Friday, January 23, 2009

Finnegans Wake-up Call

A couple of our readers — or a single reader with two e-mail addresses — called me on my no-person-in-the-history-of-the-universe-has-ever-read-Finnegans-Wake comment.

They claim to have finished the indecipherable prose. Even my co-blogger, Tricia Ambrose, said she waded through the monster. Her description: “He puts words together in a way that seems like they make sense, but they don’t,” which would make Joyce the Irish literary equivalent of Lil Wayne.

But I call shenanigans. To disprove them once and for all, I have purchased a copy of "Finnegans Wake" and will read it this Saturday in a cram session of Irish literature and whiskey.

And — because I do it for you, readers — I will blog the entire experience and provide it to you Monday, so you can read it while you should be working.

It’ll be like Bill Simmons blogging through the Super Bowl. That is, if the Super Bowl made absolutely no sense (like last year’s.)

Just purchasing “Finnegans Wake” was an ordeal. I went to five different bookstores in Lake County before I finally gave up and ordered it.

It was nowhere, not at big chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble or tiny secondhand dealers littered throughout the county.

I requested it at one store and the clerk responded with the seeming non sequitur, “So you like Chinese food?” Then, he checked the store’s stock and replied, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any copies of Finnegan’s Wok.”

At another, the clerk asked me who had written “Finnegans Wake.” By then, I had already been to four stores and was feeling snarky, so I said, “Shakespeare.”

She checked her computer and said, “I’m sorry, we don’t have it; but I can order a book with the same name by James Joyce. Maybe it’s a remake.”

I told her not to worry about it.

The utter absence of Finnegan was baffling to me. The Random House board rated the book as the 77th greatest English-language novel since 1900. (The list was rife with Joyce. “Ulysses” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” made the top five.)

I probably could’ve ordered it from a library but that would involve me paying my Brobdingnagian late fee. (It was cheaper for me to buy the book.)

So this Saturday, I go head to head with my nemesis and finally prove that Finnegan is a fraud. Just me, Joyce and, if necessary, a bottle of Jameson’s.

—Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

PS I’m hoping this blog will get some cheap hits from people searching for “Bill Simmons” and “Lil Wayne.”

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2 Comments:

Blogger Amanda D. said...

I think you better add some caffeine to your Joyce vs. Lea rumble, or else he will defeat you through sheer length. I would suggest representing with some Red Bull.
-Mentor's Reader

January 23, 2009 at 10:26 AM 
OpenID chfwahoo15 said...

I would stick with the whiskey. Make sure though it is Irish whiskey, and not Canadian or Tennessee or one of the many other varietals. I'd recommend Jameson, which is what most of my Irish friends seem to prefer.

January 23, 2009 at 11:09 AM 

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