The ‘Ideal Reader’ of Finnegans Wake
I will have another go at it, but up to the present I make nothing of it whatever. Nothing so far as I make out, nothing short of divine vision or a new cure for the clapp can possibly be worth all the circumambient peripherization. (cited Ellmann, 1982: 584)
H. G. Wells called it the ‘gibbering of a lunatic’ (The Shape of Things to Come, 1933); and Leavis wrote of its ‘monotonous non-significance’ (1933:197). Some readers and scholars have, self-confessedly, never attempted more than a few pages of it (Lacan, for example, only reached page fifteen); others, however, like the reader of Anna Livia Plurabelle’s letter cited at the head of this chapter, have ‘nuzzled over’ it a ‘full trillion times’. Tindall spent thirty years preparing his Reader’s Guide (1969). Not surprisingly, perhaps, those who write critical surveys of Joyce’s works are usually content with brief, often conflicting, summaries of its ‘content’ and of its techniques; and no full-scale treatment of the language of the novel is available.
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