Tag Archives: James Joyce

#93: The Resident Eight Year Old Questions the Literary Merits of Finnegans Wake

What the hell is wrong with that book,
he asks, listening to Dad attempt a reading
out loud of the third paragraph of Finnegans Wake.
What the hell is wrong with that book, Dad?
Well, for starters, there’s a word in the paragraph
in question, the third word in the first sentence,
in parentheses, that’s 100 letters strong and ends
in an exclamation mark, of course.
The boy hears the word
bababadalgharaghtakamminarrounn-
tonnerrontuonnthunntrovarrhounawn-
skawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!
and understandably wonders about
the novel’s literary merits,
clearly does not understand the word
as a possible metaphor for the origin
of everything, eventually spewing out
Finnegan at short notice,
sending any unquiring ones
in quest of his tumptytomtoes.
See? As plain as the day is long.

 

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#92: On Reading The Wake Out Loud

Me and the Wake

I’ve written before
how it’s been impossible
for me to finish Moby Dick
and now I’ve once again
picked up another formidable
tome, Finnegans Wake.
This one, too, I’ve tried
many times before and failed
but nevertheless keep
coming back to it,
a glutton for punishment.
But with neither Moby Dick
or the Wake do I feel punished.
Something there is that
doesn’t care for an easy
read, that takes great
pleasure in the difficulty,
that has fun, especially
in the case of Joyce,
with the pure playfulness
despite enormous, near
insurmountable obstacles
to comprehension. And,
maybe, too, it’s a way for me
to get in touch with how
my students feel
sometimes when asked
to read Shakespeare
or Heaney or Morrison.
Although, it’s true that they may be
crying while I am laughing,
unable to get themselves
into the space of really
loving what seems nigh
impossible to understand,
allowing all that difficulty
to pass over their tongues
and out into the space
of the room, listening
to the voice of Joyce
coming out of their mouths.

 

 

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