Monday, December 20, 2010

Sorry, Jimmy. We'll Try Again Next Year

I have put James Joyce's Finnegans Wake back on the shelf after reading about 100 pages. But this is just a temporary break; Jimmy and I will get back together again after the holidays. Finnegans Wake didn't turn out to be a good choice of reading during this time of year. There are too many real-life distractions and not enough time for me to sit and read. So back on the shelf FW goes until the New Year when things will--I pray--settle down a bit.

In the meanwhile, I do not plan to read any fiction other than my own. I'm revising the first draft of Cocke & Bull so that I can set it aside for a while again before revising it further. The MS presents some interesting problems that will require quiet reflection before a solution presents itself. That's all I'm saying about that.

A lot of non-fiction is on my "to do" list: books about Greenwich Village and New York Harbor and the Progressives before WWI, books about ships and sailing, books about explorers and madness (likely a re-read of Geoff Powter's fabulous Strange and Dangerous Dreams, also known outside the US market as We Cannot Fail) and all of this will lead up to a rough draft of another book whose working title is Nowhere But North. I plan to structure that novel as three parallel novellas which act as framing stories to each other. It will be massively cool and the fore- and backshadowing possibilities excite me just thinking about them.

Anyway, Finnegans Wake is just too complex a work to be read in little snips here and there; it requires sustained effort and that's something I can't give it right now. But next year I'll reacquaint myself with Mr. Earwicker and friends.

7 comments:

  1. Ah, once again the book gets dropped. It's on my someday list too. The last time I tried was several years ago.

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  2. Domey, this is something I've done with any number of books: set it aside for a month and then pick it up again to finish. So I'm not giving up on FW, but I am waiting for a stretch of time when I have the hours and brain to devote to it. This holiday season seems to be far busier than any previous year has been.

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  3. I knew a man in Patzcuaro (Michoacan, Mexico) who was reading Finnigan for the second time. He ran the museum there, and would sit in the patio with his cupita of mescal, chuckling and chortling over the pages of that book. He was from Europe originally--Austria, I believe--and spoke five or six languages, so he could catch the multi-lingual puns. He did a few pages each day. I think the mescal helped too. And of course it was a good place to read Finnigan: time moved slowly, the bougainvilla glowed, and he could slide into a gentle drunkeness....

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  4. D.N.: That's the other thing: I like to sit back with a glass of wine when I read, and there's been no real time for that lately, either. Perhaps I'll make FW my Big Summer Book in 2011, so I can sit in the back yard with a cocktail and Joyce.

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  5. This is how Proust is for me. I will get to him someday. Good luck with your research reading and your revisions!

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  6. I did the same thing with Anna Karenina. I thought it would make good winter reading because it's Russian. You know, snow and stuff. Then I read a bunch of mysteries instead. But I'll get back to AK eventually.

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  7. That's the thing about REAL reading, whether it's Finnigan or Proust or old Russian novels: it requires a certain gentler, slower lifestyle. This is difficult to find, I've noticed, in the U.S. where I now live. Everything is hurried here. But you cant hurry through a good book. Or a good life...

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