Friday, July 13, 2007


Last night I achieved a milestone in Finnegans Wake: I reached the halfway point!

The halfway mark (page 314) is right after the Study Hour chapter and a short way into the Tavern chapter. The Study Hour chapter is supposed to be the most difficult one in the book, although the Tavern chapter is the longest.

Study Hour was difficult, even by Wakean standards. It had the main body of the text (which is, obviously, difficult as ever) in addition to notes in the right hand margin (in one voice), notes in the left hand margin (in a different voice), and footnotes (in a third voice, or possibly one of the first two voices). There are also drawings. And throw in the Skeleton Key and its explanations with its own footnotes, and you've got a complicated reading experience. (Here is a sample page.)

Fun, though! The Study Hour chapter is fabulous at the end, when Dolph starts doing the geometry problem for Kev, and it gets all tied into the Kabbalah at the end, and the whole of human history (Prometheus = Santa Claus; the list of associations begins here with "Cato" in the margin equaling "Duty, the daughter of discipline" and continuing on--you can actually read this section, I promise!). It actually flows pretty well; although I definitely needed the Key to explain the Kabbalah stuff (the numbers 1-9 and 10, very interesting), the history stuff was fairly self-explanatory. And once you realize that the geometry problem is about ALP (the mother) and there is some Oedipal stuff happening in there, it clarifies a lot.

I think I am definitely, firmly in the camp of enjoying the book. Believe it or not, it was hard to stop reading and go to bed last night (even though I spent an hour and a half reading probably 15 pages, and it was midnight). I kept wanting to take notes in the margins on everything that I figured out. I am getting way, way better at figuring out what the hell is going on, by the way.

And also, this chapter mentioned the philosopher's stone (on the page I linked; it's the "lapis, Vieus Von DVbLIn") and has the word "hogwarts" in it. Which, having Potter fever as I do, I thought was funny.



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