on August 27, 1999
I don't understand this book. I picked up many literary aides and guides to this book and set about getting through it. It is so subtle and difficult... the rewards of understanding this book are not worth the effort. This is a good writer trying to be a real literary cool dude and give PhD students something to focus on. But I admit, the reason I don't like this book is because I am an illiterate moron. I should have never picked this book up; I wasted precious time I could have been watching "Friends," or "Seinfeld." I could have been working on cherry-red Camaro, or down pounding some brews with my buddies, watching the big game. Or I could have been wallowing in my own filth in the pig stye I call my den. This book must be fabulous, I am sure, but because I am a lazy, ignorant, slovenly fool, who likes his books monosyllabic and easy to digest, I don't like this book. I wish I was Mr. Cool Guy College Professor and this book could be my life, but all I have is my rear-projection TV. Tragic, *sniff*
on June 30, 2002
True, Joyce's many masterpieced work of profound interjectional superiority has at last brought the final jigsaw piece to this unChristianly magnifique port-en-tois ouevre...
But that's why it's sooooooo good?!
Hello, my name is Rajish. I am an 8th rank student from The Calcutta Institute of Fine Literary Works. Tonight, we will take a journey of unprecedented backwardness and desolution. When I was 4 years old, my friend (the infamous BLIND MELON JELLAN) and I went to the local book shop to buy our first copies of Finnegan's Wake (FW as we affectionately called it). When we came home we read our copy of FW with the greatest of zeal and devoured the conduit imagery and allusion in this densely conceived and lightly told work. The effect, of one who studies it as my friend and I do, is of entrancement and utmost vermisiltude. By the end, we feel so lost and alone, so dissapointed by literature and its pseudo-world of false authoritarianism, we vow to never read again. Except for Eddy Said that is. Please read this book and join us postcolonially. Peace.
on December 13, 2001
Okay, this edition of Finnegans Wake may not exactly be dishonest, but it is disingenuous enough to be seriously misleading. Up front they tell you that the text of the book is taken from the first edition published in May of 1939. This is true, but it doesn't tell the whole story, and most people have no idea what it really means.
Finnegans Wake was originally published in 1939. The first edition was replete with errors and typos -- thousands of them. James Joyce spent the last two years of his life (he died in 1941) going through the text correcting the mistakes. An errata list comprising many single-spaced pages was printed in the back of the second edition, and the third edition had all of Joyce's corrections incorporated into the text. So the third edition is the definitive one.
But Penguin is reprinting the first edition. Get it? The text you'll be reading will have all of the typos that Joyce spent two years correcting -- uncorrected.
Viking does have the third edition of Finnegans Wake in print. It's smaller, with smaller type and not nearly as pretty a cover, but it's the text that Joyce approved. I would get that one (it has a white cover with a green stripe going across the middle of it), and leave this edition alone.
on November 2, 2000
Okay, here's the first paragraph:
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
(it's actually the end of the last sentence in the book). I defy anyone to honestly say that they would have any desire to read further (in fact, I am certain that no one has ever actually read this book). But, lest you think it must get better, here's a random paragraph from later in the book:
So olff for his topheetuck the ruck made raid, aslick aslegs would run; and he ankered on his hunkers with the belly belly prest. Asking: What's my muffinstuffinaches for these times? To weat: Breath and bother and whatarcurss. That breath no bother but worrawarrawurms. And Slim shallave some.
Uh-huh, fascinating stuff, eh?
Here's the cover blurb from the version I have, as written by Joseph Campbell, one of the folks who tried popularizing Joyce:
Finnegan's Wake is a mighty allegory of the fall and redemption of mankind...a compound fabe, symphony, and nightmare...Its mechanics resemble those of a dream, a dream which has freed the author from the necesssities of common logic and has enabled him to compress all periods of history, all phases of individual and racial development, into a circular design, of which every part is beginning, middle and end.
Let me just point out that "freed...from...logic", is code for "it doesn't make sense". And the blather about circular design reflects something I recall reading about how Joyce intended the reader to be able to read the book from any point and in any direction with equal felicity. It worked; it's idiotic from start to finish.
So what's the end result? Well, you remember that old example that's used to demonstrate the magnitude of infinity--if you set down infinty monkeys in front of infinity typewriters (I suppose now it's computers) eventually one of them types Hamlet. Well, I think it's safe to suppose that in the meantime, they're typing Finnegan's Wake.
Now, some folks claim that it should be read for the beauty of it's language alone. But let me just say this, you'ld get en equally enjoyable aural experience by listening to the dialogue of the Ewoks from a Star Wars movie and it won't make any less sense.
GRADE: G (as long as we're being experimental, let's go lower than F)
on July 22, 2000
OK, so, yes, some sort of very sophisticated intelligence was involved in this work. No doubt the allusions, multi-lingual puns, and invented words that fill over 600 pages were carefully chosen. But as a whole, or even in small parts, it doesn't make any sense and doesn't yield even to careful analysis and background research.
There is no plot, it explains nothing, and it describes nothing coherently. If the goal was to capture the confused, disorganized dream state of a polygot Irish writer then, yes, it's all there on paper. But was an entire book needed for this?
The hubris of this undertaking -- and of the literary critics who saved it from obscurity -- can be seen in the condescending introduction to this Penguin edition, where the editor writes:
"...any reader can enter Finnegans Wake and find something to absorb him -- as long as he or she doesn't expect to find it all in one place or, complementarily, understand everything else that appears around it. It is even possible to argue, with this same logic, that Finnegans Wake may be more accessible to the common reader that Ulysses -- or, for that matter, War and Peace or Remembrance of Things Past -- since one doesn't have to comprehend it as a totality to profit from it or enjoy it."
In other words, unlike those other books where we read about people, ideas, history, etc. here we can just enjoy the sound and look of random phrases and sentences, the way a baby enjoys pleasant sounding nonsense.
The introduction goes on to say, "It can sometimes seem that one is doing well if one makes sense of only a sentence or two on a single page. If, however, one surrenders the need to be master of everything -- or even most things -- in this strange and magnificent book, it will pour forth lots of rewards."
I humbly disagree -- one or two identfiable bits of prose per page is almost by definition an unsatisfactory reading experience. And the estimate of one to sentences per page is high -- after a paragraph or two of incomprehensible invented words, even a few straightforward words or sentences have no context or meaning.
I wouldn't discourage people from buying this book, just to see for themselves how weird it is. But I wouldn't say its a good book, anymore than the scholarly yet demented ravings and ramblings of a schizophrenic former PhD student on a streetcorner constitute good oratory. Fascinating, but more worthy of medical and psychiatric scrutiny than literary study.
on June 15, 2000
I can't see why everybody, even if they don't understand Finnegan's Wake, proclaims it to be a 'masterpiece' and that it encapsulates 'the entirety of human history'. How absurd. This piece of inconsequential nonsense may mean something to James Joyce or 'Neeborg' from the planet 'Zobtreeg', but not to any rational person who doesn't pretend to be intelligent or philosophical.
I paid seventeen dollars for a book that is puportedly a 'classic' that discusses all sorts of important issues. I read the first page and thought "this is ridiculous", so I put it back on my shelf and got a book that actually makes sense. Irish history/literature professors and well versed people that boast about having Ph.D's and masters degrees, in my opinion, use this book as a vehicle to sound smart and convey all these ideas that could not possibly be derived from the actual text. Therefore, I've formulated my OWN little theory about what this book is about: it's about nothing. It's just words that mean nothing, so that people can make whatever they like out of it, and smart people can sound smart and dumb people can listen to them, then transcribe the smart people's words verbatim, and sound smart! That little theory makes just about as much sense as Finnegan's Wake and all of the professing Professors that devote their lives to sounding intelligent, when, ultimately, Finnegan's Wake is just a bunch of nonsense.
Don't get me wrong- I'm a nice guy (don't worry- I'm from Australia)
on March 5, 2000
Reading somewhere that Finnegans Wake was one of the greatest novels of this century, I decided to give it a try. When I was taking it out of the library the librarian told me that she had never known anyone to check it out before. This should have told me something right off. Eagerly I turned to the first page and was hit with "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle..." Then I came on to "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!" I quickly scanned the rest of the book "Surely it can't go on like this for the whole thing!" I thought in despair. It did. I tried to read two pages of it then gave up in disgust. "Whats the use of reading it? It doesn't make any sense or mean anything at all." It was like I was just reading a string of words that had nothing to do with each other, I saw no use to waste my time with it. I'm not saying that just because I couldn't read it doesn't mean its not readable. I'm sure a lot of intellctuals have (fun?) reading it and also have fun telling other people they are stupid oprah reading TV obssessed coach potatos if they don't like it also. Some of these reviews have shown the people that like this book to be in this frame of mind. Anyway, if you like it then fine, but I can't see the point in trying to decode it, it wasn't like Joyce was the messenger of god, why should decoding nonsense passages like the above be so important?
on July 5, 1999
FW will soon be forgotten because soon (a century?) no one will be able to understand it. As it is, only a few thousand people in the entire world bother with it now because it is too difficult and arduous to read. Reading FW is more like a language project than a pleasant reading experience. Some people like to work out mathematical theorems. Some may like working out FW. I do not. With each year, because of the way language changes, FW will become more and more incomprehensible so that there will eventually be more people around who read and understand Old Norse than this novel. Joyce, who loved languages, should have known that. As it is, he wrote a novel with its own built in destruction. He consigned it to what is a certain and inevitably obscure death.
on September 13, 2000
let the high preists of deconstructionist post modernism interpret it for you. bow down before the wisdom of frustrated ineffectual professors of English, the preistly class who will interpret this message from the gods for you, (and actually get pay and respect for it). lets get real. this is a book by a sciziphrenic for the pompous and pedantic. a few puns aside dont waste your life trying to interpret this nonsense, just because you have an ego. (even Nobel laureates fell for it--hence the quark, but FASHIONABLE NONSENSE is the delayed reaction)
the real dope: read: WHAT ART IS. MADNESS AND MODERNITY. and THE FOUNTAINHEAD. for some insight into why nonsense like this continues to propagate.
on September 18, 1998
The pretence here is to say that if you don't think its brilliant then the you must be a vacuous superficial fool. Its the same stunt as pulled by 'modern-art', whose lack of popularity and understanding among most people lends it a perverse exclusivity among irrational psuedo-intellectuals.
No one 'understands' this book because there is nothing in it. Its not hard-going because it is so mentally challenging, its hard going because it is so uttlerly uninspiring. A dime pulp romance novel tells us more than this book can.
If someone crafted your house with the same 'wondrous perception' as Joyce crafted this book, it would be rubble sunk in cement dust.