Monday, May 13, 2019

Now why didn't I think of this?

I've already sent this link out to our own group, but for any Wake fan that happens to drop by I thought I should mention it here also. In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the publication of the Wake, Susie Lopez put up an article on Literary Hub about her experience of annotating the Wake for her own edification and enjoyment. It looks fabulous.

Here's Finnegans Wake at 80: In Defense of the Difficult

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Finnegans Wake in Santa Cruz, 2.0

All current members of our Santa Cruz Wake group happened to be in town for our last meeting, and, not without effort, one courageous individual managed to get us to stand still long enough to take a picture for this rare occurrence. (Tip!)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Beautiful Dreamers: The Watched Watchers of Picasso and Joyce

Pre-ramble: These musings were inspired by reading one of the essays in Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art by Leo Steinberg. The essay in question, Picasso's Sleepwatchers, raised certain resonances with Finnegans Wake. The book is vitally interesting in a general sense far beyond looting for quotatoes. A remainder floated into my awareness in the tail end of winter nap reverie.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Ballad of of Persse O'Reilly--page 44 and continuing

I've been a bit remiss about getting a new post up lately, but rest assured  that our group is going on full speed. I missed the meeting where the group read "The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly" aloud, but we started off our most recent meeting with this very Irish rendition, which Tom was able to dig up for us. There are some other versions out there that sound a bit lighter but I think I prefer the dourness of this one, even if it is slightly abbreviated. For your entertainment and edification, a ballad by Mr. James Joyce. Feel free to read (or sing) along.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Nevertheless, she persisted. The Prankquean-pages 21-23

There was a simultaneous "aha!" of recognition at last Wednesday's meeting from those of us who have taken this ride once before when the Prankquean made what I believe is her first appearance in the Wake. The term had become familiar to us over the course of the book, but most of us had passed over its first occurence on that run though. What was reassuring, though, was that we remembered the tale it is found in, if not this name or label attached to this feminine archetypal figure.

So what's the tale? Well, before I begin any explanations, I think I'll refer you to this wonderful rendition by Adam Harvey of the very passage we read:

A somewhat easier to understand account of the meeting between the pirate queen Grace O'Malley and the Earl of Howth can be found on the legends page of the Howth Castle website. Basically, if you don't feel like clicking through, the story is of Grace O'Malley, who goes by many other names because her real name in Irish is Gráinne Ní Mháille, and so was anglicized in a variety of ways. Joyce dubs her 'grace o'malice' here.Pirate queen is a bit deceptive, because in fact she was the actual lord of Connaught, a realm which included both land and sea, and which she inherited from her father. I find her story fascinating on many levels,, but perhaps particularly because she is both a figure of historical record, and also a part of Irish folklore. To put it another way, it's as though Robin Hood had lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth. 

Joyce uses an event that has some historical basis to suit his own ends. Although the original account has Grace making off with the earl's heir (though according to our legends page, this couldn't have happened in exactly that way), Joyce turns it into a fairytale, with the same event happening three times, with three different children. Some say that this is a Viconian cycle, since Vico only spoke of three ages, while Joyce adds the ricorso as a fourth. I'm starting to see the ricorso as more of a reset than a cycle, as when playing a video game. 

After consulting our texts, we spoke towards the end of the meeting of the interesting idea of the Jarl van Hoother (aka, the Earl of Howth) being a masculine figure in a slow and drowsy torpor. One reason he doesn't want to let Grace O'Malley in is because of the late hour and his sleepiness. According to our text, and I don't remember if it was Campbell or just which one, Grace represents the animating feminine principal. She is the invigorating one. And when I look at what is happening in our country, I see a similar principle at work. What Grace is demanding of the Earl is nothing outrageous. According to our legends page, Grace is only asking him to fulfill the traditions of ancient Irish hospitality. In other words, she is only asking what is due her.

What the slumbering earl doesn't at first understand is that, one way or another, she is determined to get it. 

Statue of Grace O'Malley at Westport House-photo by Suzaane Mischyshyn

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hasatency? page 16

Our last meeting, which is already a week and a half ago now, was of a smaller group than it has been recently, as there were various commitments that  some of our members had to meet. Still,  a smaller group is sometimes nice, just in terms of having a more cohesive conversation. We read a smaller portion too, just the Mutt and Jute dialogue and about a page and a half after.

I had remembered Mutt and Jute coming a lot further along than page 16, but I suppose we took the beginning a bit slower the first time around. We decided that one member would read Jute and one Mutt. Although usually both of them read well, each was dealing with a vision problem that day and although I wouldn't ordinarily find it funny when people are stumbling over words, in this context, I had trouble containing myself, because the passage is about two people who can't understand each other.It seemed like quite a Joycean sort of joke. 

Jute-Are you jeff?
Jute-But you are not jeffmute?
Mutt-Noho. Only an utterer.
Jute-Whoa? Whoat is the mutter with you?
Mutt-I became a stun a stummer.
Jute-What a hauhauhauhaudible thing, to be cause! How, Mutt?

and a couple of lines down,

Jute-You that side of your voice are almost inedible to me. Become a bitskin more wiseable, as if I were you.

There were of course many, many tracks and byways we drifted down in the course of the session, but I wanted to focus on one thing that came up for me. In this part, we have one of the first plays on the word hesitancy, if not the first. Mutt says, just after the line above, "Has? Has at? Hasatency?"

Now from our last read through of the Wake, we are  pretty familiar with at least one significance of the word. Joyce's hero, Charles Stewart Parnell, was accused of the murders of Lord Cavendish and the Chief Secretary for Ireland is Phoenix Park because of some incriminating letters attributed to him that were then published in the newspaper. But the letters were discovered to be forged due to the misspelling of the word hesitancy as 'hesitency'. It was discovered that the journalist Richard Piggott had forged the letters because he had misspelled the word before.

In addition, Parnell  was apparently a stutterer. I came across this paragraph from an article called "The Shade of Parnell" that I thought it would be fun to share:

The influence exerted on the Irish people by Parnell defies
critical analysis. He had a speech defect and a delicate physique
he was ignorant of the history of his native land; his short and
fragmentary speeches lacked eloquence, poetry, and humour; his
cold and formal bearing separated him from his own colleagues; he
was a Protestant, a descendant of an aristocratic family, and, as
a crowning disgrace, he spoke with a distinct English accent. He
would often come to meetings an hour or an hour and a half late
without apologizing. He would neglect his correspondence for
weeks on end. The applause and anger of the crowd, the abuse and
praise of the press, the denunciations and defence of the British
ministers never disturbed the melancholy serenity of his
character. It is even said that he did not know by sight many of
those who sat with him on the Irish benches. When the Irish
people presented him with a national gratuity of 40,000 pounds
sterling in 1887, he put the cheque into his billfold, and in the
speech which he delivered to the immense gathering made not the
slightest reference to the gift which he had received.

But fun as this is, it is not exactly new information. And even the idea that, here at the beginning of the ricorso, these two prehistoric men stutter as they learn to talk, and may even be imitating the thunder is something we've come across before.

I am not sure how anyone else's thought processes work in the medium that is the Wake group, but it's certainly the case for me that thoughts and impressions come up while listening to the conversation that wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise. I wouldn't even say that they are thoughts so much as sudden intuitions, which I often feel compelled to speak out, more as a way of grasping at them before they slip away than to impress them on others. And in this case, I began to think about how it is for us to read these words aloud, how they often create a hesitancy in us, because so many of the Wake words are not one thing or another, but both or often much more. I know pretty much nothing about physics, but I am always remembering the title Light Can be Both Wave and Particle, which is a story collection by Ellen Gilchrist. The image of the Wake being an unstable thing, glistening and throbbing between its various possibilities was arresting to me. And Joyce makes stutterers of us all, hesitating on the brink of assigning an always provisional and temporary meaning. 

Charles Stewart Parnell

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A visit from PQ

I'd be remiss if I didn't take time out from writing my extremely random blog posts about reading the Wake  to mention a visit from our roving correspondent Peter Quadrino to Santa Cruz last weekend. Peter and his fiancee Colleen were here in the greater Bay Area and so we gathered an impromptu group from among our regular Wake attendants at our usual hangout, The Poet and Patriot. The links between our cell of Wakers and Peter's Wake group in Austin, Texas are many, as several of our members here have relatives who have ended up in Austin for a time, and have attended Peter's Wake group while they were in residence.

Peter's group meets twice a month, once at a local bookstore called Malvern Books, and once at the Irish delegation. Here's an account of their first meeting at the latter. The Austin Wakers approach is somewhat different than ours, in that they tackle a page at a time, everyone reading two lines, after which they all have at it. They also have Peter's blog post outlining it, which he refers to as Finnegans Wake Treasure Map.

I first connected with Peter when this blog was new, and its whole point was really just to discover whether we here in Santa Cruz could discover other Wakeans out there. At that point, he was living and working in Southern California and managed to get to a well-established group in Marina del Rey, which he posted about HERE. Not long after that, he presented a paper on some connections  between Joyce and Salvador Dali he'd made for an annual James Joyce conference at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, which he talks about a bit HERE. He had previously shared that paper with me and by extension other members of our group in order to get some feedback before giving his talk. I found it all quite interesting.

On moving to Austin, though, Peter decided to form his own Wake group, and initially held meetings at the public library. Not long after that, he decided that he really needed to start a blog just about Finnegans Wake, which could also serve as the home page for the group.

We were all interested to hear about a trip he and another Austin Waker had made to the International James Joyce Symposium in Antwerp, Belgium, where he presented a paper called, "The Pantheon of FINNEGANS WOKE" , which I thought I might have to summarize, but which Peter has published a version of HERE. In it, you will find some of the usual suspects you might already know about, like Marshall McLuhan and Norman O. Brown, but there are also some surprises. One that he mentioned to us at our gathering was William Melvin Kelley, a black writer in the Langston Hughes circle, who the OED credits with coming up with the term WOKE. As Peter puts it in his post, "which means every time you hear someone use the term "woke" it was originated by a Wake head.

Check out his two blogs, A Building Roam, which covers other things besides the Wake, including his other passions, baseball and rap music, and of course Finnegans, Wake! Both are consistently thought provoking.

William Melvin Kelly-WOKE