Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book 26-Finnegans Wake (39th Book of 1001)

I am finally finished what I have taken to referring to as "the monster". Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce is a difficult but ultimately clever novel about the rise and fall of man. I have never been so glad to be finished a novel in my entire life, despite the very interesting subject matter. I am sad to say that I understood almost none of it. Essentially, I gathered an interesting collection of Biblical references, silly words and phrases that made me giggle and a general idea of repeated phrases that are used throughout the book. It wasn't until three quarters of the way through that I finally caved and tried to find a cheater guide to assist me. Even with the guide half the time I couldn't see what others saw. I decided I was okay with not understanding or grasping the book, but that I absolutly had to finish it before moving on to the next novel on the list. As I raged about the book to various people that would listen they tried to convince me to move on because life was to short to waste it on bad reading. I have discovered that I am stubborn though, and a far harsher task master than any teacher I ever had. Since I set for myself to read the 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book I actually want to do it. I have already had one "cheat" by only reading 2 of the 6 books of "In Search of Lost Time" or "Rememberance of things Past". I have promised myself I will go back when I am done though. Now I am proud to say that I accomplished it and I feel pretty good about pushing past all my anger, frustration and exhaustion. It is suprisingly exhausting to simply read words on a page without comprehension. I don't know how international students learn a second language by immersion. It hurts my brain.

So this is going to be a non-traditional book review since I can't tell you much about the plot and the verdict is still out on how much I hate or like this novel....

Here is a list of my favorite clever "portmanteaus" which are a combintation of two words to make another. Here is a good way to look at it in Joyce's words which I think describe a portmanteau well, "a word as cunningly hidden in its maze of confused drapery as a fieldmouse in a nest of coloured ribbons"

musaic=a mosaic of music
reamalgamerge= reamalgamating and merging
uniswoon= two girls swooning in unison!
chickenestegg= a clever combo which conveys the idea which came first the chicken or the egg
ould lanxiety= a reference to the song old lang sine but also including anxiety
pigstickularly= particularly but also conveying the idea of being pig headed or stubborn
"moanday, Tearsday, wailsday, thumpsday, frightday, shatterday"= the days of the week depressing style!

The book has several really clever references to the biblical stories of the rise and fall of man. The actual story line for the most part involves several sexual indiscretions and the need for the characters to be redeemed and get back with their partners. I can't hate the book because of the clever portmanteaus and the cute biblical references that make me giggle.

"antediluvial zoo/ Noah's lark= a clever reference to the ark since antediluvial means "pre flood"  or something like that.

"they all were afloat in a dreamlifeboat, hugging two by two in his zoo-do-you-doo"- yet another clever reference to the ark, but also life in general

"the first babe of reconcilement is laid in its last cradle" a reference to Jesus

"by Allswell" the inception and the descent and the endswell of man is temporarily wrapped in obscenity"

Wow! What a great description of hope that Christian's have! There will be an all's well that ends well for everyone but it is temporarily wrapped in obscenity. I know he was making fun of religion but that actually makes me happy!

"the onesomeness was alltolonely" aww, a sad reference to God as being lonely.

"flash becomes word and silents selfloud" = a clever reinterreptation of a line from the Bible.

"This is the glider that gladdened the girl that lest tis the wind,that lifted the leaves that folded the fruit that hung on the tree that grew in the garden Gough gave"

A very rhythmic interreptation of Eve eating the fruit because of the "glider" or snake (aka Satan)

And another reference to Eve in the garden: "As the last liar in the earth begeylywaylayed the first lady of the forest"....the gibberish word in the middle is a clever combo of beguiled and waylayed!

"In the beginning is the word, in the muddle is the sound-dance and thereinofter you're in the unbewised again"

That is so beautiful and reminescent of the line from John, "in the beginning was the word..."

"All men has done something. Be the time they've come to the weight of old flesch" - What a beautiful way to describe the universality of sin and the human condition.

And Jesus is, "The child we all love to place our hope in forever"

There was also several very beautiful word combos that made me so happy because of the beauty of the imagery.

"star menagerie"
"Souls groupography"
"tidings of great joy into our nevertolatetolove box"
"the better half of a yearn or a sob. Its a wild kitten, my dear"

Finally, there are a lot of pop culture references such as nursery rhymes, songs, and stories thrown throughout the novel. I had the kids nursery rhyme about the blackbirds baked in a pie stuck in my head for days before I stumbled upon another cleverly hidden nursery rhyme. I wish I had written down the one about the blackbirds but it was only unconciously registered by my mind!

See if you can figure out these two:

"Flunkey footle forlaughed foul, writing off his phoney"

and this:

"yunker doodler wanked to wall awriting off his phoney"

Did you get it? Yankee Doodle the kids nursery rhyme!

And heres one that takes reading outloud:

"singaloo sweecheeriode"

Its the old hymn Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!

Oops, I have two last things to say....So the finally above really wasn't all that final! LOL.

Heres one thing that didn't fit in with the other sections. See if you can figure out what this says....this is just one piece of how hard it gets:

"bi tso fb rok engl a ssan dspl itch ina"

No? I was pleased as punch when I discovered of my own accord that it actually says "bits of broken glass and split china"!!! It is moments like that that made me LOVE the book, but it is such hard work and so unavailable to so many people....and ultimately 90% not fun to read that I don't think I can give it a high rating. That being said I don't think I can give it a low rating either since it is extremely clever and if it took as much mental effort to write as it did to read, James Joyce is either insane or brilliant (perhaps both)!

Lastly (and I mean it this time!) the Title in and of itself is brilliant Finnegan's wake has several varied meanings. "Finn" means to end but "egan" has overtones of to begin again. Wake is both a celebration at the end of life as well as to wake again. one of the two list I am using pointed that out to me. One of the last few statements in the novel whose beginning and end are joined by the first and last incompleted sentence making the novel one giant circle to be read again and again is Finn, again" helpfully pointing out that  the title has a double meaning.

The next novel on the list is "The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil