I’ve read every word of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake but can safely say that I’m not sure that I’ve actually read the book.
Filled with beautiful language but written in a series of dreamlike streams of consciousness, the book has been imposing when it first came out in 1939.
Reviewing it for The New York Times, Padraic Collum wrote:
“How, in two thousand words or less, is one to review a book which even a cursory examination shows to be unprecedented, a book of considerable length by a thoughtful and tremendously equipped man who has spent sixteen years writing it? The only thing one can do is to indicate the value of the work and to show a way of approaching it with lessened perplexity. I say lessenedperplexity, for a certain perplexity cannot wholly be removed from a reading of it and the present reviewer freely acknowledges that there is much in the book that he is still seeking explanation for.”
The book — while not quite as much a part of popular culture as Ulysses — has spawned a veritable culture of its own.
Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon have spent the better part of 30 years going through the more than 60 notebooks that Joyce used to write the novel as well as the more than 20,000 pages of manuscrupt from various drafts.
The result is what they call 9,000 “minor yet crucial” corrections, covering everything from typos to misplaced phrases.
The Irish Independent recently referred to it as “Finnegans second wake… the greatest publishing event in Irish literature since James Joyce’s Ulysses appeared.”
Hopefully the reception will be less rocky than when the “Corrected” version of Ulysses was published in 1988
The new edition, published by Houyhnhnm,, is expected to be unveiled Thursday at Dublin Castle