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A Word In Your Ear: How & Why To Read James Joyce's Finnegans Wake Paperback – June 27, 2005
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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A smart and readable guide to the masters neglected nightmaze. -- Brendan de Caires
A stunning performance and of exemplary clarity. -- The Compulsive Reader
He writes quite carefully and lovingly and joyfully about the Finnegans Wake experience. Its a great read. -- Messes of Mottage
From the Publisher
"A sine qua non for Joyceans" (Clarence Sterling). "Certainly the best intro to the Wake Ive seen" (Andrew H. Blom). Whether youre new to Finnegans Wake or a long familiar friend, this lively and readable essay will guide, refresh, and delight. The author provides essential background information and helpful reading techniques while conveying the pleasures of delving into Joyces dense text.
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Yes, the Wake is certainly no typical novel. But I think some of the terms applied such as "the most impenetrable book ever written" are a bit melodramatic. The Bible has passages that are difficult to understand, right? So is it impenetrable? Quantum mechanics is nearly impossible to grasp. Impenetrable? No.
Impenetrable implies that the reader will get nothing from the book. I actually enjoy and gain regeneration from reading the wake. No, I can't decipher every line. But I can follow the general idea and love the word play. Play. See that's the real key here. Play. If the book is approached as play, as fun, the reader will enjoy the book.
And that brings me to A Word in Your Ear. The author states upfront that his book is not a deep scholarly dissertation on the Wake. It's a starter, an encouragement to dive in. As that, the book serves the purpose. If you want to just get started with the Wake, this book is adequate to "get you in". Go deeper if you'd like with other dissections. But for a toe in the water, this book will serve the purpose.
Kitcher's invitation has especially reawakened my interest in the dark book. I find myself in that late stage of life when I wonder, with HCE, ALP and Joyce if it's all been worth it.
Eric Rosenbloom's reading of FW, A Word In Your Ear..., provides insight into Joyce's granularity of FW.
Aspirationally, James Joyce has thrown all Mankind's manifest gods/deities/idols into FW, reading FW is like circumambulating the Kaaba's 360 idols. Each reader/critic will find their own manifest god and if enlightened, a Bodhisattva's perspective, move on to the Compassionate Omniscient Eternal Unmanifest/Visnu and to their own individual spiritual karmic path.
Joyce's Ulysses' is the story of a young man, its framework is Homer's 'Odyssey'. A tale of a Modern-day Odysseus' personal existential sexual quest, to overcome his psychological internal travails (not Odysseus' external travails) and to affirm humanity: father, mother, son, and daughter. Joyce's FW's is the story of a family, its framework is Giambattista Vico's (road/path) 'La Scienza Nuova's' 4 stages of cyclic history: theocratic to aristocratic to democratic to chaos. Fractured by Indra's thunderbolt (Shiva's trident) ending chaos and restarting the world/day again with theocracy.
FINNEGANS WAKE (FW) and Ulysses (a tantalizing 'Punic admiralty report') are both situated in Dublin, though written on the European continent Joyce memorializes his birth home. FW is 'Ulysses' on a universal scale, Bloom becomes All-Men (HCE) and Dublin becomes the World. Joyce's Ulysses (Bloom) is an energetic man hopping out of bed, plunging into the Dublin day, waging battles real and unreal, exhausted by controversy and rejuvenated by love (Molly). Joyce's HCE is man eternal, a universal man of all wisdom, compassion, understanding, a man of all time. Joyce's FW protagonist is Finnegan, who (re)incarnates to HCE, who will (re)incarnate to Shaun and Shem.
Reading FW is entering the "mind of James Joyce" and his expansive word palette. Joyce labored for two decades assembling his masterpiece tantras/sutras. The mind of Joyce is the "library of mankind" who has reordered dictionaries, encyclopedias, and volumes of knowledge to reveal a West-East allegorical perennial mandala of Mankind's (HCE/Krishna's and ALP/Radha's) compassionate thoughts (manifest and spiritual), a revelation. FW is a spiritual volume to be Read and Read again for 10,000 years.
Readers have for decades mis-attributed dozens and dozens of characters in FW. Mis-reading Joyce's recognition that all personalities always have two-aspects at any moment in time (past/present, evolving/devolving, present/future, observed/Maya & observer/Thaya or Tamas/Creation & Rajas/destruction, truth/falsehood, light/darkness and hopefully an Enlightened recognition of two-worlds, manifest & spiritual), a recognition that "two becomes one" and "one becomes two". Consequently, Joyce has hundreds of "paired names" for the Father, Mother, two Sons and Daughter. A young HCE (Shem-like) Persse goes to sea as the NC (HCE adventuring) but on displacing Kersse ('Son of Ashe's' cursed-aspect) the NC/HCE leaves his bachelored Persse to become a married HCE with two new-aspects (*T & R) His Shaun-aspect and His Shem-aspect, which will be manifested in His sons. While the maid Ana upon consummation of their marriage has two new-aspects ALP and Kate (ALP's drudge-aspect, *M/T), this occurs with almost all of Joyce's FW's characters.
*4) FW ends "book IV" (Vico's chaos) with a half sentence 'A way a lone a lost a last a loved a long the' FW's first word is 'riverrun,...' Ganga's river of unmanifest spiritual-life consciousness, a West-East silk road/waterway transmission.
1) FW's "book I:1" (Vico's theocratic) tells of a) Finnegan's passing, a pedantic fall, an aeon ends, Joyce's God "thunderclap" restarting "book I" from ending "book IV" and b) transition from Finnegan, his fertile historic home, to HCE an invading Ulysses. The first 4 chapters of "book I" introduces readers to the father, patriarch HCE, his syncretic history and "folk" hearsay; the second 4 chapters of "book I" are devoted to the woman, who will catch her man, who becomes matriarch, HCE's wife ALP, her syncretic history and "folk" hearsay. Finnegan (builder) an impermanent brick in a manifest world represents the archaeological past (a passing aeon) held by a forefather, an Indra (Ireland's indras, impermanent ants upon a whale carcass) with his wisdom of the history of all men and times. Finnegan passes his baton, his place in the fabric/river (of manifest consciousness) of loves/attachments and wars/engagements, to his successor HCE/NC (like a fallen Russian General's void is filled by his battlefield promoted daytime successor) now present in manifest time with his particular past. While ALP/Kate emerges from Dublin's local history/museum as the Muse to gather from the past for her future and family. The parents (HCE and ALP) are the new "present anchored by their particular pasts" in FW.
After 4 billion years of biological evolution, Here we are!, well, Where are we?, and, How did we come about? Our individual particular consciousness has been inherited (transmigrations) from the past, a temporal space in an expanding consciousness. And Biological evolution has divided us by sex, which induces Social evolution to procreate offspring to fill our temporal consciousness when we expire, "exhausted consciousness".
2) FW's "book II" (Vico's aristocratic) devotes itself to HCE & ALP's children: Shaun (Tamas/Kulothunga II, extrovert, man of the world, stasis/space - Sartre's Being, loved: she reveals to him her sexual/spiritual unity) carrier of FW's letter (cleric of "church"). Shem (Rajas/Shaiva Siddhanta-bhakti Christian, introvert, artist, change/time - Sartre's Nothingness, loves: he reveals to her his ascetic enlightenments) revealer of the FW letter (prophet, "religious reformer"). And Issy/Iseult muse (nature's direction) gatherer and composer of letters. The children are the evolving "present future" of FW.
Biological and Social evolution engenders parental responsibilities, to successful offspring. Brother's battle: Shaun in accord and Shem in conflict with local Dharma. The children will inherit and evolve their Own individual particular temporal consciousness within their local deity's dharma/community. Atmosphere, fog mist and dew of MaMaLuJo/St. Augustine's dharmapala; MaMaLuJo's donkey (relic, men's vestige/tale) like Bloom's 'shrivelled potato' (Ulysses ch Circes).
3) FW's "book III" (Vico's democratic) devotes itself to "what will be of" HCE and ALP's children. The baton will be passed on (again) from HCE and ALP to: Shaun, Shem and Issy. The children's "influences upon the world" is the "future generation", presently unknowable, of FW.
Instructing parents can guide their children beyond their local deity's manifest dharma (MaMaLuJo/Augustine's dharmapala) to the spiritual Unmanifest: evolving from Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni to Buddha to Bodhisattva.
*4) FW ends "book IV" (Vico/vivo's chaos) with ALP's and HCE's lovemaking dissolution dream meditation. Joycean Nirvana is attained by ALP (via Dzogchen Togal): cosmic-awareness, dissolving manifest bodies, a "meditation on union", dissolving observer/selves, becoming "all that is". And HCE (via Dzogchen Trekcho): transcending all defilements and fixations, beyond karma, existence and thoughts, beyond selves, beyond all dualistic polarities. Realizing Non-dual enlightenment, unification Yab-Yum, so that their compassionate "rainbow bodies" are realized with the Unmanifest/unmanifest-spirit. Creation, Incarnate conception and Reincarnation the baton has been passed on again. The 2010/12 "corrected" Rose/O'Hanlon edition reveals Joyce's partitioned 4 vision/stages.
Eternal Tree of sentient life (time/consciousness-compassion) and Immutable Stone (matter-space/law), 'Yet is no body present here which was not there before. Only is order othered. Nought is nulled. Fuitfiat!'. Should we Aspire? Aspire to what? To that which manifested consciousness, Unmanifest/unmanifest-spirit mandala.
"Dreams of Clarity" imparted gifts: HCE dreams of how his family's lives may influence his children's future loves, book II:4. HCE dreams of how his children's (play) future adulthood may unfold as an extension of his life's experiences, books (II:1) & III:1. HCE dreams of how his parenting instructions will influence his children's future of moving past their life's manifest obstacles to their independent & individual Unmanifest/Visnu spiritual lives, book III:2. HCE dreams of how he has prepared his children to defend themselves from their family inheritances (FW), ALP his soulmate is invited (Mannagde-shared) into his dream to defend him, as is his cherished Issy (Mannagde-shared), book III:3; and Shem's (Glugg/Jerry) receptive "Tibetan dream Yoga" (Mannagde-shared, HCE gifted), book II:1 and Shem's channeling intrusion interrupting his parent's sexuality/meditation, HCE rebuffed, book III:4. "Clear Light Dream" Moksha, ALP's and HCE's lovemaking Nirvana, the past dissolving and a new day arising, book IV.
Each day we awaken from our dreams to the Joys and sufferings of our lives, restarting from yesterday, I:1. Our failings (susceptibilities) presenting our daily confrontations I:2; our past shortcomings, augmented daily, having left a memorable trail of our karmic path I:3; which we must defend, our stases and imperfections, with the help of our partner(s) who share with us their perspective and solutions to save us from our daily actions I:4. Our partner'(s) helpful informed 'a priori' (spiritual Quantum) indeterminate/non-Cartesian and 'a posteriori' (manifest Classical physics) understandings of consciousness I:5; our partner'(s) evolving, expanding & refining, understandings (through time) of our daily lives, spiritual aspirations and sexual relations I:6; understandings and enlightenments shared with our family I:7, while observed and judged by the members of our community I:8. Our children will inherit our gifted past of personal loves & wars, attachments & engagements, II:1; our children will intuitively realize the Unmanifest/Visnu and learn of the dualities of manifestation, sexuality and individual's spiritual free will II:2; they will experience the activities of men and women II:3; and their personal experience of sexual love II:4. Children will learn of Compassion "Hinayana self-reflection" enabling personal re-positioning, III:1; and graduate onto acceptance of the participations in the Joys and sufferings of this life "Vajrayana enlightenments" of imperfect possible Compassionate choices, III:2; not only will parent's lives be judged, by themselves and others, but their parenting will be judged, by their children and others, III:3; we will carry into the future, tick-tock, the Joys and sufferings of this Life as have our parents III:4. Enjoying the Paradises that this Life offers us, IV:1.
"HCE day" similar to Bloomsday (roughly 24 hrs): Chronologically FW starts with courtroom memories (travail, book I:3) of HCE arrested in front of his gated refuge (from MaMaLuJo's tale) unable to enter, unlike Bloom HCE does not enter through the back door (Ulysses ch Penelope), instead HCE is arrested in hours before dawn. [newly incorporated dream: HCE's samsara/awakens in jail (book I:1) after his dream remembrances/anamnesis of NC/HCE arrival/attending Finnegan's wake at the 'House of call', to marry Ana/ALP, and assume the tavern keeper's role (consciousness space) made available by Finnegan's passing years ago.] Followed by (book I:4) HCE's psychological musings of past travails/guilts (living death, underworld Hell excursion Ulysses ch Hades) while incarcerated in early hours of morning, visited by ALP in jail before HCE's courtroom trial & defense and release & liberation. HCE walks home (accusation *T/R an evolving Sattva, book I:2) through Phoenix Park accosted for the time of day (12 noon) which threatens (real & unreal choices, Ulysses ch Nausicaa) his innocent vico/"well-being". Joyce rewrites 3 chapters of Ulysses to incorporate Vico's road/revelation of restart & recirculation into FW: When He is denied Her front door, He is in Hell (on earth), when released (from Hell) His odyssey to Her begins again (with His ever-present accompanying internal travails) for She always knows when He is worthy of Her acceptance, their Paradise.
FINNEGANS WAKE is James A.A. Joyce's evolving aspirational "family/bodhisattvas all" who all understand that the intention behind all existence is Compassion, Buddha/Christ's teachings. Our eternal compassionate Spiritual (Unmanifest/Visnu) and interpreted cosmic Dharma (Stone of Law, dispassionate astronomic exergonic) by impermanent evolving conscientious sexual Lovers (Tree of Life, compassionate quantum *M/T & T/R&S endergonic). Our Joys and sufferings (daily anamnesis, reinterpreted cyclic samsara) our Middle-way/Christian vico. Joyce's Christian paradigm (C.S. Lewis' "Christian love" hall) was globalized by his readings of transcendent/spiritual T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land's' "Shantih"/Nirvana and Neapolitan Giambattista Vico's understandings of China's silk road (waterways/rivers and roads, arteries transmitting ideas back from Zhang Qian) chronicled by Sima Qian (eunuch/'baile') where East/West trade carried manifest commerce/mammon (to 1st century Christianity) and Tamil-Shiva bhakti Mahayana (to 1st century Hinayana/ascetic India) across Asia. Joyce rediscovered (in the 'midden heap') Shachi's request succedent to 'The Humbling of Indra' (via Brihaspati) of peaceful sexual equilibrium, both psychological virtues of the spiritual and manifest. Subsequently, our manifest multiverse dharmas chosen/created: Dzogchen, C.S. Lewis' "Christian rooms" or other compassionate dogma, e.g.: 1) neither being excessively for/Tamas or against/Rajas a particular team/player in a match but "enjoying/honoring Sattvas the game/play", 2) in the game of GO neither being greedily/fearfully (biological fight/flight) offensive or defensive, in your choice/dualities of moves, but playing the "enlightened Sattva offensive or defensive move", 3) not suffering Alice's angst observed/observer of Hatta/Haigha: Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse but participating vico/vivo in the "timeless Tea party", 4) Prufrock's observed/observer "timeless Tea party" conundrum/vico to Eliot's '[Shantih]...the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus' nirvanic Unmanifest/Visnu, will be your dharmapala. Happy evolving long-life lies along your conscientious mindful karmic path, defending against manifest attacks 'unwishful...of being hurled into eternity' spirituality is assumed until it is threatened "Kerrse" and/or subordinated "accursed Russian General", your "free will" Compassionate (not recidivist) spiritual Joycean 'Mere Christianity' / Buddhist Middle-way vico.