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

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Succoth-bifurcations upon bifurcations, page 13

At the end of a passage on page 13, and after a list of  both Jewish calendar months and Latin numbers, the final word is (Succoth.)--the parentheses are Joyce's, not mine. Two members agreed at our most recent meeting that this was a reference to the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Booths, although they disagreed about the pronunciation. But it caught my attention because a Jewish friend had recently mentioned that she and friends would be honoring Sukkot (there are many spellings, as it is a transliteration from another alphabet) , in which Jews around the world build temporary houses as part of the festival, by phone banking and canvassing to build a new House--of Representatives.

Sukkah roofs by Yoninah

What is more immediately relevant to our Joyce group is that Sukkot this year actually starts tomorrow evening, September 23rd, at sunset. So we seem to be in a bit of synchronicity in our reading of the Wake at the moment. Of course, the real question is, can we ever not be?

But a word about different interpretations, both of spelling and other things. I've already mentioned that there is no one right spelling, except, I would guess, in the Hebrew alphabet. But the festival itself is two-pronged, and as my friend above suggests, also open to creative interpretation. It is a harvest festival, 'the feast of ingathering' mentioned in Exodus, as Wikipedia tells us. But it has a deeper religious significance, this time from Leviticus, where it is said to commemorate the Exodus and the dependence of Israel on the will of God.

The doubleness of the word, however, does not stop here. For the annotated Finnegans Wake website has this note

 Flood: Ireland, Its Saints and Scholars 10: 'King Niall of the Nine Hostages went on successive expeditions against the peoples of Gaul and Britain. Amongst the captives... was Succoth, a lad of sixteen... afterwards called Patricius, probably in allusion to his noble birth'.n to his noble birth'.

In other words, the person we would come to know as St. Patrick. A website called Electric Scotland claims him as a Scotsman, and calls him Succat or Succath, but also thinks it might place his birth near an estate in Scotland currently called Succoth. And there is indeed a later historical figure called 
Ilay Campbell, Lord Succoth from the region:

Portrait by David Martin-wikipedia

And don't get me started on a more recent controversy as to whether St. Patrick was actually a slave or really a slave trader and tax collector. That might be a bridge too far even for this blog post. 

Anyway, all this blather is basically just to reaffirm that there is never just one path through the Wake or one meaning, or even always one pronunciation.

Friday, September 7, 2018

the museyroom, pages 7-11

We had eleven people at this Wednesday's Wake group, which I think is probably the largest yet, with the possible exception of a special Wake group some years back when a fellow Joycean enthusiast was in town. This time we welcomed several new or newish participants, and all the more familiar members happened to be back from their travels or not yet off on their travels and conflicting schedules, which is not likely to happen again for some time.

As we 'begin again' it was rather startling to me that one of the new attendees is not actually new to the Wake at all, but was,all unknowingly, one of the instigators of our attempt. Many years ago (the late seventies) several of our members, then college students, wandered into an all night dramatization of Finnegans Wake on campus, which was inspired by or maybe even presided over by the legendary Norman O. Brown, who was at that time teaching here, at UCSC. Although I wasn't one of those students, I have heard about this marvelous event several times over the years, including the tossing of various pages of Finnegans Wake into the air, but discovered that Tim had actually been one of the performers, in some sense connected to the 'character' of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, or HCE. There seemed a strange looping of time, that someone who was part of the catalyst should now become part of this new reading, which in some sense would not have happened without his original participation. Seemed very apt as we 'begin again'.

It's also interesting that Deidre, who in some ways could be termed our own Kate (though not elderly) and who was our original barkeep who had to take a break for health reasons, is now working Wednesday nights again. What pub have we really wandered into, I wonder?

As Kathe (Kate under a different name) guides us through the 'museyroom', saying "This is..." before its many artifacts, I get a sense that it wouldn't have been possible for me to have had on the first reading, which is that the whole show is being brought to life again, a 'revival' as they're sometimes called on Broadway. As Tom said last time about the first thunderclap, which we read aloud together, there was something of an incantation to it, something a little bit creepy. As Ed was saying this time, it's all brought to life out of the ruins, after great loss. In our current historical moment, which is no longer the same moment at which we started last time, though it was as recently as 2009, it is a little easier now to imagine what it would mean to be picking through the wreckage at some not too distant date, and beginning again.

I wasn't too successful in researching some of the things that interested me in this passage, such as whether Wellington (Willingdone) represented Shem and Napoleon (Lipoleum) Shaun or visa versa, and in fact, the little I could find actually thought of both as primarily HCE figures.

But as the hen knows, when you're picking through the dump, you come across other treasures. For instance, this article on "Bruno Vico and Finnegans Wake" by Eric Rosenbloom, which gives us some sense of their philosophies and why they were of interest to Joyce. I don't mind admitting that I could do with a refresher course, and especially since I find both these men very intriguing. And I could relate to this bit about how Joyce saw Vico:

Joyce, although often referring people to Vico, also asserted he did not “believe” Vico’s science, “but my imagination grows when I read Vico as it doesn’t when I read Freud or Jung.” 

Contained within the article, though, was a theory that I hadn't heard before, and which I found moving.

Hugh Kenner has suggested that the dreamer does not want to wake up, that ALP is a widow resisting the conscious awareness that her husband — executed after the 1916 Easter uprising, he says — is no longer beside her. The hanging scaffold is suppressed by becoming Tim Finnegan’s building scaffold. Her tears become the river in which her dreams flow. The book of history assures us that life always rises from the ashes, but we also know that individual loss is unrecoverable. The incomplete sentence at the end of Finnegans Wake gives the reader a choice: Leave the book and return to life, or return to the book’s first words.

This of course can't be the only interpretation, but I do find it intriguing that the article goes on to say that Joyce himself had likened Finnegans Wake to St. John of the Cross's Dark Night of the Soul

On a MUCH lighter note, I  found a Tumbler site called "Notes on Finnegans Wake," which included this YouTube animation of the "museyroom"--in Italian. If you've recently read Joyce's English version you will be surprised how much you understand, even if you don't really speak Italian. As my professor Donald Nicholl reminded us, there is the Via Negativa that the Dark Night of the Soul represents, but there is also the Via Positiva. I have always been clear which one I'd choose if I had my druthers. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hurtleturtle, off we go! Page 3-7

We began in earnest this Wednesday, experimenting with a slightly different format. All eight of us present read a paragraph and when we had got round the table, each person said a few words about what had struck them. Although I struggled a bit to formulate anything, I liked this approach, as it was instructive to get a glimpse as to what others had experienced.

Although I probably won't attempt this every time, I thought I'd give a sense of what people came up with.

Cathy was struck this time around by how much Joyce is talking about the Fall, as spoken of in Jewish and Christian tradition, including his own Irish-Catholic past.

Leslie noticed how the opening is like an overture, in which the rest of the work is already hinted at.

Ed, the only one of us who has read the Wake multiple times, wanted to emphasize that Finnegan's fall from the ladder encompasses other kinds of falling as well, and found himself, ardent Joycean that he is, thinking of Marlene Dietrich singing "Falling in Love Again".

Melissa, who teaches literature, said that she gets so overwhelmed by the beauty and cleverness of Joyce's words that it is hard for her to keep up with the sense of the whole.

Ann, who is partly reading this time the lens of The Curse of the Kabbalah by John P. Anderson, was struck by what that author calls 'the curse of repetition'. We are fated to go through it all again. Another cycle. Someone else added "Groundhog Day".

Frank, new to the group, said that at times he just closed his eyes and listened--as with difficult poetry, the feeling is as important as the lmeaning. Others agreed that this is perhaps the way Joyce wanted us to take it in. He liked the feeling of language "coming up at me."

Tom wrote down words as we came to different passages, partly to suggest their mood or tone: potent, event, background voices, narrative, closure, celebration. He also mentioned that when we all read the first "thunderword" together, it felt a bit like an incantation, and seemed almost creepy. Are we summoning up the cycle of the Wake again?

As for me, I was struck by a curious division in myself. I was surprised by how much continues to elude me, I suppose thinking I was going to find this all if not easy, then easier, but at the same time seeing how some things did feel familiar--this time around, at least there were a few signposts.

Melissa had the good or bad luck to read the very Joycean word "hierarchitectitiptitoploftical" (FW 005.01,) and though I think with the help of our reference works we managed to figure out some of its meanings, getting the sense of heights and tipping over, I thought I'd share a link to David Atwood's entry on his blog, as he says it's his favorite Wakean word. We tend to think of a fall as something bad, but as he points out, "all things topple or fall in the fullness of time, whether buildings, bridges political figures, governments, administrative structures, the tower of Babel, Jerusalem or Adam and Eve." In the current political climate, I see some of that as hopeful.

We learned that, among many other things (of course), the "penisolate war" refers to a fight between the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon , which plays out throughout the book. Have to keep that in mind this time round.

Finally, as we were discussing Jacob and Esau as variations on the twins of the book, Shem the Penman and Shaun the postman, I wondered, but isn't this a story about tricking your brother out of his birthright? And I couldn't quite see how that played out either between Shem and Shaun or between James Joyce and his brother Stanislaus. But I've now found an excellent blog called Finnegans Wake--a Prescriptive Guide, and an entry entitled Jacob, Esau and Isaac, which is well worth reading. It tells us that, although we think of Joyce as the oldest son, in fact there was an older brother who died at birth. Joyce didn't literally steal his birthright, but it's easy to think he might have felt like he did. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Finnegan Beginagin

I am late getting around to posting this, but wanted to mark the occasion of our second whirl with the Wake. We met on August 8th to start off. It was the usual cast of characters, minus one who will join us later, but plus one who had taken up the adventure rather late in the story our last go round.

We realized that it's been almost a year since we left off, as we finished our first experience with the Wake on September 9, 2017. We didn't think it would take us this long to get going again, but in fact, it seems about right. At any rate, everyone seemed enthusiastic and happy to be at the Poet and Patriot once again, and we were welcomed back by one of the employees who I think is a sort of a bouncer, although, if so, he is the nicest bouncer I've ever met. Not that I've met many.

Tom brought a page of quotations of various people's efforts to describe Finnegans Wake, which was a great way to start. Many of them, if not all, were from a book that several of us have been working our way through over the summer--Riverrun to Livvy: Lots of Fun Reading the First Page of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, by Bill Cole Cliett . We had enjoyed his shorter Finnegans Wake in Fifteen Minutes a while back, and find him very approachable and readable.

Ann is also enthusiastic about a multi-volume work on the Wake called Joyce's Finnegans Wake: The Curse of Kabbalah, by John P. Anderson, a work I had dabbled in our last time around, but which she has made a larger commitment to by beginning at the beginning.

For our first outing, though, we focused on the title and reading the first sentence--which of course also meant reading the last sentence. I think we've had some idea of reading at a little faster pace than the eight years it took us before, but if our beginning is any indication that doesn't look likely. On the other hand, we've already read the Wake-- and Ed has read it multiple times-- and no longer have anything to prove to ourselves. We can go as slow or as fast as we want.

taken by member Leslie Karst on our last go round