The Quest of An Everyday Soccer Mom to Read the Modern Library's 100 Best Fiction Books of the 20th Century.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Surviving Finnegan

"There exists, of course, no substitute for the richly rewarding experience of plunging headlong into the Wake and wrenching loose some trophy of meaning from its still-unexplored depths."
The above sentence is, of course, from Campbell's Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, and not from the Wake itself, evidenced by the fact that there are no bizarre words like 'pthuck' or 'mumper' present and the sentence makes actual sense.
Anyone remember the urban myth from twenty plus years ago, about how if you played the Beatles' A Day in the Life backwards at a certain section, you were supposed to be able to hear "Paul is dead"? That kind of creepy stuff kept me up nights as a kid. Reading the Key is giving me the same sort of creepy feeling I got trying to play that record backwards. Campbell finds lots of hidden meanings and things buried in the Wake that I would never have noticed had I not read his book. Does it help me understand what's going on? To an extent. Does it still make much sense? NO.
When I finish each chapter (a Herculean effort in itself) I will be offering out my hypotheses of what I thought happened in each chapter. People out there have devoted entire academic careers to speculation over what the hell Joyce might be trying to say, so feel free to disagree with me. You're probably right.
Pam's Hypothetical Synopsis of FW, Chapter One: Everyone wants this guy named Finnegan to stay dead, because he's already been replaced by another guy, named HCE, who has a wife and family and is apparently some sort of pedophile. There were also a couple of museum tours in there, I think.


  1. I wish you the best of luck. I didn't bother with the key, because I figured it would then take years to get through. I just charged ahead, reading the words and trying to catch a stray bit here and there.

    There were some good words and some funny lines. I should go back and look at my notes. Right now, the only line I remember -- one I love -- is, "Suck it yourself, Sugarstick!"

  2. I am going to do a posting on my experience with the Key today. Personally I think Joseph Campbell was reading another book entirely, because I have no idea where his chapter synopses are coming from! They don't seem to match up with FW at all!