'one joke' and finnegans wake

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on the nabokov thread the accusation (?) was made that pale fire is a one joke book. the sense of that accusation eludes me a bit, but I've heard it made frequently about finnegans wake. so what I'm wondering, from people who have read much of the wake, is: how important a role do you think joyce's language of 'puns and reedles' (?) plays in the book? it's obviously important, but is it supposed to carry the book? if so, is it a rich enough idea to do so without coming off like a lame trick or some kind of word game interesting to only aesthetes?

Josh (Josh), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 21:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

the question I am asking is related to criticisms that are often made of postmodern writing in general, that it is occupied with silly tricks and games etc. to the detriment of anything of interest to those who are not interested in trivialities like word games. I'm interested in that too, but more specifically in the commonly expressed idea that finnegans HAS only this one basic trick.

Josh (Josh), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 21:46 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

josh are you looking for answers from people who've actually read the thing?

ch. (synkro), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 22:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I've read a third of it. I don't see it as a mere coagulation of paranoid word games. He gets a lot of mileage out of its difficulty (which most Joyce scholars say is not of an even thickness -- it varies from chapter to chapter, corresponding to the different stages of sleep). I remember that when I slogging through the book, not always knowing what was going on even with the Skeleton Key book, it was frustrating but this frustration had a cumulative pleasureableness to it, a dreamy lostness, and I think this was completely intentional. Kinda like, oh, shoegazer or something.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 22:27 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Having gotten through about two-thirds of it, I'm beginning to enjoy it more having finally broken out of the habit of reading superficially as I might read more conventional narratives. The superficial reading led me to trying to absorb as many of the puns as I could (an overly analytical mode rather than one that's more relaxed), and so the polysemous(!) quality of the words in that way was a self conscious obstacle to comprehension.

That being said, I think this gimmickry/style/whathaveyou, sustained over the course of the book, rewards those who dedicate themselves to it for the long haul. The more I immersed myself in it, the more enjoyable it became (notwithstanding new strategies in reading). And I can't think of any other trickery, but given the opacity of the puns, it has to be the dominant theme of FW so that one can acclimate oneself to its rules.

Leee (Leee), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 23:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Isn't there only one person alive who Joyce confided in to tell him the concepts behind Ulysses and Finnegans Wake? I can't remember his name, but I know he has been hounded by literary critics for years

brg30 (brg30), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 23:58 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

For about a month last year, I would read a random passage fairly fast but at a relaxed pace before I went to sleep each night.

A Nairn (moretap), Thursday, 7 November 2002 00:08 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

ch: yes I am but if you have something to say and haven't read it I'd be glad to hear it too. it's quite possible that you've read more of it than me, ha.

brg: uh, kind of. I'm too tired to look up the names, but he discussed in detail ulysses with someone, and shared a bit about the wake and intended to share much more (more on a par with how much he revealed about ulysses), but died before he could do so.

Josh (Josh), Thursday, 7 November 2002 02:29 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I read about half of it in high school* and would eventually like to read it (once I have mastered all recorded human knowledge).

I enjoyed it in fragments. Some of it can be quite funny ("unhemmed as it is uneven", but it's tough going much of the time.

*I used to read sit in back of class reading it during Geometry class, after it had already become clear I was going to flunk it. Mind you, I would have been better off applying myself to Geometry.

Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 7 November 2002 02:39 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I take it out periodically and find a bunch of funny words and phrases that delight me, and then a while later I find it hard to find them for some reason, probably because I'm trying too hard to read (or SKIM oh geez) analytically.

Josh (Josh), Thursday, 7 November 2002 03:07 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Frank Budgen I believe is the mystery man yall mean.

Leee (Leee), Thursday, 7 November 2002 03:49 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

1. Nabokov despised FW because "I dislike all novels written in dialect of any kind."
2. It's not a one joke book. Every SENTENCE in the book contains jokes-within-jokes! If we could actually read it, it'd be the funniest book ever written.
3. Anthony Burgess edited a shorter version of FW that might be a good introduction. (I'm sure he left out some good bits but who's going to know?)
4. Joyce himself couldn't remember what parts of FW 'meant' so I think the rest of us are pretty well screwed.
5. "Why don't you write sensible books that people can understand?" - Nora Joyce

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 7 November 2002 06:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

For what it's worth, Joyce seems to be one of Joseph Campbell's favourite authors, and he talks lots about the Wake and Ulysses towards the end of Creative Mythology, vol.4 of The Masks of God. Draws interesting parallels between Joyce and Mann, and gives insight into the mythological themes present in Joyce.

Tudor, Thursday, 7 November 2002 06:42 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I've read 5/3 of it.

Budgen died in 1971. He certainly wasn't some kind of sole recipient of the one true secret about either book. JJ did feed information to various people, but I don't think it's true to say that there's a fact that he kept from us that, if we had it, would clarify everything. We ('we'?) already know a great deal about both books, though FW does remain darker than U.

Josh: I think your question could also be approached in terms of 'style'. Ulysses is obviously not a one-trick pony - partly because it's such a many-styled book, and different things are at stake and different pleasures available in each case. FW, on the other hand, can look from a distance rather uniform in style. If it felt less uniform I'd like it more warmly than I do. But those Wakeans who love it so much would probably maintain that its style was far from uniform -- which suggests to me that this is indeed a key aspect of the question you're trying to raise.

Possibly the most clear-yet-rigorous accounts of 'what the gimmick is [gimmicks are]' are those offered by Derek Attridge, eg. in Peculiar Language (1988) and Joyce Effects (2000).

the pinefox, Thursday, 7 November 2002 16:48 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

yes, the pf, that is an eminently more helpful way to phrase my question.

Josh (Josh), Thursday, 7 November 2002 21:26 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
To josh, whereever he may be: if you're inquiring about "puns and reedles", it's a play on "pins and needles", which is the sensation you get when a limb without sufficient circulation (a dead leg) starts coming back to life.

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Tuesday, 10 February 2004 14:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

(the actual allegorical nature of its usage wasn't in mind while I wrote that sentence, it was only when I went back to put in (a dead leg) that a loud click was heard upstairs)

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Tuesday, 10 February 2004 14:21 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

six years pass...

Never read much on the Wake, so this is a start:

The LRB should give this guy some space, from here:

"Finnegans Wake is based on the structure of the zodiac, the zodiac signs being derived from the nature of numbers and a corresponding geometric sequence."

xyzzzz__, Friday, 10 December 2010 18:23 (seven years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

why on earth do i need to shell out $410 for a hardcover copy of this

talk talk talk (diamonddave85), Monday, 31 January 2011 18:25 (six years ago) Permalink

you don't.

jed_, Monday, 31 January 2011 18:33 (six years ago) Permalink

If you find $410 burning a hole in your pocket, there may be worse things to fling it away upon. Otherwise, what jed said.

Aimless, Monday, 31 January 2011 18:55 (six years ago) Permalink

because art is dead

^probably more bullshit self-aggrandizement and non-essential info^ (Edward III), Monday, 31 January 2011 18:56 (six years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

what a fantastic piece of work this is.

red is hungry green is jawless (Noodle Vague), Friday, 23 March 2012 10:28 (five years ago) Permalink

i was thinking of reading this over spring break

thomp, Friday, 23 March 2012 13:27 (five years ago) Permalink

also the cantos

thomp, Friday, 23 March 2012 13:28 (five years ago) Permalink

nv, thanks for ruining any kind of productivity i had planned for this afternoon! looks great, thx

thomasintrouble, Friday, 23 March 2012 13:40 (five years ago) Permalink

nice. making me want to finish the fcker.

woof, Friday, 23 March 2012 14:10 (five years ago) Permalink

i want a counterpart to those two to read, ideally something like 'pilgrimage' w/o my actually having to read 'pilgrimage'

thomp, Friday, 23 March 2012 14:15 (five years ago) Permalink

the site looks good but a lot of its 'glosses' appear to be straight definitions of well-known words that were already appearing in FW in unaltered, Standard English form.

the pinefox, Saturday, 24 March 2012 11:11 (five years ago) Permalink

yes some of the glosses feel unnecessary, am not sure whether the annotator feels those words are archaic or peculiar to British usage

red is hungry green is jawless (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 24 March 2012 11:34 (five years ago) Permalink

Haha, the pinefox otm

Radio Boradman (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 24 March 2012 16:46 (five years ago) Permalink

three years pass...


^Shortly after finding the twitter I found a really lovely looking paperbk on Viking Press just yesterday (although it has a 'embodying all author's corrections' which did make me laugh) so now I have a copy.

Funny how that twitter account makes the wake an everyday thing.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 30 March 2015 10:55 (two years ago) Permalink

I have at least _looked_ at every page of Ulysses, and more than half of the pages in FW. But I don't think any of Joyce is just one joke, and even when Joyce is joking I doubt he's ever "just" joking.

I suspect the Joycean impulse is more like: This be the jokeyjoke that hath occurred to me whan I found meself besat on this ineluctable shore-rock whilst thinkin this ineluctable series of thoughts. Begob and videlicet, yr man can't be expected to be shiftin out which bits are important from which bits arrrent.

This is one strain of high modernism: The jokes stay, and the Latin stays, as stay the dhrinkin and the fookin. If anything is omitted, so is the magic, which is contained in the weft of the thoughts recorded in the text. Perhaps Twitter is as good as any a way to read that kind of collage.

Nabokov is a different creature. Not so sloppy, but also not so warm. There's plenty of fun in Pale Fire, but all of it was put there intentionally, as a chisel-mark by a meticulous sculptor.

Ye Mad Puffin, Monday, 30 March 2015 15:06 (two years ago) Permalink

one month passes...


☂ (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 9 May 2015 13:33 (two years ago) Permalink

eleven months pass...

Earwicker, that patternmind, that
paradigmatic ear, receptoretentive as his of Dionysius, longsuffer-
ing although whitening under restraint in the sititout corner of
his conservatory, behind faminebuilt walls, his thermos flask and
ripidian flabel by his side and a walrus whiskerbristle for a tusk-
pick, compiled, while he mourned the flight of his wild guineese,
a long list (now feared in part lost) to be kept on file of all abusive
names he was called (we have been compelled for the rejoicement
of foinne loidies ind the humours of Milltown etcetera by Joseph-
ine Brewster in the collision known as Contrastations with Inker-
mann and so on and sononward, lacies in loo water, flee, celestials,
one clean turv): Firstnighter, Informer, Old Fruit, Yellow Whigger,
Wheatears, Goldy Geit, Bogside Beauty, Yass We've Had His
Badannas, York's Porker, Funnyface, At Baggotty's Bend He
Bumped, Grease with the Butter, Opendoor Ospices, Cainandabler,
Ireland's Eighth Wonderful Wonder, Beat My Price, Godsoilman,
Moonface the Murderer, Hoary Hairy Hoax, Midnight Sunburst,
Remove that Bible, Hebdromadary Publocation, Tummer the Lame
the Tyrannous, Blau Clay, Tight before Teatime, Read Your
Pantojoke, Acoustic Disturbance, Thinks He's Gobblasst the Good
Dook of Ourguile, W.D.'s Grace, Gibbering Bayamouth of Dublin,
His Farther was a Mundzucker and She had him in a Growler,
Burnham and Bailey, Artist, Unworthy of the Homely Protestant
Religion, Terry Cotter, You're Welcome to Waterfood, signed the
Ribbonmen, Lobsterpot Lardling, All for Arthur of this Town,
Hooshed the Cat from the Bacon, Leathertogs Donald, The Ace
and Deuce of Paupering, O'Reilly's Delights to Kiss the Man
behind the Borrel, Magogagog, Swad Puddlefoot, Gouty Ghibeline,
Loose Luther, Hatches Cocks' Eggs, Muddle the Plan, Luck before
Wedlock, I Divorce Thee Husband, Tanner and a Make, Go to
Hellena or Come to Connies, Piobald Puffpuff His Bride, Purged
out of Burke's, He's None of Me Causin, Barebarean, Peculiar
Person, Grunt Owl's Facktotem, Twelve Months Aristocrat,
Lycanthrope, Flunkey Beadle Vamps the Tune Letting on He's
Loney, Thunder and Turf Married into Clandorf, Left Boot Sent
on Approval, Cumberer of Lord's Holy Ground, Stodge Arschmann,
Awnt Yuke, Tommy Furlong's Pet Plagues, Archdukon Cabbanger,
Last Past the Post, Kennealey Won't Tell Thee off Nancy's Gown,
Scuttle to Cover, Salary Grab, Andy Mac Noon in Annie's Room,
Awl Out, Twitchbratschballs, Bombard Street Bester, Sublime
Porter, A Ban for Le King of the Burgaans and a Bom for Ye Sur
of all the Ruttledges, O'Phelim's Cutprice, And at Number Wan
Wan Wan, What He Done to Castlecostello, Sleeps with Feathers
end Ropes, It is Known who Sold Horace the Rattler, Enclosed
find the Sons of Fingal, Swayed in his Falling, Wants a Wife and
Forty of Them, Let Him Do the Fair, Apeegeequanee Chimmuck,
Plowp Goes his Whastle, Ruin of the Small Trader, He — —
Milkinghoneybeaverbrooker, Vee was a Vindner, Sower Rapes,
Armenian Atrocity, Sickfish Bellyup, Edomite, — 'Man Devoyd of
the Commoner Characteristics of an Irish Nature, Bad Humborg,
Hraabhraab, Coocoohandler, Dirt, Miching Daddy, Born Burst Feet
Foremost, Woolworth's Worst, Easyathic Phallusaphist, Guiltey-
pig's Bastard, Fast in the Barrel, Boose in the Bed, Mister Fatmate,
In Custody of the Polis, Boawwll's Alocutionist, Deposed, but anar-
chistically respectsful of the liberties of the noninvasive individual,
did not respond a solitary wedgeword beyond such sedentarity,
though it was as easy as kissanywhere for the passive resistant in
the booth he was in to reach for the hello gripes and ring up Kim-
mage Outer 17.67, because, as the fundamentalist explained, when
at last shocked into speech, touchin his woundid feelins in the
fuchsiar the dominican mission for the sowsealist potty was on at
the time and he thought the rowmish devowtion known as the
howly rowsary might reeform ihm, Gonn.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 08:26 (one year ago) Permalink


xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 08:29 (one year ago) Permalink

"Miching Daddy" has always intrigued me as something in the dark, love the musical ones like "Flunkey Beadle Vamps the Tune Letting on He's Loney"

take any one of the atoms of the book out like this and look at it is the best argument for how wonderful the whole is

some men just want to watch the world Bern (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 21 April 2016 09:17 (one year ago) Permalink

Yes. I follow the twitter account and seeing that on the timeline - mostly ignore it but every now and then something like this comes up and its perfect. Turning out to be a good way to skim thru.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 10:02 (one year ago) Permalink

I want this list to be read by Ms Doyle

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 10:03 (one year ago) Permalink

That's so weird, I randomly opened it & read that exact passage the other day

Kevin Ageusia Smith (wins), Thursday, 21 April 2016 10:07 (one year ago) Permalink

reading that is very dispiriting if you've just finished your own experimental novel

And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 10:56 (one year ago) Permalink

There was a brief period when I felt like the Wake exhausted the possibilities for fiction after it but no way, if anything it celebrates the exhaustlessness of language

some men just want to watch the world Bern (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:04 (one year ago) Permalink

I never feel like that with Joyce at all, and FW isn't really fiction.

That passage is more like a Rabelasian feast.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:33 (one year ago) Permalink

pynchon's disgusting candy drill + alliterative feast at either end of gravity's rainbow were just standing on these shoulders huh

And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:48 (one year ago) Permalink

Is that the only book you've read?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:50 (one year ago) Permalink

yeah! pretty impressive isn't it

And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:51 (one year ago) Permalink

maybe you should get out more. Sun is shining.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:58 (one year ago) Permalink

try and find a passage from FW that evinces that sentiment idk

And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:00 (one year ago) Permalink

reading that is very dispiriting if you've just finished your own Britpop memoir

Romeo Daltrey (Tom D.), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:28 (one year ago) Permalink

I must correct here to your own EXPERIMENTAL Britpop memoir #binAndBurnThatFucker

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:32 (one year ago) Permalink

'the interior world of noel gallagher' >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> most published experimental fiction

And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:34 (one year ago) Permalink

Experimental Britpop - not an ILM thread yet?

Romeo Daltrey (Tom D.), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:35 (one year ago) Permalink

mansun have like 3 threads!!!

And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:35 (one year ago) Permalink

your experimental novel is Mansun slash fic isn't it?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:42 (one year ago) Permalink


And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:43 (one year ago) Permalink

I never feel like that with Joyce at all, and FW isn't really fiction.

oh sure I was v callow and wrong and full of wrong-headed notions about form and genre when I had those thoughts

some men just want to watch the world Bern (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:53 (one year ago) Permalink

We were all young once.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 13:57 (one year ago) Permalink

I think a couple of my relatives are in there.

Romeo Daltrey (Tom D.), Thursday, 21 April 2016 21:05 (one year ago) Permalink

It's the other greatest Irish listmaker who inspires the Father Ted name-guessing - similar scene in the 3rd Policeman

woof, Thursday, 21 April 2016 21:52 (one year ago) Permalink

but i just keep staring at that list

Left Boot Sent on Approval

woof, Thursday, 21 April 2016 21:54 (one year ago) Permalink

similar scene in the 3rd Policeman

Right, read it years ago but I don't remember much about it - apart from how it made me feel. Got to read that again.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 22 April 2016 07:56 (one year ago) Permalink

pynchon's disgusting candy drill + alliterative feast at either end of gravity's rainbow were just standing on these shoulders huh

― And the cry rang out all o'er the town / Good Heavens! Tay is down (imago), Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:48 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Is that the only book you've read?

― xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2016 11:50 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink


carly rae jetson (thomp), Friday, 22 April 2016 08:43 (one year ago) Permalink

[found it]
'Do you recall that you told me that I was not here at all because I had no name and that my personality was invisible to the law?'
'I said that.'
'Then how can I be hanged for a murder, even if I did commit it and there is no trial or preliminary proceedings, no caution administered and no hearing before a Commissioner of the Public Peace?'
Then he spoke.
'Are you completely doubtless that you are nameless?' he asked.
'Positively certain.'
'Would it be Mick Barry?'
'Charlemange O'Keeffe?'
'Sir Justin Spens?'
'Not that.'
'Bernard Farm?'
'Joseph Poe or Nolan?'
'One of the Garvins or the Moynihans?'
'Not them.'
'Rosencranz O'Dowd?'
'Would it be O'Benson?'
'Not O'Benson.'
'The Quigleys, The Mulrooneys or the Hounimen?'
'The Hardimen or the Merrimen?'
'Not them.'
'Peter Dundy?'
'Lord Brad?'
'Not him.'
'The O'Growneys, the O'Roartys or the Finnehys?'
'That is an amazing piece of denial and denunciation,'he said.
He passed the red cloth over his face again to reduce the moisture.
'An astonishing parade of nullity,' he added.
'My name is not Jenkins either,' I vouchsafed.
'Roger MacHugh?'
'Not Roger.'
'Sitric Hogan?'
'Not Conroy?'
'Not O'Conroy?'
'Not O'Conroy.'
'There are very few more names that you could have, then,' he said.

woof, Friday, 22 April 2016 08:51 (one year ago) Permalink

That's so good, thanks!

xyzzzz__, Friday, 22 April 2016 09:07 (one year ago) Permalink

But to go back to the Joyce, how many racehorses have been named from that list? "Tight before Teatime" has surely been taken up by now.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 22 April 2016 09:10 (one year ago) Permalink


mahb, Friday, 22 April 2016 09:13 (one year ago) Permalink

one year passes...

The child, a natural child, thenown by the mnames of, (aya!
aya!), wouldbewas kidnapped at an age of recent probably,
possibly remoter; or he conjured himself from seight by slide
at hand; for which thetheatron is a lemoronage; at milch-
goat fairmesse; in full dogdhis; sod on a fall; pat; the hundering
blundering dunderfunder of plundersundered manhood; behold,
he returns; renascenent; fincarnate; still foretold around the hearth-
side; at matin a fact; hailed chimers' ersekind; foe purmanant,
fum in his mow; awike in wave risurging into chrest; victis poenis
hesternis; fostfath of solas; fram choicest of wiles with warmen
and sogns til Banba, burial aranging; under articles thirtynine of
the reconstitution; by the lord's order of the canon consecrand-
able; earthlost that we thought him; pesternost, the noneknown
worrier; from Tumbarumba mountain; in persence of whole
landslots; forebe all the rassias; sire of leery subs of dub; the Dig-
gins, Woodenhenge, as to hang out at; with spawnish oel full his
angalach; the sousenugh; gnomeosulphidosalamermauderman; the
big brucer, fert in fort; Gunnar, of The Gunnings, Gund; one
of the two or three forefivest fellows a bloke could in holiday
crowd encounter; benedicted be the barrel; kilderkins, lids off; a
roache, an oxmaster, a sort of heaps, a pamphilius, a vintivat
niviceny, a hygiennic contrivance socalled from the editor; the
thick of your thigh; you knox; quite; talking to the vicar's joy
and ruth; the gren, woid and glue been broking by the maybole
gards; he; when no crane in Elga is heard; upout to speak this
lay; without links, without impediments, with gygantogyres,
with freeflawforms; parasama to himself; atman as evars; whom
otherwise becauses; no puler as of old but as of young a palatin;
whitelock not lacked nor temperasoleon; though he appears a
funny colour; stoatters some; but a quite a big bug after the
dahlias; place inspectorum sarchent; also the hullow chyst ex-
cavement; astronomically fabulafigured; as Jambudvispa Vipra
foresaw of him; the last half versicle repurchasing his pawned
word; sorensplit and paddypatched; and pfor to pfinish our pfun
of a pfan coalding the keddle mickwhite; sure, straight, slim,
sturdy, serene, synthetical, swift.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 11 May 2017 20:12 (eight months ago) Permalink

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