Friday, April 26, 2013

The Boston Mess and Finnegans Wake

"My dear sir! In this wireless age any owl rooster can peck up bostoons. But whoewaxed he so anquished?" - Finnegans Wake, p. 489-490
Tonight I've been digesting some information about the explosive events that occurred in Boston, Mass recently.

I've also been flipping through the Wake in the process of composing a post for my other blog. While in the midst, page 98 suddenly popped off an explosion (some doodles I'd made in the margins catching my eye) and drew my attention. So I stopped there and read this:

"Big went the bang: 

then wildewide was quiet: 
a report: silence: last Fama put it under ether. 
The noase or the loal had dreven him blem, blem, stun blem.  

Sparks flew. He had fled again (open shunshema!) this country of exile, sloughed off, sidleshomed via the subterranean shored with bedboards, stowed away and ankered in a dutch bottom tank, the Arsa, hod S.S. Finlandia, and was even now occupying, under an islamitic newhame in his seventh generation, a physical body Cornelius Magrath's (badoldkarakter, commonorrong canbung) in Asia Major, where as Turk of the theater (first house all flatty: the king, eleven sharps) he had bepiastered the buikdanseuses from the opulence of his omni box while as arab at the streetdoor he bepestered the bumbashaws for the alms of a para's pence. Wires hummed. Peacefully general astonishment assisted by regrettitude had put a term till his existence: he saw the family saggarth, resigned, put off his remainders, was recalled and scrapheaped by the Maker. Chirpings crossed. An infamous private ailment (vulgovarioveneral) had claimed endright, closed his vicious circle, snap. Jams jarred. He had walked towards the middle of an ornamental lilypond  ... 
Mush spread. On Umbrella Street where he did drinks from a pumps a kind of workman, Mr Whitlock, gave him a piece of wood. What words of power were made fas between them, ekenames and auchnomes, acnomina ecnumina? That, O that, did Hansard tell us, would gar ganz Dub's ear wag in every pub of all the citta! Batty believes a baton while Hogan hears a hod yet Heer prefers a punsil shapner and Cope and Bull go cup and ball. And the Cassidy Craddock rome and reme round e'er a wiege ne'er a waage is still immer and immor awagering over it, a cradle with a care in it or a casket with a kick behind. Toties testies quoties questies. The war is in words and the wood is the world. Maply me, willowy we, hickory he and yew yourselves. Howforhim chirrupeth evereach-"
- Finnegans Wake, pg. 98

It's all there. The bombs, explosions, "islamitic" "arab at the streetdoor", it even mentions the name of a boat "S.S. Finlandia" which the character was "occupying" just like the second suspect was found hiding inside a boat in someone's backyard.

"Turk of the theater" is the accused suspect from Chechnya ("Asia Major"), a "badoldkarakter" who is sought in an action movie chase in the theater of media. (It's worth mentioning that this page comes from a chapter all about the main character HCE committing a blurry, nebulous, unproven, shadowy transgression and then being chased like foxes after a rabbit, getting caught and devoured to pieces. It's also worth mentioning that earlier in the same chapter we find "exploded from a reinvented T.N.T. bombingpost up ahoy" p. 77.)

Perhaps most importantly, the press, the media, the newswires, the "war is in the words" is a repeated motif all throughout the entire page here. The key thing I've been so struck by and have pondered so much with this Boston event's information is how conflicting the news reports are. The mainstream corporate media is spouting questionable information straight from the police and government authorities ("Mush spread") while pretty much every independent news source has its "Wires hummed" and "Jams jarred" with provocative and treacherous news items such as that the FBI has been in contact with the suspects for many years, the family of the suspects are all loudly stating their two young relatives were framed and mentored by the FBI, that the New York Times and other news sources reported last year that the FBI has been facilitating domestic terrorist plots.

"Chirpings crossed" from the lips of the suspects' distressed aunt the other day as she declared with 100% certainty that the mysterious man who appeared on the news getting stripped naked and arrested by authorities in Boston recently was in fact her older nephew, the same man who the authorities claimed was already killed in a shootout, "recalled and scrapheaped by the Maker", his corpse subsequently driven over by his own brother as he fled the police, leaving him "a casket with a kick behind". Surely, her "quoties" now raise a lot of "questies."

Maybe Finnegans Wake could be a pretty reliable guide to navigate this whole mess that left "bloodstaned breeks in...boaston" (p. 11). After all, Boston appears all throughout the Wake. The Wake actually describes itself as a letter, a "nightletter" written on "a goodish-sized sheet of letterpaper originating by transhipt from Boston (Mass.)" as it says on page 111.

The Wake is therefore sending us a letter about this whole "boastonmess" (p. 364), straight "from Boston transcripped" (p. 617), and I think it's telling us to wake the fuck up.


  1. Great stuff. I'm on exactly the same page. A big mess: "....and Messamisery and the KNAVE of all KNAVES and the JOKER" (p. 202). Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? ;)

  2. Yowza. Good find, PQ. I was going to say that you lost me at the FBI involvement, but after reading the NYT piece on the actual instigations by government, who really knows.

    As usual, my question is, what was Joyce tapping into? I'm not a big fan of the idea that it is all mapped out already, but it is definitely hard to explain his prescient moments.

    And funny to think that when our group read page 98, we would never have pieced out this particular meaning...

  3. Znore: funny that you use that line because during the widely publicized chase and pursuit of Dzhokhar I tweeted "What is The Joker's role in all of this?" not actually realizing his name was pronounced that way but likening his supposed terrorizing of the city that Friday night to a Batman villain.

    Seana: He was tapping into and presenting a dream opera dance of the archetypes of the collective unconscious, a timeless, spaceless realm which is a part of every human being, the world of our deepest dreams.

    Also, this interpretative style is the bibliomancy way of reading the Wake, best explained as "Sortes Virgilianae":
    The Wake openly suggests the reader approach it this way.
    "volve the virgil page and view"
    "open virgilances"
    etc etc

    So that it's a different book every time you open it.

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  5. PQ, I can't help but find this exercise a little lacking in taste. The Boston Marathon bombing was no "dream opera dance," it was a premeditated crime that left real people dead and maimed. Trivializing their suffering by turning it into a mystical-schmistical game of Let's Pretend is hardly the most respectful way to address the event.

  6. mrhambre: Whether brutally tragic or blissfully cheerful, life is but a dream.

    I certainly don't mean to be "trivializing their suffering" just like I wasn't "trivializing" the sufferings of millions of "real people dead and maimed" when pointing out the Wake's containing prescient references to the atomic bomb blasting "nogeysokey" or other atrocities.

    With all that said, I agree with you that this exercise is a little lacking in taste.