10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not yet finished.
i haven't yet finished my first read through of this book, but even now i think it's fair to say that this is an amazing piece of work. i just want to reiterate what a couple of people have said. firstly this is not literature, as such, it shares far more with music than it does with literature, and secondly, it should be read as you would listen to music, letting it wash...
Published on July 4 2005 by patrick bateman
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate One-Trick Pony; a Fictional Mandelbrot Set
I firmly believe that most who have read -- or so they say -- "Finnegans Wake" extoll its virtues because, to coin a phrase, its reputation precludes it. I am only aware of one detractor: Vladimir Nabokov, who, while considering "Ulysses" one of the four greatest works of the 20th century (a view which I don't share, incidentally), described labelled...
Published on Mar 17 1998 by email@example.com
Most Helpful First | Newest First
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not yet finished.,
This review is from: Modern Classics Finnegans Wake (Paperback)i haven't yet finished my first read through of this book, but even now i think it's fair to say that this is an amazing piece of work. i just want to reiterate what a couple of people have said. firstly this is not literature, as such, it shares far more with music than it does with literature, and secondly, it should be read as you would listen to music, letting it wash over you, not trying to control any of it, not trying to realize what is happening. you should realize that after a while things will make sense, and even if the book never makes sense to you entirely it doesn't matter. to view this book as beautiful nonsense does no disservice to it, i think, because it is definitely the ultimate in beautiful nonsense if that's the way you want to see it.
and really, if you're going to write this off as gibberish, realize the man spent 17 years of his life perfecting this book. he went blind while writing it. his daughter was put into a mental asylum and europe was in the begining throes of world war II and still he wrote this book. more work has been lovingly poured into these pages than most writers put into their entire career. if you don't like it, fine, but calling this book gibberish is doing a huge disservice to the author and only making yourself look stupid. just say you don't like it, that's all you need to say.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre, confusing, enigmatic, overwhelming- but wonderful!,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake: Centennial Edition (Paperback)I just finished reading FW last night after almost six weeks of thorough plowing-ahead through it. I don't know where to begin in my review of it. I would start by summing it up in the word amazing. This book reinvents language. All through school, we're taught grammar, spelling, punctuation, the format for writing essays, letters, etc., but Joyce rejects that education, says the hell with it and does his own thing. What interpretation of a word is right? Is there a correct interpretation to be conceived? Is there any possible way to wrestle the magnitude of this book to the ground and pin it down to really understand what's going on?? Who knows. Joyce has the reader in the palm of his hand, and it's frightening what FW can do to one's mind. I'm sure that now everything else I read will make me think of Joyce in one way or another. I probably don't know 2% of the amount of foreign languages, literary, geographical, historical and mythological allusions and references which are crammed into the book, but the parts that I CAN decipher are very clever. It's not an interesting "story", but it's captivating simply because it's such an enigma of a book.
There is not so much a story here as there is a SERIES of stories or vignettes parodying various myths, historical events, etc. But several patterns occur and reoccur. Variations of the initials H C E and A L P (What does Joyce achieve with FW? Why, He Confuses Everyone! All Living Persons!), rearrangements of the name of Finn MacCool, the mythological Irish hero, and the predominant Vicoian theme of history repeating itself. H C E is born and reborn as Adam, as Humpty Dumpty, as Finn MacCool himself.. ad infinitum. Joyce deliberately left the whole thing open-ended so that every word can be interpreted in any way, depending on the individual readers personal knowledge. The more you learn, the more meanings will apply themselves to FW. Tip.
And those of you who call this book a piece of garbage have to admit one thing- at least it's original and unique. There's no other book quite like it. Joyce didn't write for other people to understand him. He didn't write to appeal to the literary elite. Joyce wrote for Joyce, and if the reader can be in on the joke, it can produce great results. If you don't get it and call it a pretentious collection of random phrases, then darn it, it's your loss. And don't criticize people for saying they like it. And no, I'm NOT "pretending" to like it- I LIKE IT! Certainly it has some dull spots, but it's 90% great!
It Awnly tuck me sicksweex to reed the hole booke, anned I enjoid it vary moch. Tip. To you extramely pretentious revousers who say that knowbody has ever red it all the weigh thru (whaat maycs you so dammed shore of it in the fursed plays?!), then increase the number of people of all time who have read it all the way through from "zero" to ONE. That one being me. Not only did I read every last word, but I ENJOYED it, and very much so. So stack that in yore piep und smoe kit!
On to bigger and better(?) things! I'm starting Ulysses tonight!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate One-Trick Pony; a Fictional Mandelbrot Set,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake: Centennial Edition (Paperback)I firmly believe that most who have read -- or so they say -- "Finnegans Wake" extoll its virtues because, to coin a phrase, its reputation precludes it. I am only aware of one detractor: Vladimir Nabokov, who, while considering "Ulysses" one of the four greatest works of the 20th century (a view which I don't share, incidentally), described labelled "FW" only a blot on his memory. (Note: not offered as a proof.) What is "FW", what is it really? Ultimately, I declaim it a failure -- not because I don't like it (an understatement!), but a failure on its OWN terms; and these, after all, are the only terms which any given work of art is obligated to fulfill. I offer one example of this failure -- an example which, however, is crucial to the entire structure of the book. "FW" is, within the story (such as it is) of one man, one family, supposed to represent the history of all of humankind. The history, of course, is relatively easy to represent, with its contextual Vico-ian circularity &c.; but the humankind is a foundering point (no pun intended). Joyce portrays this omnium gatherum of humanity through the meduim of what is commonly referred to as "dream consciousness," the collective unconscious of history, and he exemplifies this through a gallimaufry of languanges: all people, all languages. Fine, makes sense. And it also makes sense that there is a predominant language: English (alright: a very broguish Irish-English), because Finnegan/Humphrey/et al. is/are Irish. But we've glossed over the problem: all people, NOT all languages. Joyce, while being a brilliant linguist, didn't remotely have even snippets -- or even a good percentage -- of all of the languages extant (never mind those of antiquity); and while I'm perfectly willing to accept that NO ONE could have the languages to pull off this idea properly, that does nothing to the fact that Joyce fails to successfully complete his endeavor (on this front). I don't care if Michael Johnson is (currently, at least) the world's fastest 200 meter runner: if he promises a 15-sec. performance and runs it in 19, he's failed to deliver, period! Joyce's idea here IS possible: since there are certainly a finite number of languages, it would be quite possible to represent them all within one book, even if not humanly possible. What Joyce does, though, is make a helluva LOT of languages stand in for ALL languages. Weak, very.
There's a lot more wrong with "FW", too. For example, in a great many of his neojoylogisms, Joyce conveniently ignores the possible readings of his recombinations -- and subsequently asks the reader to do so. Joyce, the control freak, is not in complete control, his words come back to haunt him. (I don't say this is all the time, but . . .)
And I haven't even gotten to my tag line: the ultimate one-trick pony. (Okay: a couple of tricks.) "FW" is nothing more than a collection of erstwhile fables and puns, served up with the aforementioned linguistic salad (vide supra for the implicative failures of the latter). There's nothing to probe beneath this rococo surface, only the unscrambling and decoding. Recirculation of history? That can be probed in a paragrpah or two, perhaps a pair of pages. What else? Does Joyce score points of originality? Of course! Ambition? O my! But how long before different manifestations of HCE gets old? Just because Joyce's allegories are bigger must we pretend he came up with the idea? Ad rem ad nauseum.
If you love Joyce's writing (and I never much do) here, fine. Perhaps you'll find his puns amusing, his tales compelling. Certainly his workmanship is impressive -- I don't care how short it ultimately measures up. To me, "FW" is a crucible of Joyce's elementary particles, his three flavors of quark -- patience, knowledge, and ego. But I suspect that this book is little above what could be produced by a later series of HAL if you fed it enough information and a rather simple list of specifications. No computer could approach "Lolita", "Crime and Punishment", or "Arcadia" -- or "Ulysses", for that matter; but "FW" does so few things (instead simply doing them over and over and over and over (okay, perhaps that's somewhat fitting), changing the players but never the play) that it seems little more than the work of a machine, so contained is the arc of creativity which subsumes the various recombinatives. Madelbrot sets produce something similar, although with infinite (as far as we know) variety. I give it a 6: one above average for all that hard work. O Jamesy!
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wrath of the Understanding,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)The phrase that I've used to entitle this review is from Hegel, "Wut des Verstehens." It refers to the human drive to want to understand everything---and the irritation that human beings feel when something slips from their intellectual grasp.
FINNEGANS WAKE is a ceaseless flow of language... It has neither beginning nor end... It is without sentences... Perhaps it doesn't even enfold words...
Give up the attempt to understand FINNEGANS WAKE. Glide along its multitudinous surfaces. Bask in its language. Read it silently. Read it aloud.
Read without trying to understand any of it.
The reviews that surround this one may be used by a future scholar who would like to track down the misreception of FINNEGANS WAKE in the United States in the early twenty-first century. Again and again, Joyce is lambasted for not common-parlying. The apostles of commonsense want to hear only what they think that they already know. When a writer comes along and says something in a new way, they balk and coil.
This is not a book to be understood. It is a book of darkness, of ciphers, of dreams.
I will leave you with a brief excerpt from FINNEGANS WAKE, Part III. It is a description of hellos:
"...after their howareyous at all with those of their dollybegs (and where's Agatha's lamb? and how are Bernadetta's columbillas? and Juliennaw's tubberbunnies?..."
5.0 out of 5 stars this is the book that never ends.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)"This is the book that never ends it goes on and on my friends. Some people started reading it not knowing what it was and they will continue reading it because this is the book that never ends..." (based on the song the never ends)
If you are a person who like to read the ending first please do with this book. Read the ending or at least the last sentence. The book opens with the last half of the sentence that closes the book. Just as I jokingly changed the song lyrics from song to book, this book does not really end. It is a cycle that repeats and does not really have a begin point. Open the book any where at begin.
Since it is a book that does not end, I have read the pages twice through, but truely I have never finished reading it.
The book has a flow which as printed text stays the same but each reading through is different. It is a simple plot as given in the summeries, but also one of great complex. It is a book to be spoken, not one to read in silence. The way to read this work is to simply hear it. If you do not understand, simply keep listening. As a child I was told, if you do not know a word look it up. In this book, skip the looking up and keep the flow alive. At some point you will enter the flow of the words.
The book remind me of the Lord of the Rings. Both authors create an multilayered and deep reality. Both authors like to play with language. LORTR is adventure styled after the sagas of spoken by the winter fires old and creates a myth saga in a dream like world. FW is styled to be spoken by a winter fire and interweaves myth with the conscious and the unconscious struggles of modern life in a dreamlike world. The LORTR is easy to follow, but the reminding ends for FW is not easy to follow. Yet how can flowing struggle of conscious and unconscious be easy to follow?
It can be said half joking "that reading FW is like the withdrawl off Paxel or any of its class of drug. You risk part of your sanity as you struggle with the conscious and unconscious flow of life."
5.0 out of 5 stars The philological scourge of our language,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)"Finnegans Wake" is a novel for people who are tired of reading novels. The chapter summaries in the table of contents, and not the body of the novel itself, give evidence of a plot, which concerns the dream-consciousness of a man whose initials H.C.E. recur as an acronym at various points in the text and whose wife Anna Livia Plurabelle, sons Shem (the Penman) and Shaun (the Postman), and daughter Issy figure prominently among many other exotic and unexpected characters. However, the presentation is so nebulous and abstract that the novel resembles nothing else in literature, although the style looks deceptively easy to imitate.
Upon first looking at the pages of "Finnegans Wake," one inevitably must wonder what it's supposed to be. My explanation of it is an extension of my theory about "Ulysses," which is that "Ulysses" was Joyce's effort to write a novel that used every single existing word in the English language, or at least as many as he could. (Among its 400,000 words, "Ulysses" certainly has a much broader lexicon than any other novel of comparable length.) Having exhausted all the possibilities of English in "Ulysses," he had only one recourse for his next project, which was to create an entirely new language as a pastiche of all the existing ones; the result is "Finnegans Wake."
The language in "Finnegans Wake" is a continuum of puns, portmanteaus, disfigured words, anagrams, and rare scraps of straightforward prose. What Joyce does is exploit the way words look and sound in order to associate them with remote, unrelated ideas. For example, his phrase "Olives, beets, kimmells, dollies" may sound familiar to those who happen to know that the first four letters of the Hebrew alphabet are aleph, bet, gimel, daled. "Psing a psalm of psexpeans, apocryphul of rhyme" recalls a nursery rhyme that may reside quietly in your most dormant memory cells, while "Where it is nobler in the main to supper than the boys and errors of outrager's virtue" sounds like a drunk auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Imaginary adjectives that pertain to letters of the English alphabet are employed to describe Dublin as a city "with a deltic origin and a nuinous end." "Finnegans Wake" is the ultimate in esoterica, and what you get out of it depends largely on your store of knowledge, so that upon completion, with a mutual wink at Joyce, you congratulate yourself for being so clever.
The text is supposed to reflect a dream or a dreamlike state, an imperfect rendering of hazily remembered pictures and thoughts, but it also evokes the multivocal babble one might hear in a crowded Irish pub, multiple rolling streams of lilting brogue-laden speech combining into a sort of rhythmic cacophony, a variegated procession of verbal images ranging from the mundane to the fantastical. It cannot be read in any conventional manner of reading prose; each sentence has a melody, and the words must be vocalized in the mind to hear the verbal music. It can be maddening if you try to make meaning of it all, but if you're familiar with Joyce's past work, you've already risked your sanity adequately to make it through "Finnegans Wake."
5.0 out of 5 stars Circle within circles...,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)What can actually be said about Finnegan's Wake that would be coherent? Well, not much unless one is willing to spend a great deal of time atempting to decipher speakers from observations. However, what I can say is that this is probably the greatest work ever written. Note that I do not say I love this book or that it is my favorite book. This book is not for enjoyment, this book is meant to be thought about and even cause confusion. While the beginning of the book discusses what appears to the start of time, and ends with the beginning of time. What more can I say about a book that has everything to say?
5.0 out of 5 stars "...jigging ajog, hoppy on akkant of his joyicity",
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)Fun words aplenty
Give meaning to.
Eagerly awaiting movie.
5.0 out of 5 stars one book compactification of the world,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)you will, not likely, ever "read" the wake in any average sense of the word. joyce has created something amazing, a book that, rather literally, has something for everyone, yet encompasses all too much to be read by any one person (likely even himself, he spoke only a handful of the languages (estimated at upwards of fifty) he made use of in his prose). making sense of even just a paragraph may contain a slive of russian history, a nod to the great italian violin makers, and (almost without fail) contain some lesson about the catholic church burried in it somewhere. if you enjoy puzzles that require remarkable reliance on outside sources for help, this is an excellent place to spend your time. truth be told, whatever it may be literarily, what it is socially is even greater, for an attempt at a reading verily requires a group of variagated back-grounds to even begin to scratch the surface, an end-result of which is that it brings together people (particularly academics) of various backgrounds to work on a single problem. i would imagine few other ob- and/or sub- jects require such interdisciplinary coöperation. so, the next time you find yourself sitting around a table with a physicist, a musician, a historian, a linguist, and a carpenter, pull the book out and see if you can't make some sense of it. it's all there, it just takes a bit of work.
5.0 out of 5 stars My Bible,
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)Oh, man, it just puts me down to see how people who obviously haven't read the whole book (and more importantly read it twice, thrice and so on) slag it down, blame it a joke, a pure jumblebumble of twisted words, blame the author insane and so forth... It's not too great to hear, when I recommend it to someone: "oh, i've read it's just Joyce's joke" or "it's just puns, it's meaningless" etc. If you don't understand it, let it be, it's not for you. You've right to your opinion but...
I'm reading FW for a 3rd time now, and I'm convinced it's not a novel, or poetry or even a book (although it is, in a way) but a new kind of medium. It's written vertically, like counterpoint in music. That one leaf on the last page, that the mother river is bearing on her, is the actual page you're holding; the river takes it out to the sea and to the first page. It's a spiral. I have no words to describe it; the feelings, the moods I get when reading it. You HAVE to learn to read FW. It took me 4 years of struggle before it actually struck me, and I got it. And the text hasn't ceased to suprise me since. It's always with me, wherever I go. Even if I don't even open it, because I've noticed that when I've left the book home, I'll be missing it sooner or later.
Joyce insane? I don't care, but it takes a genius to write something as striking as this.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Paperback - Dec 9 1999)
CDN$ 25.50 CDN$ 15.99