Friday 17 June 2016

The day after Bloomsday

My proposal earlier this week for an annual nocturnal celebration dedicated to Finnegans Wake is gathering support on both sides of the snotgreen Sea.

The inaugural Finneganight ™ will take place on Saturday March 18th 2017.  There will be drink taken although the obvious venue -  the Mullingar House in Chapelizod, Dublin - is, alas, no longer in business. There will be drink taken. 

(Correction - my Dublin correposndent assures me that the place is still open. Website here. Am investigating.)

The date is not chosen at random, but taken from a magnificent essay by the Joyce scholar Nathan Halper which appeared in Twelve and a Tilly: Essays on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Finnegans Wake (Faber and Faber, 1966). In it Halper proves, in a formidably erudite and wide-ranging investigation, that the night on which Finnegans Wake is set, or rather the night during which the dream of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (the Chapelizod publican) takes place, must be that of Saturday March 18th 1922. This was of course the year in which Ulysses was published.

Joyce admirers have to to reclaim the author's legacy from those hucksters who make big bucks from Bloomsday. This annual shindig is all very well, and any pretext for a glorious drunk to astonish the druid druids is fine by me - but we need to raise the cultural bar and aim to meet the author's high expectations of us, his readers.

My thoughts on the need for a Finneganight to reflect the novel's cultural status were originally prompted by the publication of this novel, by Charlene Goldschmidt, in December 2015:

© Charlene Goldschmidt / Xlibris

Nobody is likely to confuse this with the modernist masterpiece that is Finnegans Wake, and I respect Charlene Goldschmidt who no doubt has good reasons for adapting another author's title for her book (it has happened before: Kathy Acker's Great Expectations and  - appropriately - The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky and José Saramago). I haven't read Finnegan's Wake, which appears to have a medical theme, but there's an interesting online review which doesn't give much away:

Finnegan's Wake By Charlene Goldschmidt is comfort to read because the layout of each page is in good arrangement. This online book is different, reader sometime find the online book one-two or more page are in different size even different layout but Finnegan's Wake By Charlene Goldschmidt is in well arrange that why this book really suit for everyone. 

The author clearly - and to her credit - thought twice about calling her novel Dubliner's or Ulysse's. I wonder whether she is aware that Joyce's death, at the age of 59, was reportedly hastened by the incorrect use of an apostrophe in the title of his own last work. That, at least, is what Myles na gCopaleen once claimed, and I see no reason to doubt him. Perhaps Charlene Goldschmidt decided that, by inserting the apostrophe into the title of her book she could avoid any accusation of plagiarism while still benefitting from the aura of prestige surrounding Joyce's novel. Or perhaps she took her title form the folk song Finnegan's Wake (which does require the apostrophe). And quite possibly she's never heard either of the folk song or of Joyce's Finnegans Wake and arrived at the title independently, in which case who knows what delights are in store for the unsuspecting reader. Has she, like Borges' Pierre Menard who managed to duplicate Cervantes' Don Quixote in every detail, pulled off the same trick with her take on the Wake?

Here's the Borges: eight sublime pages which - apart from anything else - manage to pre-empt everything post-modernsim once stood for.

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