Friday, February 22, 2013

Eight Royal Terrors

What a mnice old mness it
all mnakes! A middenhide hoard of objects! Olives, beetskim-
mells, dollies, alfrids, beatties, cormacks and daltons. Owletseegs
(O stoop to please!) are here, creakish from age and all now
quite epsilene, and oldwolldy wobblewers, haudworth a wipe o
grass. Sss! See the snake wurrums everyside! Our durlbin is
sworming in sneaks.

-Archaeologists from the National Museum are excavating an ash pit at the rear of a house in which James Joyce and his family lived between 1900 and 1901.  The house is 8 Inverness Road, Fairview, which in Joyce’s time was known as Royal Terrace. This is the house where the family is recorded as living in the 1901 census....So far the main discovery has been a large collection of about 200 coloured glass slides, mainly on religious subjects.  It is possible that these were used in a magic lantern show or in some other form of display....
The Irish Times - Friday, February 22, 2013
Archaeologists hope to uncover secrets at James Joyce's house in Fairview

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The sixth thunderclap

We're meeting again tomorrow, and as is my wont, I have just gotten around to reading the excerpt Tom sent around to each of us from the book The Role of Thunder in Finnegans Wake, by Eric McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan's son. (I think Joyce would be pleased that, when I was looking this up to make sure I had the title right, I looked up the "roll" of thunder.Thank heaven's for Google, which knows my intentions better than I know them myself.)

We have just gotten through the sixth thunderclap, though are not quite through the end of the chapter itself. This portion of McLuhan's book deals with precisely the ground we have just covered with a small taste of what lies just ahead. I think it's comforting to know that with the help of each other and our copious commentaries, we do have the basic sense of the story, even if there are always fascinating new details to learn. Or new ways to synthesize the sense of the whole more completely.

Reading the thunderclap ourselves, we did learn that it contains many ways of saying "Shut the door", which is what HCE is saying, ending the children's play outside and bringing them in for tasks and food. The more ordinary world, the world that is not playtime. But McLuhan makes the case that in the larger sense, we are at the end of the reign of the visual sense and now in the realm of the ear. And Finnegan and the gods are rising again.

I found it interesting that McLuhan equates the supremacy of vision with the watchful eye of the matriarchal, and that this in turn is the world that is rational and desecralized. One thing to watch for is that this thunderclap apparently means an end of sequence, of things happening one after the other. In McLuhan's words, it is one of "cyclic simultaneity, freed of the strait-jacket of sequence." I find this a fascinating idea, although I have scarcely any idea at all of its implications.

Another thing that was interesting in the commentary was the reminder of how musical Joyce  was, and the quote from one Peter Myer that the sounds in the section "spiral towards a climax reached by thunder". As a group who reads the book aloud, we hear the words fairly well, I think, but this is a whole new exhortation to pay attention to the tempo, to the little motifs, and perhaps in general to think of the book more as we would an orchestral work. And orchestral work in human voices.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A dream

I had a dream last night in which I was attending a kind of reading of Finnegans Wake. It was almost more like a concert than a regular reading. About five or six men and women read in turn from the book, and they seemed to accelerate toward the end catching a fragment on one page and a fragment on the next. I realized that what they were swas the sharing here was actually the secret of time. I found it moving and even overwhelming and went off after without saying anything, but realized that this was rather rude. So I went back and congratulated them. Some of them were young people that I work with and one of them told me that they were glad to have pulled it off, and maybe weren't all that sure they had. It became clear to me that they were focussed on the performance and hadn't learned the esoteric lore of the text they were reading.

Of course, I hadn't either, but at least I understood that it was there.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

1132, or Happy Birthday, James Joyce!

Thanks to an early email from fellow Santa Cruz Waker Ed, I was not too tardy in learning that February 2nd is James Joyce's birthday. Don't judge me too harshly, Joyce fanatics--Bloomsday tends to eclipse everything else in my mind when it comes to Joyce dates.

So I thought I'd get a post up tonight in his honor, but little did I know that the post would be more relevant than I thought. I thought that at the very least, I could delve in a bit to a question that came up at our last meeting, which involved the significance of the number 1132. Tom knew it was a scientific measurement, the famous one from Ulysses, and when John arrived he knew it was a measurement about the speed of sound. I knew that it had to relate to some historic Irish date, probably that of an invasion. That's as far as we got.

Well, 1132 is, as John told us, 1132 feet per second is the speed of sound in air. And, as Tom was remembering, the famous 32 feet per second per second is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface of earth, and being about falling bodies, is relevant to Finnegans fall, and symbolic of other kinds of falling as well. As we know it appears in Ulysses many times as well as in the Wake, even if some of us don't always remember what the formula refers to. In fact, the number is significant in many other ways, as listed HERE .

However, this was not the first reference I found, and that was the one I found most interesting. I'll give you the link in a minute, but let me just say first that the writer, one "Riverend" Clarence A. Sterling wants to interest us in 1132 as a year, and sees certain 1132 street addresses as telling us that 1132 may not only be a year, but a place. He says that the last mention of 1132 as a number is in the phrase January 31st, 1132 AD. And I'm sure you are waiting with bated breath to know its significance, as I was.

St. Brigid's Well, Kildare

The good Riverend goes on to talk about St. Brighid, one of the three patron saints of Ireland. St. Brighid's Saint's Day is February 1st, and is followed by Imbolc, or Lambing Day, one of the four Gaelic Holy Days. He says that Joyce was very proud to have been born on Lambing Day, and thought of Brighid as his muse. It's interesting in relation to a discussion we were having about PQ's recent blog post about the Tunc page, and his group's thoughts about puncturing time. St. Brighid, somewhat like the Chasidic rabbis we were talking about, is said to have the ability to be anywhere, at any time. She is herself, she is also Mary. She is pagan AND Christian, not one to be pinned down. Yes, a perfect muse for Mr. Joyce.

All right, so what was January 31st, 1132 according to Riverend Sterling? It was the day that the Abbess of Kildare was raped, reputedly at the behest of one Dermot of MacMurrogh for the sake of destroying her sanctity and ruining her order. And who was this abbess? A direct descendent, according to the lore, of St. Brighid herself. Sterling says that the ruin of the abbey was the inside treachery that weakened the country and led to the possibility of the Anglo Norman invasion of 1169. As he says:

St Brighid's house had been purposefully shattered because it bred harmony. We are still trying to fit together the broken shards.

Another thing to think about. The Celtic calendar apparently doesn't coincide precisely with ours. This is because the day starts at sunset. So, as you will find in the page shortly to be disclosed, this way of seeing things blurs the boundaries between February 1st and February 2nd in our way of thinking. Totally appropriate, I'd say, to we aspiring Joyceans.

And do check out Riverend Sterling's essay HERE . You will find much fascinating food for  thought, more than I could relate here.

Joyce, Pound, John Quinn, Ford Madox Ford--Paris, 1923