Sunday 9 June 2013

Favourite snatches (7)

From The Wind in the Willows, the moment when Ratty arrives staggering under the weight of 'a fat, wicker luncheon-basket':

‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.

‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.

‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwidgespottedmeat

‘O stop, stop,’ cried Mole in ecstasies: ‘This is too much!’

Since first reading this passage in The Wind in the Willows as a child I've casually collected unpunctuated sentences, a favourite being: "Iveneverbeensoinsultedinmyentirelife", a blustering outburst by Edgar Naylor, the unlikable hero of Cyril Connolly's only novel The Rock Pool (the perfect book to take on any holiday, by the way). 

Which brings us, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to Finnegans Wake, which includes ten unpunctuated one-hundred letter words each suggesting the sound of thunder - this being, in the cosmology adapted by Joyce from the 15th century Florentine savant Gianbattista Vico, a signal that the whole cycle of history is about to begin again.

Marshall McLuhan wrote: "There are ten thunders in the Wake. Each is a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history. When a tribal man hears thunder, he says, 'What did he say that time?', as automatically as we say 'Gesundheit.'"

Here's what the ten thunderclaps say, in all their polyglot glory. It's fun (when you have something better to do) to break them down into constituent words, like Ratty's breathless picnic menu.

1. Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk






7. Bothallchoractorschumminaroundgansumuminarumdrumstrumtruminahumptadumpwaultopoofoolooderamaunsturnup

8. Pappappapparrassannuaragheallachnatullaghmonganmacmacmacwhackfalltherdebblenonthedubblandaddydoodled



That last word has 101 letters - the combined total of the Wake's thunderwords being the numerical palindrome 1001, connecting the unending cycle of the book with The Arabian Nights. Crafty beggar, Joyce.

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