read. Today, and into our foreseeable future, Finnegans Wake survives not as the completed comprehensible entity which previous fiction (including Joyce's own) had conditioned us to expect. Rather it remains what Joyce first called it, a 'Work in Progress,' an artistic arrangement of words which requires continuous collaboration from its readers to make those words meaningful as a text. (from Joyce's Finnegans Wake: A Casebook p. 115)

The impression I get from the paragraph on FW302 is that it's like Joyce letting the reader know he's still actively writing from beyond the grave, exchanging letters with the reader. Hence, "Exquisite Game of inspiration! I always adored your hand" could be like a reader actively complimenting Joyce on his writing here in the middle of a book. Then they request one last line, "Can you write us a last line? From Smith-Jones-Orbison?" McHugh notes Smith-Jones-Orbison as an allusion to the mathematician and puzzlemaker Henry Dudeney who used the names Smith, Jones, Robinson in his puzzles published in The Strand Magazine in the early 1900s. (Joyce would have been familiar with this magazine, it was published by the same company as Tit-Bits which Bloom reads in Ulysses.) Bringing in a popular puzzlemaker/mathematician makes sense here in the geometry chapter and it's fitting that the usage implies Joyce as the creator of mathematical puzzles. My reading of why Robinson becomes "Orbison" is the "orb" represents Joyce's boast that he had squared the circle, or circled the square. Since Dudeney appears elsewhere in the same chapter in another triptych ("Dideney, Dadeney, Dudeney" see FW 284), I wonder whether Joyce knew of Dudeney having developed a hinge method for turning a triangle into a square, by splicing it into pieces, rotating them (circling) until they form into a perfect square.

"And i Romain, hup u bn gd grl. Unds alws my thts." This is Joyce, writing sometime in the late 1920s, predicting the clipped condensed language of millennial text messages. It's also yet another example of Joyce in the Wake calling attention to individual letters. The lowercase "i" certainly stands out, especially alongside the capital R in "Romain" and together suggests something like "iDomain" or maybe an echo of "iSpace" which appears earlier in the text (124.12), a link that could actually make sense since the German word Raum means "space." This amusing little line comes across in the context of the passage like Joyce answering the request to "write us a last line" with a declaration that he still remains. If "i Romain" really does echo the earlier "iSpace" (FW 124.12) with Raum (space) involved, then it seems to imply Joyce declaring that while he's absent from time, he remains in space through all of his printed works and the "signatures" of his surviving manuscripts and materials, "paperspace." "Unds alws my thts" has implications beyond "and always in my thoughts" which are enhanced by the minimized phrasing---"Unds" in the context hints at girl's undies and in millennial slang "thts" would be thots or promiscuous women, as though he's promising the girl that she remains among his favorite ladies. (This line has a footnote at the bottom of the page which carries similar implications: "Lifp year fends you all and moe, fouvenirs foft as fummer fnow, fweet willings and forget-uf-knots." [FW 302.F04] Not only does Joyce invent fweet here, he's once again calling attention to the visual presentation of the text on the page by using the so-called long S or lowercase F for the letter S in this sentence. The "fouvenirs foft as fummer fnow" are souvenirs left for his readers, and invoking snowfall here recalls the ending of "The Dead" where the snowfall is also described with f-words, "faintly falling"---compare also FW 17.27 "flick as flowflakes." And then "forget-uf-knots" would be the flowers called forget-me-nots, but also seems to be Joyce once again declaring he will not be forgotten, due to the "knots" of riddles his readers are forever unraveling.)

"Two dies of one rafflement." So much information saturates these short sentences. The sound of two dice in "Two dies" along with the presence of the French word rafle for "game of dice" in "rafflement" draws an allusion to Stéphane Mallarmé's groundbreaking poem Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (One Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance). The essay I've referred to throughout this post, Katarzyna Bazarnik's study of Joyce's focus on the textual object discusses the remarkable influence Mallarmé had on Joyce. In his study of Mallarmé and the dice poem, R. Howard Bloch's book One Toss of the Dice: The Incredible Story of How a Poem Made Us Modern (2016) points out that "Joyce kept a copy of 'One Toss of the Dice' close at hand while writing Finnegans Wake." (Bloch, p. 26)

Condensed in here with Mallarmé is also one of Joyce's earliest publications, his essay "The Day of the the Rabblement" published in 1901 as a student. The essay was rejected by the university paper, so Joyce and his friend Francis Skeffington (who was later murdered in the chaos following the 1916 Easter Rising) collaborated to publish a pamphlet of two essays together and distributed them throughout Dublin, hence this passage in the Wake concluding with "Outstamp and distribute him."

Joyce's student essay "The Day of the Rabblement" (1901).

The notebook dates at the JJ Digital Archive suggest Joyce was writing these lines around the same time Shakespeare & Co was publishing his poetry collection Pomes Penyeach (1927), thus the echo of the title in"Eche bennyache" resonates. Each, penny each. And then, "Outstamp and distribute him at the expanse of his society." The word "Outstamp" strikes me as another way to say express, but it also alludes to printing, Joyce's printed works for over a century now distributing across the world "at the expanse of his society" literally expanding the Joyce society and doing so at our expense as we shell out each penny, "Eche bennyache." "Eche" also contains the initials HCE for Here Comes Everybody. And McHugh notes the early Middle English word eche means "eternal, everlasting." The writer lives on through his printed works being distributed expansively throughout society, "To be continued. Anon."

Evident in the phrase "Eche bennyache" is also ache, belly ache. Joyce suffered from severe stomach issues while writing the Wake and shortly after the book's publication he died during surgery for an ulcer. Going back again to the section examined earlier (pgs 229-231 of book II.1) some of the same themes and references stand out, where the focus is on the autobiographical Shem character, the riddles he writes, and how "he's knots in his entrails!" (FW 231.25). 

"And oil paint use a pumme if yell trace me there title to where was a hovel not a havel (the first rattle of his juniverse) ..." (FW 230.36-231.02)

Joyce declares, I'll paint you's a poem ("pumme") if you'll trace me the riddle to the title to where was a novel not a novel (the first riddle of his universe). The first rattle of his junior verse, "Et Tu Healy" which he parodies immediately after these lines. This was Joyce's first poem written when he was 9 years old. His father proudly had it printed so he could distribute copies, even sending a copy to the Vatican. No surviving copies of "Et Tu Healy" have been identified as of this writing, though if one were to be discovered it could fetch up to 2 million dollars at an auction. A poem written by a 9-year-old. Only a few lines from the poem are known, and Joyce parodies them on this page (231.05-08). Echoing the earlier quoted assertions of "i Romain" and "To be continued. Anon." this same page also begins a sentence with, "Though he shall live for millions of years a life of billions of years" (FW 231.18-19). 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

from "The Hideous Hidden" by Sylvia Legris

 1, Plummet






. . . . . . . .
What is the little book
of the collected work of sleep?

What is the sleepless continuo? 
The endless malady?
The restless octave
that inoculates night?

. . . . . . . .
Nocturna suppressio.
The bacterially spreading falsetto.

. . . . . . . .
Dark dialyzes day's deliriums.
(Desperate cases demand desperate doses.)

Diazepamic diatonic.
The chemically sung interval
between sleep and shortfall
(the short slip between

falling hypnagogic
off a cliff and falling
off a cliff). The shudder
awake, the crash.

- from The Hideous Hidden by Silvia Legris, pg. 20 (New Directions, 2016)

Saturday, July 30, 2022

52 Wave Words in the Wake

A list of 52 Wave Words in Finnegans Wake.
An attempt to read Finnegans Wake only for the wave lines.

(See also Several Short Videos of the Sea from my iPhone.)

                                                 "By the fearse wave behoughted."

"the jimminies was to keep the peacewave"

                   "The soundwaves are his buffeteers"

                  "the wave of roary and the wave of hooshed"

"and the wave hawhawhawrd
the wave of neverheedthem-"

"Sweet bad luck on the waves washed to our island"

"They have waved his green boughs o'er him as they have torn him limb from lamb." (58.06)

"under night's altosonority, shipalone, a raven of the wave"

"Wave bore it. Reed wrote of it. Syce ran with it. Hand tore it and wild went war."

"flammelwaving warwife"

"that the upper reaches of her mouthless face and her impermanent waves were the better half of her"

"Rockabill Booby in the Wave Trough"

"burning body to aiger air on melting mountain in wooing wave"

"and the bergs of Iceland melt in waves of fire"

"The meeting of mahoganies, be the waves"

"But the majik wavus has elfun anon meshes."

"trickle me through was she marcellewaved or was it weirdly a wig she wore."

"sequansewn and teddybearlined, with wavy rushgreen epaulettes"

"Well, arundgirond in a waveny lyne aringarouma she pattered and swung and sidled"

"twinglings of twitchbells in rondel after, with waverings that made shimmershake"

"a message interfering intermitting interskips from them (pet!) on herzian waves"

"Arise, Land-under-Wave!" 

"what are the sound waves saying"

"That grene ray of earong it waves us to yonder"

"our lavy in waving"

"(Wave gently in the ere turning ptover.)"

"Will you walk into my wavetrap?"

"fin above wave after duckydowndivvy"

"on the fields of the foam of the waves of the seas" 


"the four maaster waves of Erin, all listening, four.
There was old Matt Gregoryand then besides old Matt
there was old Marcus Lyons, the four waves"

"not to forget the four of the Welsh waves, leaping laughing"

"at their windswidths in the waveslength"

"I might as well be talking to the four waves"

"he knowed his love by her waves of splabashing" 

"we come to newsky prospect from west the wave on schedule time"

"twill carry on my hearz'waves my still waters reflections in words"

"It was then he made as if be but waved instead a handacross the sea"

"with a posse of tossing hankerwaves to his windward"

"trailing the wavy line of his partition footsteps"

"They came from all lands beyond the wave for songs of Inishfeel."

"Among the shivering sedges so? Weedy waving."

"and there, by wavebrink, on strond of south"

"These brilling waveleaplights!"

"Only trees such as these such were those, waving there"

"awike in wave risurging into chrest"

"mild beam of the wave his polar bearing, steerner among stars"

"you spun your yarns to him on the swishbarque waves"

"When the waves give up yours the soil may for me."

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Joyce's Birthday and Sylvia Beach

February 2nd, 2022 marked 100 years since the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris. The day of 2/2/2022 was also the 140th birthday of James Joyce. Ten years ago at my other blog I wrote a short summary of Joyce's life for his 130th birthday. Back then I also wrote a piece describing with 16 reasons why James Joyce is the greatest writer ever. Both older pieces seem to hold up well I think, even though that was from before I had ever read Finnegans Wake. Finnegans Wake also had a birthday on February 2nd, it marked 83 years since Joyce's final masterwork first appeared in print after nearly two decades of serialization under the title Work in Progress. Joyce told a friend, "since 1922 my book has been a greater reality for me than reality." (Ellmann, 695) Back in 2010 after Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon brought out their new-and-improved "corrected" edition of Finnegans Wake, I wrote about the frantic final stages in the proofreading and publication of such a bizarrely written book. This was how the Wake came into the world:
Joyce finished composing the book on November 13, 1938 after laboring on it for nearly 17 years and then for the next month and a half, Joyce, with help from his friends Stuart Gilbert and Paul Léon and some professional proofreaders, frantically worked around the clock to proofread the book as Joyce insisted that it be printed by his birthday (February 2nd) no matter what. During this time, Joyce barely slept at all and once collapsed during a walk in Paris. In his famous Joyce biography, Richard Ellmann tells another story from this "frenzy of proofreading":
Léon supplied a last drama by forgetting a section of the revised proofs in a taxi. He rushed back to stop the driver, but the taxi was gone. Bitterly ashamed, he hurried to Joyce's flat to inform him; Joyce did not reproach him, seemed rather to take it as the usual sort of bad luck. Léon telephoned to London to send more proofs, but the taxi driver, after two hours, miraculously appeared with the missing package. (JJ, Ellmann, pg 714)
Joyce received a printed copy of the book from his publishers, Faber & Faber, on January 30th and for his birthday party on February 2nd, he celebrated the culmination of his years of work with friends and family. Paris' best caterer baked seven cakes, each one a replica of Joyce's seven books, with icing the color of the books' bindings. At the dinner celebration, Joyce told the guests how the idea for the book came to him in 1922 when he was at Nice in France and, after dinner, Joyce and his son sang a duet and his son's wife read aloud the last pages of Finnegans Wake.

When Ulysses was published in 1922 the era was fraught due to obscenity charges which led to Joyce's most famous book being declined by publishers in the English-speaking world for fear of legal action against them. Instead the owner of a small bookshop in Paris, American expatriate Sylvia Beach, took on the task of publishing the first edition of Ulysses. By the time Joyce was wrapping up Finnegans Wake in the late 1930s, he was the biggest literary celebrity in the world. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and Faber & Faber published and promoted his new book.

Joyce had in his hands the first printed copy of Finnegans Wake for his 58th birthday. He would not live to see the age of 60. He died January 13th, 1941 in Zurich after escaping Paris with his family before the Nazis took over France. With the Wake turning 83 years old, I was thinking what year would it have been had Joyce lived to the age of 83? 1965. One can only imagine. Ezra Pound died in 1972. Joyce's son Giorgio lived until 1976 and daughter Lucia died in 1982. 

Sylvia Beach died in 1962. That same year she recorded an interview that's available to watch on YouTube, shared below. It's a fantastic clip for Joyce fans, she describes what kind of person Joyce was, and (starting at 15:00) she tells the story of how, after the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940, a group of German officers came to her shop demanding to have her final copy of Finnegans Wake. She refused, and after they threatened to come back and confiscate all her stuff, she hurriedly emptied the shop and shuttered up Shakespeare and Company. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

"So This Is Dyoublong?" Living inside the World of the Wake, Part 1

"He ought to go away for a change of ideas and he'd have a world of things to look back on." 
- Finnegans Wake p. 160

This past summer, in the midst of a breakup from a long-term relationship and needing to go far away, I embarked on my first ever trip to Ireland. I ended up spending much of the past few months in and around Dublin. For somebody like me who has been interested in the writings of James Joyce for almost 15 years now, with the last 10 years spent hosting a Finnegans Wake reading group that deciphers each page down to its tiniest details, and maintaining this blog devoted to the Wake, the experience of spending so much time exploring Dublin and environs for the first time was transformative. Suffice to say I have an entirely new perspective on Joyce's work now. My head is filled with thoughts and reflections, so much that I don't know where to start. But since I have so much to say about it, I'm going to start posting a series of reflections about the experience on this blog. 

My first few days in Dublin I recall being in awe at everything around me since I'd been reading about the details of the place for so many years. Landmarks felt oddly familiar and deeply significant even though I was seeing them for the first time. Howth Head, so prominent on the horizon when looking north or northeast, it wasn't just a piece of rocky terrain, it was the head of the sleeping giant Finn MacCool. The Wicklow Mountains weren't just some green rolling hills, they were the place where the sea-formed clouds rain down and become the source of the River Liffey, an ongoing natural cycle. Even the ubiquitous flocks of seagulls sprung to mind the squawking sea-birds in Book II.4 of Finnegans Wake, "Three quarks for muster Mark!" (FW p. 383.01) 

I grew up in New York City where famous sights like the Manhattan skyline, Verrazano Bridge, and Statue of Liberty were familiar aspects of home. An out-of-towner visiting a place like New York City for the first time would instantly recognize many of the landmarks and sights from the background or setting of the worlds of NYC-based films and tv shows. With Joyce's Dublin though, the city is not merely the setting for Finnegans Wake---so much of the book is about the landscape itself, the ecology, the littoral life of the coastal zone, the street grid and its voices, the layers of historical events that shaped the place. Dublin in the Wake becomes the universal city, a city rendered into text with so much mythical depth and detailed density it makes you contemplate all cities.

So far I haven't yet mentioned Ulysses in connection with my experience of Dublin. I certainly was interested in the Ulysses stuff during my time there. I swam in the Forty Foot in Sandycove, saw the magnificent Martello Tower (in fact, I stayed for a week in a different Martello Tower a stone's throw away, a story for another day), on an almost daily basis I walked along Westland Row just like Bloom and went to Sweny's Pharmacy to participate in readings a few times, I even made my way over to Eccles Street. There is no lack of Ulysses stuff in Dublin, the city seems to fully embrace the importance of Ulysses which was really cool to witness. A constant habit of mine while staying in Dublin and exploring Ireland was to always search inside the texts of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake each time I experienced anything new. And the impression I got was that Finnegans Wake, even more than Ulysses, contains seemingly every single tiny detail of Dublin. Every street I spent time on, I looked for it in Finnegans Wake, and nine times out of ten I found it in there. Every district, every sight I saw, it all seemed to be there in the Wake. It became clear that Joyce redoubled his efforts to place every possible detail of the city of his birth into ink while writing the Wake over the last 17 years of his life. 

There were a few instances I noticed where Joyce had included some Dublin detail within Ulysses as part of a listicle, only to expand on it and scatter more references to it in Finnegans Wake. A couple quick examples---I spent a few days staying in a nice little district called Ranelagh in south Dublin, so I started looking for the place in Joyce's books. It pops up one time in Ulysses in a list delineating the route taken by one of the Invincibles prior to the Phoenix Park Murders, whereas in Finnegans Wake the neighborhood Ranelagh appears at least four times. Later on, when I went to Howth Head the little islet known as Ireland's Eye really stood out to me. It's a small island just off of Howth, a mysterious and striking sight visible from along the northern coast of Howth, the island has its own Martello Tower and the ruins of an early-medieval church. Ireland's Eye pops up once in Ulysses as part of a list of sites in the Cyclops episode, where in the Wake I have found at least a dozen appearances of Ireland's Eye. That could very well be because Howth and environs are so prominent in the Wake---a fact which really made a lot of sense to me once I saw Dublin and noticed Howth Head is an unmistakable feature on the horizon from almost anywhere.

A thought I kept returning to over and over was: how did Joyce, while in exile away from Ireland for the last few decades of his life, manage to render all of this in such precise detail? And why? Why would this genius author spend day after day writing only about this place (where he no longer lived) in such painstaking detail? As for the why, Joyce told Arthur Power, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal." On days when I wandered around in what seemed like a James Joyce theme park (a phrase I'm borrowing from former Dublin resident Robert Anton Wilson), casually walking down Westland Row, past Finn's Hotel, down to St. Stephen's Green, past the Shelbourne Hotel, over to King Street past the Gaiety Theater, back towards Grafton Street, up past Trinity College (all places that appear throughout Finnegans Wake) and then along the River Liffey, the river of life, the universal river Joyce anthropomorphized as Anna Livia Plurabelle in the Wake, I'd stop to stare at the varying ripples along the surface of the waters, and I was struck by a feeling I could only really convey in the following meme. I was this dude looking around at everyone else in the bustling city wondering how they didn't share my wonder for the Wake-ness of it all. 

For more than a dozen years I had been a passionate reader of the Wake, so much that I was even writing this blog solely devoted to talking about this one book, and throughout that whole time I had never experienced Dublin and had only a minuscule appreciation for the actual Irish elements of the text. It was always just that I loved the literary pyrotechnics and have always been fascinated by the Wake as the darker and more under-appreciated twin of Ulysses, this mysterious text which Joyce labored on for so many years, through so many hardships and then died right after it was finally published. Once I finally made it to Dublin, the incomprehensible Wake I'd been puzzling through for so long began to make sense on a level I'd never experienced before. I can say without a doubt, you cannot truly comprehend the phrase "from swerve of shore to bend of bay" until you've seen Dublin. The swerving shore and bending bay is such a distinctive quality of that coastline and that coastline is such a fundamental part of that city.

Speaking of the coastline and the opening sentence of the Wake... my favorite spot in Dublin, the place that struck me the most and which remains tattooed on my heart, is Vico Road. The view from Vico Road is one of the most breathtaking sights I've ever witnessed. 

View from Vico Road.

...more Vico Road views.

"The Vico road goes round and round to meet where terms begin."
- FW 452.21

Prior to experiencing the place, Vico Road in Dalkey had always seemed like it was simply a curiosity, a funny coincidence that there just so happened to be a road in the Dublin area named for the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico whose writings so heavily influenced Finnegans Wake. For a week I stayed in the beautiful old town of Dalkey and realized Joyce must have spent significant time there, I believe he had a teaching job in a school there. In Robert Nicholson's book The Ulysses Guide: Tours Through Joyce's Dublin I read that the Nestor chapter where Stephen teaches a class (and which chapter contains the only mention of Vico Road in Ulysses) most likely takes place at a school in Dalkey and I noticed Dalkey seemed to be home to many schools, the town was always filled with students in the afternoons. The Ulysses tour book mentions that Stephen likely walked down to the Dalkey train station after teaching class. Vico Road is a short walk from the Dalkey train station. 

For me, as a Wake nerd knowing the significance of Vico to Joyce, walking to Vico Road felt like a sort of pilgrimage. My first glimpse of the views from Vico Road blew my mind, I'd no idea it was such a beautiful place. It turns out this gorgeous area was thought to resemble the Bay of Naples in Italy and that's why the roads nearby are named after the Neapolitan Vico and the town of Sorrento on the Amalfi coast (Vico Road connects to Sorrento Road and Sorrento Park---Sorrento appears a few times in FW). During my trip, I was fortunate to meet a girl who lived right near Vico Road in Killiney Beach and so I got to spend a lot of time in that area staring out at those gorgeous views. That part of town truly felt enchanted to me. There's just a vibe over there. Having spent so much time there, trying to see that area through the eyes of young Joyce, it is now my theory that the area around Vico Road---where one looks southward at the promontory of Bray, and northward at Dalkey Island with its own Martello Tower and medieval church ruins, with the bend of bay and Irish Sea stretching out in between---made such an impact on the young Joyce that it significantly contributed to his fascination with Vico (which, if I'm not mistaken, had begun around the time of his earliest writings and grew into a full-fledged obsession with Vico in the Wake).

I also think it was not only Joyce's appreciation for Vico's theories but also his memories of Vico Road itself which led to its placement in the first sentence of the Wake: 

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. 

After witnessing all of these places firsthand, I feel there is an uncanny ecological poetry to this sentence. Tough to put into words but where I felt I understood this most clearly was while standing atop Killiney Hill (Molly Bloom recalls walking up Killiney Hill for a picnic, by the way). Close near Vico Road, there's a path that will take you up to the top of Killiney Hill, from which you can see a panoramic view of the whole city of Dublin. I think it's the best possible view of the city, and from there looking out at the jutting peninsula of Howth, and looking down at the river ostensibly in the lowlands in the heart of the city, casting your glance out to the swerving shore going southward, you begin to sense how that natural cycle so central to the Wake actually functions---the waters of the river rushing eastward and dispersing out to sea, spreading along the coast northward to Howth, and southward to the area along Vico Road, only to eventually evaporate into clouds which rain down on the westward hills (and the elevated areas of Howth and Vico Road) and drain into the river to recirculate and start the cycle over again. 

Looking out at that panoramic view I had a vision that Joyce had rendered this city into ink on page with Finnegans Wake, as thoroughly and successfully as one possibly could transform a piece of populated land into a book. I was thinking of how the Wake describes itself as a mysterious written object that was discovered "in the course of deeper demolition" (FW 110.28), buried underground where it "acquired accretions of terricious matter" (FW 114.29). I pictured the book as an organic object, "underground and acqueduced" (FW 128.09) soaking in all the dirt and sewage of the city which fed the text's fusing together with the layers of earth and its history, branching out rhizomatic roots "of increasing, livivorous, feelful thinkamalinks; luxuriotiating everywhencewithersoever among skullhollows and charnelcysts of a weedwastewoldwevild" (FW 613.19-20). Even in the modernized city there are still so many old structures in Dublin such that it seems you're often staring back centuries into history, living alongside ghosts. Exploring Dublin, and thinking over the Wake's obsession with burials, archeological excavations, and resurrections sprung to mind how every city, seen through a Wakean timelapse, involves so much dispersion and dissolution down into the ground. We are all always walking on soil mixed with the blood of the dead, or as the Wake has it, "while a successive generation has been in the deep deep deeps of Deepereras. Buried hearts. Rest here." (FW 595.27-29)

To be continued...