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Summer of the Wake
May 21, 2013 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by this post from yesterday and this post from last year, I'd like to do a "Summer of the Wake": reading Finnegans Wake from June to mid-August.

Wait, hear me out! It would be about 9 pages a day for 10 weeks, or 60 pages a week. Totally doable, if you're so inclined.

This essay from Michael Chabon will either whet your appetite or send you running. Despite the reputation, the Wake can be fun as hell if you allow it to be. It'd make a great group reading experience. Jameson is optional, but bring enough for everyone.

So who's in for tackling this "famously unread" novel? And what would work best for a discussion forum: Google Groups, GoodReads, something else? GoodReads seems cozy.
posted by naju to MetaFilter-Related at 9:37 AM (66 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

P.S. The topic of which edition to buy can be confusing. The short answer is that the original 1939 edition (Viking/Penguin classic) has become definitive, even though it contains errors that Joyce spent 2 years correcting. But it seems like that's the version classic annotation books and guides are tied to. The corrected version is out of print but you might find it on the used market; the choice is yours. I'm going with my 1999 Penguin edition and this page-for-page annotations book, which I've heard great things about but is a bit pricey.
posted by naju at 9:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reading Kant this summer. Count me out. I have established a base camp just under the Transcendantal Analytic, and I am not coming down.
posted by thelonius at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


"A pause.
Infernal machinery (serial number: Bullysacre, dig care a dig)
having thus passed the buck to billy back from jack (finder the
keeper) as the baffling yarn sailed in circles it was now high tide
for the reminding pair of snipers to be suitably punished till they
had, like the pervious oelkenner done, liquorally no more powers
to their elbow...like the dud spuk of his first Foetotype (Trolldedroll,how vary and likely),
the fillibustered, the fully bellied...and were they watching you as watcher as well?"

"and we'll have fun, fun, fun, till your daddy takes the cliff notes away"
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2013


ok, we need a Lit. prof, a History maven, an unemployed sociologist, 3 stenograhphers, one linguist (two to be safe) and an Irish Pub.
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sounds like a solid reality TV pitch. Anyone have connections to Hollywood?
posted by naju at 10:01 AM on May 21, 2013


I'm up for it, although 9 pages a day of Finnegan's wake is a hell of a lot. Why not make it 3 pages and have it last through Feb. 2014?

Here's a good resource, the Finnegans Wake Wiki, to which I've contributed a few bits.
posted by beagle at 10:09 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


These group readings of major works always take me a lot longer than the scheduled time, but I'm in! I've never tried Finnegans Wake before and having company for it sounds like a great idea.
posted by jessypie at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2013


I'm in. I miss the Mefi book club.
posted by zarq at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, OK, I can sign on for this. Thanks for the opportunity to cross such a big title off my list.
posted by carsonb at 10:34 AM on May 21, 2013


(And my vote is for something within G+, simply because I've already got a thing going there.)
posted by carsonb at 10:35 AM on May 21, 2013


I'm in! Can we use something that can possibly be accessed through plain email? I deleted my Google account and would be resistant to making a new one. I'd prefer Goodreads to a Google thing, fwiw.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:38 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh oh I'm in - I think I've read maybe the first 50 pages.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:19 AM on May 21, 2013


The visiting Irish professor who came to our small liberal arts college to teach English lit one year during my senior year and was pretty much something out of a dream in her awesomeness attempted to have a Finnegan's Wake group. It only was able to meet twice for various reasons, but I read the fuck out of it during those two weeks trying to impress her.

What I'm saying is I'm totally game and I may even have something to say in the first couple of weeks.

Also, if you can find lit Lit professors to read large passages of this aloud, I highly recommend it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


(And my vote is for something within G+, simply because I've already got a thing going there.)

HARLOT
posted by shakespeherian at 11:31 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm (tentatively) in. I love Ulysses like mad, and have always felt a little bad I've never managed the Wake.
posted by scody at 11:35 AM on May 21, 2013


This may be the only chance that I will ever have to have a group to read Finnegan's Wake with, count me in.

I start a new job in July so would prefer to start soon (so that I can getting a running start before hell comes raining down over me).

Google groups may be more flexible than Goodreads.
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:35 AM on May 21, 2013


Sorry, forgot to add re groups: whatever is the easiest/most intuitive is my preference.
posted by scody at 11:37 AM on May 21, 2013


Is there a PDF/ePub that is public-domain/free that people know about?
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:45 AM on May 21, 2013


In the first link of the FPP up top there's a link to an ePub.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I will consider this. I was starting to think of making Moby Dick my next big classic read - have never really thought I would ever manage the Wake all the way. Maybe I'll at least start with y'all.

(I have a copy of Joseph Campbell and Henry Robinson's A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake also, which could be useful.)
posted by dnash at 11:53 AM on May 21, 2013


I'm in, pending other summer committments. I've read Ulysses eight times, but never attempted this. I'm on G+, so that would work for me.
posted by heurtebise at 11:59 AM on May 21, 2013


Also, if you can find lit Lit professors to read large passages of this aloud, I highly recommend it.

On Bloomsday one year I went out of my office building in Boston to discover a group reading Ulysses aloud. I plopped right down and listened for a while. It was awesome.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will seriously consider this. I made it through about a third of the Wake many years ago, with some help from Anthony Burgess and far more from significant quantities of alcohol. Even if I don't make it I will doubtless enjoy reading the ponderings and puzzlings of those who persist.

I hope that person who said it couldn't be any harder than reading a big doorstep fantasy novel takes part too. :-)
posted by Decani at 12:47 PM on May 21, 2013


I just feel pleased as punch that Metafilter is one-upping Reddit which has decided to make Gravity's Rainbow its summer read.
posted by chavenet at 12:52 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought about it. I read the initial thread, then the thread after that, then the Chabon article. I am, I fear, not well read enough to take on this read. I have been driving through the fields of of science for so long, that I'm afraid the references will pass me like one stalk of genetically-modified corn after another, after another.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:57 PM on May 21, 2013


I just feel pleased as punch that Metafilter is one-upping Reddit which has decided to make Gravity's Rainbow its summer read.

What will they do the other two and a half months?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:00 PM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm afraid the references will pass me like one stalk of genetically-modified corn after another, after another.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:57 PM on May 21


Finnegan's Wake is absolutely riddled with multilingual puns and references that vary from the witty to the clever-clever to the forced to the plain bonkers. I think this is one reason why a group reading is a good idea. Almost no one can hope to catch them all but together we may well catch more than we otherwise would. And we can alternately admire and be annoyed by them as seems fit.

I remember having most fun with it when I stopped trying to analyse it in infinite detail and just tried to go with it as a sort of stream of consciousness dream story shot through with flashes of brilliant light and impenetrable shadows. You could waste your life trying to fully understand and explain it all. I don't think that's the point. It's a strange sort of music. I found myself adjusting to it in a similar way that I had to adjust in order to "get" Trout Mask Replica. It's coming from a different place to the usual.
posted by Decani at 1:10 PM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just bought a copy of Finnegans Wake yesterday in the, er, wake of that post. So I'm in. I am agnostic on where / how we should do it.
posted by chavenet at 1:18 PM on May 21, 2013


I'll join!

I took a class on the Wake and I think we read 20 pages or something. I'll see if I can find the book I used, and the notes, but anyway, please include me.
posted by BibiRose at 1:23 PM on May 21, 2013


I'm a sucker for MeFi book readings, even if it is of a book I am sure I will find impossible. Goodreads is a great place to set this up. We already have a group there. Just about exactly a year ago, we successfully discussed A Perfect Spy there.
posted by bearwife at 1:23 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like this idea. Because I keep reading the first three pages, waiting a month, then needing to reread the first three pages, and repeat.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:28 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


During my freshman year at college, I was taking a lit class that required us to pick a book and write a paper on it. I knew nothing at all about James Joyce or Finnegan's Wake at that point, except that Robert Anton Wilson thought awfully highly of both of them.

Now, the professor in this class was leaving nothing to chance. He was requiring us all to submit our choice of book one week, a proposed thesis statement the next week, a list of sources the next, etc. And he strongly encouraged us to give some serious though to what we were going to choose, to think on it, to not be frivolous about the endeavor.

I of course did not take that advice, and failed to think about a choice of book, failed even to understand that the choice was due that Friday. And he went through the class roster alphabetically, asking each student their choice. I was talking to the guy who sat behind me, and the girl who sat across the aisle from him and me, and was sort of not even aware that my turn was coming up until it had come up and he called my name. So on an impulse born from complete ignorance I shot back "Finnegan's Wake!"

He paused, looked up from the paper on the lectern was he was writing all this down, looked right into my eyes, and said, "Really?"

I had a brief moment of foreboding that was not powerful enough to overcome my eagerness to return to joking with the guy and the girl (she was real cute). "Yeah, absolutely," I said.

"Alrighty," he said.

That weekend I went over to the library to check the book out. Now, I assume that everybody reading this has at least glanced at "Finnegan's Wake" before, but remember, I had not. When I did, I wasn't entirely convinced the damn thing was actually in English. I grabbed "Dubliners" from off the shelf and thumbed through IT, and found it very conventional looking by comparison. I checked FW out, along with every secondary text I could find, and took them home.

I tried to read it, I really did, but I just did not have the patience. I was able to read the other books, though, and fake my way through the paper. I got an A- !

I am 45 now, and I've been feeling vaguely guilty and smug about the whole thing for more than 25 years now. I will agree to participate in this project in an attempt to make amends.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm in! I've tried to read it a few times (figuring that as a physicist I had a certain obligation), but never successfully; this might actually force me to get through it... might :)
posted by Westringia F. at 1:45 PM on May 21, 2013


I'd love to join, but given how sluggish my reading has been (I've spent weeks on Zeno's Conscience despite its not being difficult at all), I don't think I'll be able to keep up.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:48 PM on May 21, 2013


I love the response to this so far! I went ahead and started this GoodReads group. Come on in.
posted by naju at 1:51 PM on May 21, 2013


I'm in, also.
posted by xchmp at 1:58 PM on May 21, 2013


The best part about this is that I downloaded the first few chapters from a text file version free from the Internet (which, kids, felt like a much bigger, more magical deal back in 1996) and had reformatted and printed it out into a 3-ring binder, so I could easily take notes on it and such. And, if I'm not mistaken, I believe that binder has moved with me seven times. Finally, my hoarding tendencies are rewarded!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:59 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm in! It's been on my reading list since I loved Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, then picked up FW thinking "How hard can this be?....Ah." Plus I've watched the film, so, you know, that's pretty much the same. And where possible I promise to do my reading in an actual Irish pub.
posted by billiebee at 2:01 PM on May 21, 2013


The best part about this is that I downloaded the first few chapters from a text file version free from the Internet (which, kids, felt like a much bigger, more magical deal back in 1996) and had reformatted and printed it out into a 3-ring binder, so I could easily take notes on it and such.

This is so many kinds of nerdiness rolled into one, I think I love you.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:03 PM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't commit. But I will try to. And follow the thread.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm in. Thank god I have a lot of vacation time coming.
posted by donnagirl at 2:30 PM on May 21, 2013


I am so surprised that "commodius vicus" has not been claimed as a user name.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:37 PM on May 21, 2013


The true measure of a man is his knowledge of Vico. That would make a fine user name.
posted by thelonius at 2:44 PM on May 21, 2013


The visiting Irish professor who came to our small liberal arts college to teach English lit one year during my senior year and was pretty much something out of a dream in her awesomeness attempted to have a Finnegan's Wake group. It only was able to meet twice for various reasons, but I read the fuck out of it during those two weeks trying to impress her.

What I'm saying is I'm totally game and I may even have something to say in the first couple of weeks.

Also, if you can find lit Lit professors to read large passages of this aloud, I highly recommend it.


I would think that was the group I was in, but it met more often!

Hearing the last/first page read out loud by someone who was from Ireland and very familiar with the text was mind-blowing.
posted by BibiRose at 2:51 PM on May 21, 2013


I will be spending my summer reading the Shopoholic books or all Lois Duncan books or the entire Sweet Valley High Series.

Maybe all of them. Anybody who likes red wine and feels lively should MeMail me.
posted by discopolo at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


ok, we need a Lit. prof, a History maven, an unemployed sociologist, 3 stenograhphers, one linguist (two to be safe) and an Irish Pub.

I've got the pub. I haven't got my printed version with me and I'm not sure I would tackle FW again as a digital text, but I'll be keeping an eye on this.
posted by ersatz at 3:27 PM on May 21, 2013


I've read most of Ulysses and I do Bloomsday every year. I'm in.

Can I read my bit aloud and record it?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:01 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finnegans Wake is the first thing that I made a promise to myself about - if ever laid up for a long period of time I would take it on. Since that time I have had that same thought about a myriad of other things (I am old), too many now that I think about it.

With external structure, I bet I can do it. I'm in.
posted by readery at 4:15 PM on May 21, 2013


Can I read my bit aloud and record it?

Well, now that you've asked, if you don't do it we'll be pissed.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:53 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have owned a copy (paper Viking corrected edition) for 40 years, which I aspire to climb, rather read.
posted by lathrop at 6:50 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, hell. I'm in.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:01 PM on May 21, 2013


I'm not quite sure what I'm in for...
but I'm IN!!
posted by calgirl at 10:11 PM on May 21, 2013


As am I, egads.
posted by hannala at 2:16 AM on May 22, 2013


I'm in. Naju, you rock for this.
posted by angrycat at 3:15 AM on May 22, 2013


Bought a copy on the heels of Monday's post. Count me in (although I'm not sure I could manage 9 pages per day).
posted by inire at 3:35 AM on May 22, 2013


It has been too long since I've read any Joyce and this is the one I haven't read. I'm in, possibly supplementing with one Burgess' Shorter Finnegans Wake.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:24 AM on May 22, 2013


Burgess also wrote a nice guide to Joyce, called "ReJoyce", whcih is what I used to get through Ulysses as a high school student.

I could have been a contender
posted by thelonius at 5:31 AM on May 22, 2013


Goodreads is having capacity issues! Clearly because we're all signing up at once.
posted by Jahaza at 7:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anybody know of a good secondary source that is a bit cheaper than the annotated one naju linked to?
posted by angrycat at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2013


There's some discussion on GoodReads about slowing the reading pace down and finishing in October or February rather than August. (It's a pretty dense read, in case you haven't heard!) I'm leaving it open to what the group wants. Thread and poll if you're interested.
posted by naju at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2013


angrycat - this is one I have - A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson. It was one of the first - if not THE first - books published that attempted to explain the workings and story of the book, trying to open it up to a wider readership. It's not annotations - first they outline the overall structure of the book, then they basically go through the whole thing and put it into plainer English. I figure I'll sort of go back and forth between this and the thing itself.
posted by dnash at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2013


Got the JC guide. Whoop!
posted by angrycat at 11:17 AM on May 22, 2013


Metafilter: Totally doable, if you're so inclined.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:52 AM on May 23, 2013


And look what appeared on The Millions today:

The first draft of Finnegan's Wake
posted by readery at 11:24 AM on May 23, 2013


We've knocked it down to 30 pages a week (5 pages a day, 1 free day). Slightly less intimidating!
posted by naju at 1:33 PM on May 23, 2013


I haven't explored much Joyce outside of Dubliners several years ago, but I'll give this a shot.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 3:02 PM on May 25, 2013


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