Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sham and Shem (Finnegans Wake, Day 13)

There are times when I pick this book up and am baffled, defeated and irritated by the narrative. I have no idea at all what I'm supposed to be reading and I lose track of the subject of the sentence before it reaches a verb and I read the same line over and over and my eyes begin to glaze and I think about napping. This book is about nothing! It's all surface without meaning! It's a sham! Damn you, James Joyce! And then I immediately hit a stretch of amazing and wondrous prose that expands the worlds of language and human nature and I am filled with joy and curiousity and I keep reading. Thank you, James Joyce.


  1. I really am eager to read this for myself, and hope this is the year. I once heard it jested, nearly as you just did, that Joyce road this as a superficial sham, trying to be abstruse enough that everyone would assume it it be deep and interesting.

    I thought the idea ridiculous, but it stayed with me. When my college held "napkin poetry" contest, I took that idea and ran with it.

    Wrote down a bunch of malarky, really, just trying my hardest to sound as my metaphors and structures were so deep that they were beyond normal comprehension.

    Mostly, I did this to mock the contest because I thought most of the poetry my fellow students wrote was terrible.

    Alas, I learned from the judges that had my poem been submitted with a name rather than anonymously, it would have won the contest.

    Lo, the the many things I learned about the deep and wonderful things I was saying in that poem.

    Now, I still don't think that's what Joyce did.

    But it's always made me wonder.

  2. I don't think I'm ready for FW yet. It sounds frustrating, and I have enough frustration from other sources at the moment. Proust is fairly frustrating at times, but eventually I can figure him out.

  3. Nevets: I think Joyce took Finnegans Wake seriously and he knew just what he was doing. My problem is the I don't often know just what he was doing, but that's my problem.

    Big D: Mighty Reader and I were comparing our experiences with her reading Proust and me reading Joyce. She's read all of Proust, you know, and Ulysses as well. One of the commonalities between Proust and Joyce seems to be that you can get lost in the language and not be aware of what's happening in the story except on the level of gesture, of vague impression. And there's nothing wrong with that, but it takes a different approach to the text as a reader.