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.
|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.
Pomes Penyeach was published by Shakespeare and Co in July 1927. The title plays on the French word pomme and the covers are the colour of James Joyce’s favourite apple, the Calville. They are susceptible to fading and no two copies seem to be the same shade. pic.twitter.com/o25xTghhsT— Glenn Johnston (@johnstonglenn) July 7, 2022
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.
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).