Saturday, January 02, 2010

Interview on Finnegans Wake in Abiko Annual 21

I am included in a series of interviews on the subject of James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake, originally published in the Abiko Annual with James Joyce Finnegans Wake Studies 21 (2001). The interviews were conducted by the journal’s editor, Dr. Tatsuo Hamada. (The issue also included a critical essay of mine titled “The Wake Will Be Televised,” on Joyce’s engagement with the medium of television in FW.)

Hamada asked a number of notable Joyceans (and some less notable, like myself) a series of questions:
Can we read through FW?
Can we understand FW?
How can we best read FW?
Is there a plot in FW?
What are the riddles or enigmas of FW?
Are there too many sexual matters in FW?
What did Joyce want to communicate in FW?
Why did Joyce invent tough, mighty words in FW?
Did Lucia’s illness affect FW?
What techniques are to be learned from FW?
Is FW translatable?
How do we evaluate our reading of FW?

Follow-up questions were then tailored to particular responses. The results make for some very engaging reading, at least if you have an interest in Finnegans Wake, in Joyce, or in modernist or experimental literature in general. Among other certainly more important things, I was struck by the number (well, a handful) of respondents who admitted to not having read the Wake in its entirety. Clearly it’s a daunting proposition, but is it not still just words on the page, like any book? (albeit 628 pages of often difficult-to-understand words). Well, a commitment such as that is a matter of priorities, of course.

You can go to my interview directly here, and the full list of interviewees (which also includes my father, who was a notable Joyce scholar) is here. Click on the individual names, which are links, to read the others.

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