Sunday, January 18, 2015

Frank Delaney Describes Finnegans Wake Perfectly

Irish novelist and public intellectual Frank Delaney, who NPR once declared to be "the most eloquent man in the world," hosts a weekly podcast called "Re-Joyce" devoted to deciphering the pages of Ulysses basically one paragraph at a time. After every twelfth episode of the podcast he delivers a so-called "baker's dozen" episode devoted to miscellaneous Joyce topics.

The latest episode answered a listener's question about how best to approach Joyce's work, and Delaney responded with a rundown of each of the books in Joyce's canon. This gave him an opportunity to riff on Finnegans Wake which he does only rarely on his show. His description is quite beautiful:
Finnegans Wake is not a novel....No! No! Finnegans Wake is a poem, it's a symphony by a modern atonal composer. It's an assembly of language tying together floating evanescent ideas. It's a long rapid eye movement dream, it's a marathon technicolored musing that might have been induced by mescaline or LSD...It's a seemingly reckless careening through English and other languages. Yet you know that every word has been considered in this hodgepodge potpourri of miscellaneous and not always aligned thoughts and ideas, in this flamboyant and brilliant linguistic exercise that mimics the intensely illustrated pages of a medieval Irish manuscript. It's a massive rap, as in rapper, as in street talk, as in lingo, as in the heat of the day and the cool of the night captured dreamily and melodiously in words of all shapes and sizes. It's a mirage.
Do not read FW. Feel it. Dip into a page, any page, and if you find something that lights up your synapses, enjoy it... Read Finnegans Wake on any page at any time, and listen to it. Feel the words in your mouth and smile. But above all else: feel it in your spirit.
He also mentions he hopes someday some brave soul will embark on a full explication (to whatever extent that's possible) of the Wake in a podcast or some other medium. After practicing recently for the upcoming Waywords and Meansigns recording project for which I'm doing a chapter, and being surprised at how I wasn't too terribly disgusted by the sound of my own recorded voice, I'm beginning to give consideration to creating a Finnegans Wake podcast sometime down the road. There's a tiny but devout and growing group of Wake devotees around the world, too, so don't be surprised to see it happen in the not too distant future.

(Thank you to Peter Chrisp of the fantastic blog Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay for calling my attention to this.)