Monday, June 1, 2015

riverrunning (Finnegan's Wake in 2015)

I think I disclosed already that while I have read Joyce's Ulysses* twice, I have never read Finnegans' Wake.  I'm not really sure I want to, as it is so opaque and non-linear.  I am finding myself quite bored with Vassily Aksyonov's The Burn, as there is no grounded story behind the novel, and Finnegan's Wake is even more extreme.

Nonetheless, there were a number of interesting articles and stories about Finnegan's Wake, which are making me give it second and third thoughts.  First, there was a piece on how the first third of the novel have been translated into Chinese (and slightly streamlined in the process), and it has become a best seller.  How odd.

This led to a more general discussion of how Finnegan's Wake has gone out of copyright in the EU and presumably most of the Commonwealth.  I believe, despite recent efforts to extend copyright in Canada,** at the moment it is in the public domain here as well.  There are a number of particularly interesting artistic re-uses of Finnegan's Wake that are now legal (which is exactly what those of us arguing for a robust public domain framework have always said would happen).  This story contains quite a number of interesting links, including in the comments.  Personally I prefer Patrick Horgan's unabridged and relatively straight-forward reading to this somewhat overly busy reading over at Waywords and Meansigns, but some will be drawn in by the layered effect.  I've never been one to listen to audio books, but I suspect this might be an exception.  I am far more likely to make it through the book with Horgan doing all the hard work and heavy lifting.  Given that much of Finnegan's Wake is built around punning and sound associations, it is far more a book for the ear than the eye.  While it is only a short except, Joyce himself can be heard reading from the book here.

For those that prefer reading for themselves, the book has been converted to epub format by the University of Adelaide.  This is quite handy, as it allows for searching throughout the text.  Wordsworth Classics has come out with an inexpensive paperback version, which I actually saw in BMV a couple of weeks ago, though I don't need another copy of a book I am not that likely to sit down and read in the first place.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Folio Society has put out a really attractive (but quite expensive) illustrated edition of Finnegan's Wake.  I thought briefly about it, but decided that did not make sense for me.  As nice as the illustrations by John Vernon are (and I'll just embed a couple below), there are only 12 in total, and nearly all of them can be seen here.

They seem to draw nearly as much on Alice in Wonderland and the Book of Kells as Finnegan's Wake, but perhaps Joyce's esoteric masterwork can be conceived of as a fusion of the two.  At any rate, all this activity has gotten me thinking about the book far more seriously than I have at any point in the last 25 years.  I'll report back if I make it through the audio book version or actually decide to tackle reading Finnegan's Wake on my own.

* Just a friendly reminder that Bloomsday is coming up (June 16) for anyone looking to get into Ulysses this year.

** With another round of copyright extension built into TPP, which is being rammed down our throats by Obama.  It is stuff like this that really makes me hate the world and all the bought-and-sold politicians in it.

Indeed, there is actually a competing recording by Patrick Healy, who did a complete reading of the novel broken into 132 parts! While trying to trace out what I meant by Patrick Horgan, I did stumble across Frank Delaney's reJoyce project, which tackles Ulysses.  Well, something to delve into but not for this summer.  (And of course, the internet age being born for pedants, it turns out there is someone who actually has reviewed both audio versions and comes squarely down in favor of Horgan over Healy.  I'll probably listen to a bit of each, but I simply cannot listen to both straight through.

‡ While I would find it incredibly distracting to try to do work while listening to Finnegan's Wake, I may be returning to try to finish up a project I put on hold 25+ years ago: weaving/constructing a rag rug.  I certainly have more productive projects I could work on, but this would fit the colour scheme of the new office reasonably well.  The snag is that I, somewhat stupidly, made it out of denim, so it is very durable but also very hard to sew together.  I probably could finish off a completely new rug made out of regular materials, i.e. cotton or flannel, in a fraction of the time.  But would I feel the same feeling of accomplishment?

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