Well, it's been awhile since I've done a regular blog post here, which makes it hard to keep up the rhythm of the thing. We've only had a couple of meetings over December and January, but though we've slowed down the pace a bit, we haven't faltered in our intention to carry on. We were down to three members last time, as one of us is off to Hawaii for six months and so with one other member absent, we're down to a kind of bare bones operation. Fruitful, though, all the same.
We are nearing the end of the riddles, and I think all are happy to be seeing an end in sight to this portion, though I'm not sure exactly why. We're still in the last long riddle of the section, Number 11, the twelfth being quite short. We have just come upon the fable of the Mookse and the Gripes, which is Joyce's retelling of The Fox and the Grapes, or really, his appropriation of same for his own ends. We've puzzled out with a bit of help that the Mookse is a Shaun figure, also Pope Adrian, who, once upon a time, was attempting to bring the Irish Catholic church either back into harmony, or back under the control of Rome. And we have the Gripes, who is the Shem figure, or the Irish themselves. The Mookse encounters the Gripes, who is obsequious and flattering, but ultimately resistant. He does not see the Mookse as the Mookse would wish him to see him.
One thing that's interesting to me as I go back over these things with some other online resources is that sometimes just seeing a sentence or portion of a sentence framed outside of the long, dense text that is the Wake makes it suddenly comprehensible. We have plenty of these little flashes of understanding as we go along as well, but there is something about seeing pieces of text separated out that gives other clues. I don't think I really saw the punnyness of this, for example:
Is this space of our couple of hours too dimensional for you, temporiser? It's one of the many sentences of this portion that plays around with time and space in this section. I hadn't noticed till now that too dimensional is a pun on two-dimensional.
We learned through our notes of Joyce's quarrel with Wyndham Lewis, who wrote a critique of him in his book of essays, Time and Western Man. As the Shorter Finnegans Wake has it, "The references to space and time are Joyce's parody of a mild recent attack on Ulysses by his friend Wyndham Lewis, who called Joyce middleclass." It's interesting to note then, that in the section right before the story starts, Joyce has the professor, a Shaun figure, refer to "muddlecrass pupils". I would think that in Joyce's schema, Lewis is more or less a Shaun to Joyce's Shem. I also liked this understanding in the Shorter Finnegans Wake, when the Mooksie comes upon the Gripes, sitting in a tree branch, and sits down across the river from him on a stone:
"Shaun sits on a stone (his lifeless symbol, to Shem's green treebranch)."
And of course, with all the Pope stuff going on here, there can't help but be a reference to St. Peter, the rock on which Christ builds his church.
Well, I could go on, of course, but I think at this point it's better to post something than strive for some illusory completeness, which with Joyce more than most would seem to be impossible.