James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: The Slow Read

“Bite my laughters, drink my tears. Pore into me, volumes, spell me stark and spill me swooning, I just don’t care what my thwarters think.”
― James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

When you have spent a bit of time in Ulysses–you wonder what Joyce might possibly have dreamed up next. I mean, after Molly, where could you possibly go? But after many years of hemming & hawing, sheming & shauning, I think it is hightides to swim into the Wake. So I have ordered my Wake Skeleton, my Book of the Dark, and the thing itself– and in we shall leap in September. Join me?

The plan for this six-week is Salon is NOT to read the whole shebang–but to START (one book group in Boston has been reading this for 18 YEARS, just for ex.). We will practice slow reading–and for this one, I want to pay attention to what the book requires of us: 10 pages a week? One? And if we are fired up to connote, continue we will– six weeks at a time.

According to Margot Norris (whose introduction I am using as a buoy), it is not important to learn what the work is about. What it is about is the form itself–and the nature of indeterminacy that punctuates all of our communication and artistic renderings. As Joyce had started in Ulysses, the Wake continues to probe the looseness of identity. We don’t get to fix the characters– not even their names– but instead are offered shifting personas rendered through the prism of the dreaming mind, the quest for origins, the paradigms of myth and archetype, the fluidity of water…all this in a constant play of language: puzzles, riddles, puns, historical allusions re-imagined in language that tilts towards children’s rhymes. If you have a sense of playfulness and are ready to let loose and run, come along to the Anna Livia with us….

Just to get you started, the first line:

“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.”


  • Ongoing study in six-week sessions
  • Recommended edition: Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce,  Oxford University Press edition (June 2012); ISBN-13: 978-0199695157

A few on-line resources:

On diving in: http://fractiousfiction.com/finnegans_wake.html

On editions: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1667467-editions-finnegans-editions

If you would like to request this study or have any questions about it, please contact us.



Posted on

October 15, 2018