Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Guardian/Observer Celebrates the Galaxy of Wake Reading Groups

Print edition of the UK Observer/The Guardian from Sunday Nov 12, 2023. Courtesy of Peter Chrisp.

The Sunday edition of The Guardian newspaper, The Observer, prominently featured an article about the Venice Finnegans Wake Reading Group having recently completed a full cycle of reading the text after 28 years. The media ecologist, Venice Wake group founder, and self-described "antiquarian ne'er-do-well" Gerry Fialka receives some great coverage here. And alongside descriptions of other Finnegans Wake reading groups led by renowned Joycean scholars Sam Slote in Dublin and Fritz Senn in Zurich, The Guardian piece interviewed me to discuss the background of the Austin Finnegans Wake Reading Group I've been hosting going on 12 years now, originally inspired by my visits to the Venice group. 

    I am honored to be a part of this celebration of Wake reading groups around the world. The author, Lois Beckett, did a great job covering the oddity of one-page-a-meeting reading groups dedicated to Joyce's bizarre night-book. To look at a global newspaper and see the front page with all the wars and turmoil and then have this article appear next to all of it feels like a celebration of the eternal forces of creativity and imagination. Poetry, the realm of the mind, the joy of art, language and humanity, remains undefeated.

The Guardian
piece appears on the heels of the same story being reported in newspapers and journals all across the world. Over the past couple weeks, the news of Gerry's Venice Wake group passing a 28-year reading cycle has appeared in Chinese, Afrikaans, French, Polish, Czech, various news other weird news venues, as well as the Orange County Register and the Irish Times

"wordloosed over seven seas crowdblast in cellelleneteutoslavzendlatinsoundscript. 
In four tubbloids"
(FW 219.16-17) 

    Gerry's group continues to meet on the first Tuesday of each month. Our Austin collective gathers two Thursdays a month. The Wake Watchers of NYC meet twice a month. Dozens of other collectives around the world continue to excavate the text of Joyce's puzzle book. Novelist philosopher Umberto Eco once described Finnegans Wake as "the book of an epoch of transition, a time in which science and the evolution of social relations propose a vision of the world that no longer obeys the schemas of other, more secure epochs yet lacks any formula for clarifying its own situation.  The Wake attempts to paradoxically define the new world by assembling a chaotic and dizzy encyclopedia from the old one and filling it with explanations that once seemed mutually exclusive. Through his clash and the ‘Big Bang’ of these oppositions, something new is born." (Read more testimonials here.)

    If you enjoyed this, I can also recommend you check out the trove of recorded interviews Gerry Fialka has conducted with accomplished Joyce scholars like Sam Slote of Trinity College Dublin, Roy Benjamin from Borough of Manhattan Community College in NYC, Decio Slomp from Brazil, Benjamin Boysen from Denmark, John Gordon from USA, or the late John Bishop who wrote perhaps the greatest analysis of Finnegans Wake ever. Another good one I heard recently is Gerry's interview with media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff. Many more such podcasts from Gerry to check out on Youtube. 

    If you want to check out more of my writings on Finnegans Wake, I'd recommend starting with this piece or this book review series or this close reading of a passage, or this video essay I made. Lots more in the works, watch this space.

(Many thanks to Lois Beckett, Peter Coogan, Gerry Fialka and everyone who has ever been to the Austin Finnegans Wake Reading Group.)