Monday, August 9, 2010

"Why don't you write books people can read?"*

Current book: Finnegan's Wake
Pages read: 3 - 628 (end)

Initially, I'd considered writing a paragraph in the style of this horrendous monstrosity masquerading as literature, but I couldn't bring myself to emulate, even for the purposes of showcasing its ridiculousness, the masturbatory excrescence that James Joyce created when he wrote what we shall, for the purposes of discussion, refer to as a "book."

Do you want to know what it's about? Well, so do I. As far as I can tell, nothing. It's...well, here are a couple of characteristic sentences from the first page.
Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface. The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovar-rhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy.
Did you...can Help me. There is nothing to be done with this tripe. (Sheep's stomach may be too kind an epithet, actually.) I do not have time for men who sit in dark rooms and make up nonsense words, interspersing them with contrived attempts to sound, by turns, like drunken old men speaking in dialect and scholars so full of themselves that they can speak of nothing else. Was anyone paying attention when this book was published? Did anyone read it?

People do, I guess. And are, somehow, impressed by it. Granted, he spent a lot of time on it; I'll give you that. Apparently some people find it incredibly amusing, which is beyond me, and others are impressed by its complex network of allusions, but frankly, what good are allusions when they are written almost entirely for the author? The wordplay, too, gets a lot of respect, but once again, I have to protest that wordplay is only successful when it occurs as part of a nuanced whole that engages its reader, as opposed to when it makes up the bulk of a work that is nothing more than a tangled mess of etymological whims that haven't been properly sorted out. I call foul on you for this, literary world! I say that the emperor is naked! And not just a little bit light on the clothing, here. Stark, buck-ass, skinny-legged, shriveled-penis-hanging-out-for-everyone-to-see naked.

To give a sort of...summary-ish...thing...about this, it really is like 625 pages of drunken ranting. Sometimes, there are little conversations between people you don't know that also don't make sense, and there are a couple of miniature plays that are completely incomprehensible. There's a long section where he footnotes himself, mostly to preempt anyone who might actually attempt to footnote him by mocking said prospective scholar mercilessly. He mocks a lot of things, really, which is, I guess, where the amusement factor comes in for some readers (and if you find opaque rambling funny, then sure), the two most prominent of which are religion and academia. He mentions Levy-Bruhl at one point, (who is a famous anthropologist, which I know because I was an Anthropology minor in college (for no good reason, as it turns out)) which was the only moment from which I got a sense of the excitement many people feel about all the allusions, but then he subsides pretty quickly back into his normal murky quagmire.

I was excited, on page 108, to see a sentence that actually maintained grammatical integrity (and of course, it's a mockery of the idea of writing itself). This is as clear as the entire book gets, in case you're wondering.
To conclude purely negatively from the positive absence of political odia and monetary requests that its page cannot ever have been a penproduct of a man or woman of that period or those parts is only one more unlookedfor conclusion leaped at, being tantamount to inferring from the nonpresence of inverted commas (sometimes called quotation marks) on any page that its author was always constitutionally incapable of misappropriating the spoken words of others.
I know. You're amazed that I read this, aren't you? Well, as you can see from the number of pages read today, I didn't so much read it as look at all of the pages in order and read some words on each one. I gave it a fair shot, but after 50 pages of complete and utter raving insanity reminiscent more of the delusions of an educated madman than anything we might be willing to consider calling literature, I decided I would give it the amount of attention that would prevent me from becoming uncomfortably akin to its author. In other words, I skimmed the hell out of it.

I can't go on. There's really nothing more to be said, except this: you know how when you read a normal book, sometimes you skip a page and it's confusing, because the line that starts the next page doesn't fit with the line that ended the previous page, and that's how you figure out that you accidentally skipped one? Well, that doesn't happen with this book, because there's no way to tell whether one page has anything to do with the next one.

Is it worthy of the list? WHAT DO YOU FUCKING THINK?

*This is a quote from Nora Joyce, James's wife. Hah.


  1. I learned much more about Finnegan's Wake from this blog post than I ever did from the damn Wikipedia article.

    This may also be your best post yet.

  2. Yep, I agree with Casey. This post was very amusing. Why do people think that just because they've managed to wade through drek like this when most other people have tossed the damn thing aside that it somehow makes the book "great"?

  3. "I can't go on."




A Clockwork Orange (5) A Good Man Is Hard to Find (4) A Passage to India (6) A Room with a View (3) A Separate Peace (2) Absalom Absalom (6) Achebe (5) Adams (3) All the King's Men (8) An American Tragedy (17) Atlas Shrugged (16) Babbitt (8) back from hiatus (1) baking (11) Baldwin (4) Baum (3) Bonfire of the Vanities (6) borderline (12) Brideshead Revisited (9) Burgess (5) Burroughs (1) canon (1) Capote (6) Cat's Cradle (3) Cather (19) cheesecake (4) Chopin (4) Conrad (5) cooking (25) Death Comes for the Archbishop (6) DeLillo (6) Dreiser (17) du Maurier (2) Edith Wharton (1) emergency (2) Ethan Frome (1) excuses (141) Faulkner (9) Felicia DeSmith (3) Finnegan's Wake (1) Fitzgerald (24) For Whom the Bell Tolls (3) Forster (19) Fowles (7) Franny and Zooey (2) Go Tell It on the Mountain (4) Grahame (2) Guest post (3) Hammett (2) Hemingway (5) hiatus (4) holiday (5) horrible (4) Howards End (6) In Cold Blood (6) In Our Time (1) Irving (6) James (25) Jazz (1) Joyce (1) Keneally (7) Kerouac (5) Kim (7) Kipling (7) Knowles (2) Lady Chatterly's Lover (6) Lawrence (26) Lewis (13) Light in August (3) London (3) Look Homeward Angel (9) Lord Jim (5) Mailer (7) Main Street (5) Midnight's Children (9) Miller (6) Morrison (1) Mrs. Dalloway (3) My Antonia (6) not a novel (4) O Pioneers (7) O'Connor (4) On the Road (5) Orlando (4) other books (7) page updates (1) Rabbit Run (4) Rand (24) Rebecca (2) recap (1) Rhys (6) Rushdie (18) Salinger (2) Schindler's List (7) Sinclair (6) Sons And Lovers (12) Sophie's Choice (10) Star Trek (1) Stein (5) Styron (10) Tender is the Night (10) The Age of Innocence (4) The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (5) The Awakening (4) The Beautiful and the Damned (8) The Bostonians (9) The Call of the Wild (3) The Fellowship of the Ring (5) The Fountainhead (8) The French Lieutenant's Woman (7) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2) The Jungle (6) The Lord of the Rings (16) The Maltese Falcon (2) The Naked and the Dead (7) The Naked Lunch (1) The Old Man and the Sea (1) The Portrait of a Lady (10) The Return of the King (6) The Satanic Verses (9) The Two Towers (5) The War of the Worlds (4) The Wind in the Willows (2) The Wings of the Dove (6) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (3) The World According to Garp (6) Things Fall Apart (6) This Side of Paradise (6) Thomas Wolfe (9) To the Lighthouse (3) Tolkien (16) Tom Wolfe (6) Triv (2) Tropic of Cancer (6) unworthy (33) Updike (4) vacation (2) Vonnegut (3) Warren (8) Waugh (9) Wells (4) Wharton (4) Where Angels Fear to Tread (4) White Noise (6) Wide Sargasso Sea (6) Women In Love (8) Woolf (10) worthy (25)