Archive for the ‘finnegans wake’ Tag

Coincidences No. 114 & 115

WordPress is telling me I registered with it 14 years ago – digital time flies. To mark the occasion here’s one of those word coincidences we all have. The word is ‘helpmeet’ – “A helpful partner, particularly a spouse.” It comes from the Bible, in the King James’ version: “an helpe meet” for Adam i.e. Eve (Genesis 2:18). So this also marks the occasion of my Silver Wedding Anniversary this week. I always associate “helpmeet” with Eve in the Old Testament.

Now I haven’t thought about the word ‘helpmeet’, or even the more common ‘helpmate’, in many a year. But it cropped up twice today before 8.00am.

I am writing in my Faber & Faber Poetry Diary 2020. Opposite today’s date is a poem by Julia Copus, ‘Lacan Appeals to the Patient’. It has the line:

Beyond the clayey dark your helpmeet is waiting. 

It is clear this particular helpmeet is masculine and I think it refers to the sculptor in the poem which I understand to be the Creator, perhaps God, perhaps some other kind of artist or higher being. The name Adam means ‘red earth’ or perhaps ‘red clay’. It is the substance God moulded the First Man from in the Bible and this poem is about the shaping of “one’s selfhood”.

Started during lockdown, I am now up to page 242 of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Today’s page contains this line:

Helpmeat too, contrasta toga, his fiery goosemother, laotsey taotsey, woman who did, he tell princes of the age about.

To be honest I’m a bit lost in this chapter – it’s about the three children in the story, two brothers (a bit like Cain and Abel from Genesis) and a sister. It has a lot of references to fairy tales and nursery rhymes, hence “fiery goosemother” = fairy godmother meets goosey goosey gander. “laotsey taotsey” may echo ‘goosey goosey’. “Fiery” may relate to the fact that one of the brothers (the one this sentence is about, I think) is associated with the devil. “Helpmeat” will be a deliberate pun/misspelling as that is the nature of the novel. I’m fairly sure it is referencing biblical Eve. Joyce had a strong Eve character in his own life – his wife Nora Barnacle from Galway. What the woman “did” I’m not sure, but it might include eating the forbidden fruit. The man might well find that something to tell princes and others about. 

“laotsey” is a reference to Lao-tse, the ancient Chinese philosopher and central figure in Taoism. The Woman Who Did is a Victorian novel (1895) by Grant Allen. “taotsey” may be related to ‘tutti’ type words i.e. ‘all’. Finnegans Wake is constructed from such layers of meaning and reference. The trick with both Finnegans Wake and Ulysses is not to get too hung up on understanding every word. 

1st (trade) edition, Faber & Faber, London, 1939

My edition of Finnegans Wake is a Penguin Modern Classic. But of course the original publication was by the bold, Modernist Faber & Faber. So that is Coincidence No. 115.

Pictures and words for another Finn & Finnegansfolk

In the part of Finnegans Wake we are currently studying in our seminar group at University of London/Senate House (online at present in the era of the new spunnish grippe) there is a reference (p.548) to the Isle of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides.

With Impress of Asias and Queen Colombia for her pairanymphs and the singing sands for herbrides’ music

When I first arrived at Channel 4 I was tasked with establishing IDEASFACTORY, a talent and creative enterprise development initiative. The person hired to run the Highlands & Islands region of the network lives on Eigg (Population: 110). I am in the habit of sending her literary references to the island when I come across them.

The first I stumbled across was in Evelyn Waugh’s Officers & Gentlemen. [Oct 2018]

The second was in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. [Oct 2018, Rome]

James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake is the third so far. [May 2020, Lockdown London]

Lucy, my old colleague, has kindly sent some information from Eigg (where her emails are @eiggbox.com and @isleofeigg.net) about these “singing sands”:

The Singing Sands are on the far north west coast of Eigg, looking out towards the Isle of Rum. They are named the Singing Sands because they squeak when scuffed underfoot; although only on dry sand. The sand is quartz, eroded from the Valtos Jurassic sandstone the north end of the island is made up of. Apparently, the grains are very even shaped, making them more squeaky!

The long straight formation in the pictures I sent [see below] is a basalt dyke. The basalt is harder than the sandstone which was eroded by the sea to create the dykes. There are a lot of these dykes stretching out from the shore between Singing Sands and Laig Bay to the south.

One thing I find amazing is that sometimes when you go down there, there’s no sand at all, just rock. All the sand has been swept out to sea. It must sit just off the beach on the seabed to be swept back up on the beach at the next high tide. Laig Bay beach is just half a mile or so to the south of Singing Sands. It’s the most photographed beach on Eigg. At low tide the sea goes right out, making the long beach even more impressive. The sand on Laig beach is a mixture of quartz black basalt and white shell, leaving distinctive fern and swirl patterns as the water recedes. Two beaches, very close together, but completely different sands. I don’t know if the Singing Sands sand falls down into a deep trough and so doesn’t move south, but that’s how I imagine it.

Singing Sands have two other names – Camus Sgiotaig. Camus means Bay, but the meaning of Sgiotaig (prounced Ski-Tig) is unknown, probably an Old Norse word. There are a lot of Norse words used in and around the Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna. Singing Sands are also known as Tràigh na Bigil which means chirping beach (Tràigh = beach), but most folk here just call it Singing Sands, or (less so) Camus Sgiotaig.

Beach is one of the words in my very limited Irish vocabulary – in Irish Gaelic it’s Trá. Trá – Tràigh clearly close cousins. A lot of Norse words are also used in the Wake because of Dublin’s connection with Viking invaders.

Lucy made a special trek to the Singing Sands for our group and made this video to demonstrate the ‘singing’ Play Video [11 secs]

She also send this video for us to see the beach and hear the wind and birds Play Video [20 secs]

And she kindly took&sent these photos too:

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Camus Sgiotaig

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

the singing sands for herbrides’ music

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

a basalt dyke

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Lucy also sent me some singing sands sand through the post – it hasn’t yet arrived as it’s dependent on the ferry service which is reduced due to the plague.

Lucy is involved with Eigg Box which supports artists and creative entrepreneurs living on or visiting the Isle of Eigg.

Eggs are significant in the Wake as Finnegan died falling off a ladder and is frequently compared to Humpty Dumpty who fell off a wall and was equally fucked.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

The Fall of Lucifer - Gustave Dore

Lucifer had a great fall (The Fall of Lucifer – Gustave Dore)

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Fresco

Adam & Eve had a great fall (from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Fresco)

More people who had big falls.

Wider Wake

I’ve noticed something reading Finnegans Wake for the first time – I call it ‘Wake Hang-over’. During the Corona lockdown I begin every morning by going out in the garden and reading. Latterly I start with a couple of pages of the Wake and then whatever book I’m reading, currently a light whodunnit by Anthony Horowitz entitled Magpie Murders, easy reading for hard times. When I go to read the second book I find that for a while I’m still in a different reading mode, hyperalert for word play, connections, double meanings; somehow floating a bit above the text; inhabiting a strangely comic world – or is it a comically strange one? That unique reading mode gradually fades but the overlap is interesting and enjoyable. As a linguist, it’s a bit like when you come out of a foreign language, back to English, and the shapes and dynamics of that other language are still what’s shaping your consciousness and thinking.

Picking up from my previous (second) Wake post I’m quickly going to update my lists:

hce food service equipment logo

HCE

  • Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (p30) – see last post
  • Howth Castle and Environs (3) = 1st line of the novel, a key location in both the Wake and Ulysses
  • Haveth Childers Everywhere (a section published in 1930 as part of Work in Progress) = Adam, father of mankind
  • humile, commune and ensectuous (29)
  • Here Comes Everybody (32) = Everyman – “for every busy eerie whig’s a bit of a torytale to tell” (20)
  • habituels conspicuously emergent (33)
  • He’ll Cheat E’erawan (46) = a sinful fella
  • haughty, cacuminal, erubescent (55)
  • Humpheres Cheops Exarchas (62)
  • Haveyou-caught-emerods (63)
  • Hyde and Cheek, Edenberry (66)
  • House, son of Clod, to come out you jew-beggar to be Executed (70)
  • Et Cur Heli! (73)
  • at Howth or at Coolock or even at Enniskerry (73)

finnegans wake plaque mullingar house chapelizod

On Mullingar House pub, Chapelizod, Dublin

Dublin

  • Dabblin (p16)
  • (Brian) d’ of Linn (17)
  • dun blink (17)
  • durblin (19)
  • Devlin (24)
  • Dumbaling (34)
  • Poolblack (35) = Dub/black Lin/Pool : dubh linn (Gaelic) black pool
  • Dablena Tertia (57)
  • Doveland (61)
  • Dulyn (64)
  • Dubblenn (66)
  • deeplinns (76)
  • blackpool (85) Blackpool (88)

And I’m starting a third such list- variations on “Ireland”. There is a linkage between HCE and Ireland: HCE > Earwicker > Earlander > Eire > Ireland

Joyce surname ireland map 1901

Ireland

  • Errorland (62)
  • Aaarlund (69)
  • aleland (88)

(So these are all cumulative lists.)

To round off this post I’d like to start highlighting some of my favourite neologisms and word-collisions. Like the lists above, these highlight the variety and persistence of Joyce’s ludic approach to language. Joyce is “a mixer and wordpainter” as he describes Hyacinth O’Donnell on p.87.

The playfulness and transmutation of language is the essence of the dream state and the act of “sewing a dream together” (28) which is this fluid, complex book. “intermutuomergent” (55) is a wordflow that captures the dynamics of the language of the Wake. This is the “meandertale” (18) to end all meandertales. (The wandering river, the Liffey, runs through that heart of it, personified in ALP. And the neanderthal is just beneath the skin of us hairless apes, we Chimpdens.)

  • tellafun book (86) [telephone]
  • lexinction of life (83) [lexicon/extinction]
  • nekropolitan (80)
  • timesported across the yawning (abyss) (56) [transported across time]
  • to clapplaud (32) [clap]

BTW my favourite Wake website so far is From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay, a blog by Peter Chrisp.

Returning to lockdown, on the basis that the Wake touches on everything, this seems like a good Corona sentence: “the obedience of the citizens elp the ealth of the ole” (76).

 

 

In the Wake of Waking Up

I’m writing this after having just finished an online session about the Sirens chapter of Ulysses with the Charles Peake Seminar group – it’s the chapter centred on music. I switched straight from that which finished at 8pm to a live online gig from the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin by Iarla O Leonaird (singer in Gaelic) & Steve Cooney (guitar player) which started at 8pm. Music is a Big Thing for Joyce – this morning I got to The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly at the end of the second chapter of Finnegans Wake, marking the culmination of the rumours about HCE’s shameful act, fixing that moment for the long term in folksong. It actually opens with musical staves and notes, underlining the collagey, encyclopedic and scrapbooky nature of the Wake.

Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And he curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
At the butt of the Magazine Wall,
The Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?

He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he’s kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he’ll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.

I noticed this morning after finishing this section and the couple of pages before it that when I went to read another (conventional) novel it took a good few minutes to go back to conventional reading – you get into a different mode of reading and thinking when immersed in the Wake. It was a really interesting reading experience. The way you read the Wake is more engaged, playful and energetic than normal reading.

I want to finish off this second post by starting a couple of lists. The central character, HCE, has his initials explained in a number of ways in the book and I want to start capturing them:

  • Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (p30) – see last post
  • Howth Castle and Environs (3) = 1st line of the novel, a key location in both the Wake and Ulysses
  • Haveth Childers Everywhere (a section published in 1930 as part of Work in Progress) = Adam, father of mankind
  • humile, commune and ensectuous (29)
  • Here Comes Everybody (32) = Everyman
  • habituels conspicuously emergent (33)
  • He’ll Cheat E’erawan (46) = a sinful fella

HCE Group-Logo-Landscape-Colour

Another list I want to begin here is one of all the different ways Joyce refers to the city at the heart of the novel (as with Ulysses) – Dublin:

  • Dabblin (p16)
  • (Brian) d’ of Linn (17)
  • dun blink (17)
  • durblin (19)
  • Devlin (24)
  • Dumbaling (34)
  • Poolblack (35) = Dub/black Lin/Pool : dubh linn (Gaelic) black pool

phoenix-park map finnegans wake

The focus of Wake’s Dublin

(I’ll keep building these lists as I read through.)

 

Waking Up

My favourite book is Ulysses by James Joyce. I first read (most of it) at university, completed it six years later. By that time it resonated far more for me – I’d got to know and love Ireland in the interim. It has a reputation for being difficult but once you let go a bit and let it flow over you to some extent it becomes both readable and enjoyable. It feels to me like it’s about everything.

finnegans wake james joyce book novel

Inevitably after a few years the thought occurred to read Joyce’s follow-up, Finnegans Wake. In November 2017 I bought myself a copy of A Shorter Finnegans Wake, edited by Anthony Burgess. The longer original seemed so intimidating that I felt this attractive slimmish Faber volume might be the route in. But on opening to the first page it looked absolutely unreadable. A codebook with no key. Like nothing I’d ever seen, apart from perhaps the most obscure, chaotic parts of Ulysses – reminiscent but far more convoluted.

At the beginning of 2018, on 5th January, I joined the Charles Peake Seminar at the University of London, a monthly gathering at Senate House of mainly academics close-reading Ulysses, which I’d first been told about years before by Fritz Senn, the director of the James Joyce Institute in Zurich. “Good timing”, the person beside me whispered, “we’re just starting a new chapter!” I wasn’t particularly impressed until it came to light that the last one had taken 5 years. We’re talking close reading here.

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we’ve got

One of the regular attendees at the Charles Peake was Finn Fordham from Royal Holloway who led another sister seminar on Finnegans Wake, also monthly, same place. He persuaded me to try it out, reassuring me that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the book. My first session was on 23rd February 2018. we were on page 538. Now we’re on page 547. Two and a bit years to cover 9 pages!

But these two years proved crucial. A few weeks ago, during the Coronavirus lockdown, our seminar having shifted online for now and doubled in frequency through demand and enthusiasm, I realised, after a particularly enjoyable session, looking back to page 1 that I could now read what once seemed unreadable. On 26th April (2020) I embarked on the journey through the Wake. Reading at least a couple of pages every day, usually to get my day under way, I have now read the first couple of chapters, the first 50 pages, in half a month.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

I’m glad to get a name-check in the opening line. The central character is HCE. By my reading so far HCE is Adam (among others). HCE is a man who has a great fall by committing a sin in a garden or park, Phoenix Park in Dublin. It involves sex and breaking the law. He might have been exposing himself to some young ladies or wanking in a hidden place. He may have been frolicking with some soldiers. His crime changes with each telling. Rumours abound. HCE stands, we are told at the start of Chapter 2, for Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Humphrey connects him to another bad egg (or ego) who had a great fall, Humpty Dumpty. Chimpden is a reminder that we are but bald apes. Earwicker renders him/us lower, creepy weird insects (earwigs). But at the same time HCE is also some kind of a king. This is the night book to Ulysses‘ book of a single day around Dublin city. This one takes us to dawn through the obscurity and dream-world of a typically chaotic, but not without pattern, human sleep. Humphrey becomes Humpty becomes Adam becomes Everyman, struggling with identity, guilt and self-justification, interacting with a family equally fluid, in a language playful, funny, obscure, frustrating, innovative and plumbing the depths for things that don’t really want to come to light…

James Joyce portrait Irish writer novelist

To see or not to see, that is the question

 

World of Zoom

Well, that was a weird week. I spent three whole days in online conference calls. I’d used Zoom once before. I’d never used Microsoft Teams.

However the week finished on a high note – our monthly Finnegans Wake research seminar at Senate House, University of London was shifted online this evening. Led by Prof. Finn Fordham of Royal Holloway, University of London, our motley crew wrestled with the clunkiness of MS Team to enjoy two hours together drilling down through the layers of the Wake and its various manuscripts and versions. Spending 20 minutes arguing the toss over the word “be” was a comforting contrast to the macro chaos beyond our virtual room.

Microsoft Team james joyce digital archive finnegans wake

“the massproduct of teamwork” suddenly took on a new dimension given that Teams was the software making this human contact and continuity possible.

The three days leading up to this evening was spent on Zoom (wish I had shares in them – and how did they nick ahead of Skype so effectively?). Zoom is a well designed software but the difference between what the workshop would have been like IRL and how it is in an online video conference is stark. Very intense and relentless in a way that is not the case face to face. I was working as a mentor on Documentary Campus Masterclass  – we were supposed to be in Copenhagen, parallel to CPH:Dox Film Festival (cancelled). I did the same workshop in the same city last year so I have a direct comparison.

The most creative use of the software was by two Czech filmmakers I’m working with – Vit & Tomas. They transported themselves and us, using the software facilities, high into the mountains…

zoom software documentary campus masterclass

[photo: Esther van Messel]

The gap between the experience of these sorts of softwares and the experience of being in a room with fellow humans is an interesting one which tells us much about how we actually communicate and how we create – which is not a flat experience but a rounded and fluid one. Something to keep observing over the next days and weeks…

Coincidences No.s 250, 251 & 252

No. 250 – Puritans

pilgrim fathers boarding the mayflower painting by bernard gribble

The Pilgrim Fathers boarding the Mayflower – painting by Bernard Gribble

I travel to Plymouth and decide to see where the Mayflower departed from for the New World in 1620. I take a photo of the so-called Mayflower Steps (the water’s edge was actually some way back an elderly local gentleman explains to me back in the 17th Century). I decide to Insta the photo which mainly captures the fact that the Steps are being rebuilt for the 400th anniversary next year. For some reason the train of thought in my mind at the time is stepping off this quay onto that ship ultimately gave the world Trump. Also in the back of my mind is Ronan Bennett’s novel Havoc in its Third Year which probably coloured my views on Puritans. So I ended up writing this caption, including #fuckthepuritans:

screenshot 2019-01-27 09.16.13 plymouth hoe waterfront

The next day I am reading How to Think by Alan Jacobs. In the section on Consensus & Emotion he references a 1994 essay entitled Puritans and Prigs by Marilynne Robinson. In it she “challenges the contemptuous attitudes many people have towards Puritans”.

No. 251 – Scaramanga

Just along from the Mayflower Steps, past the building (Island House) where the Pilgrim Fathers are supposed to have taken their last meal on English soil,  I enter a good second-hand bookshop, The Book Cupboard. I eventually buy two paperbacks for a very reasonable £3 each, including a 1967 copy of The Man with the Golden Gun (largely for its cover which includes a BOAC luggage ticket for Scaramanga, the villain of the piece).

james_bond_13_the_man_with_the_golden_gun ian fleming book cover design

The next day I go to a meeting of the Advisory Board of Sheffield DocFest documentary festival. It is held in a place called Second Home, communal offices in the East End (by coincidence in the same narrow road where my grandfather had a clothes factory back in the 60s and 70s). At the appointed time I walk through to the meeting room. The way the building has been fitted out the spaces are divided by curving clear plastic walls which has the effect of a hall of mirrors. I remark on the confusing effect as I enter the meeting room and my colleague from DocFest immediately references Scaramanga and the movie of The Man with the Golden Gun and Christopher Lee (who I once crossed paths with on the streets of London).

the man with the golden gun roger moore christopher lee movie

No. 252 – Jack Shepherd

I go to the monthly meeting of the University of London Finnegan’s Wake Research Seminar. We cover about 6 to 8 lines per session as the method is close reading. The first of this month’s 6 lines includes a reference to the notorious 18th Century criminal Jack Sheppard.

Our bourse and politico-ecomedy are in safe with good Jock Shepherd, our lives are on sure in sorting with Jonathans, wild and great.

On the tube home I pick up the Evening Standard. The first line of the newspaper’s front page is: “Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd today launched a bid to resist extradition from Georgia”

Joyce deliberately misspells Sheppard’s surname to give it another connotation, shepherd, be that of sheep or men. This brings it in line with the surname of this 21st Century criminal currently on the lam(b).

finnegans wake james joyce 1st edition

1st edition

Coincidences No.s 344, 345 & 346

No. 344 (24.4.18)

Burke and Wills explorers Australia

Two bearded men

I am at a meeting at ITV about a project related to Burke & Wills, the Irishman and Englishman who were the first non-natives to cross the heartland of Australia in one of those mad Victorian expeditions.

I get home and in my Facebook feed is a post by an Irish colleague in digital media announcing he is moving to Brighton and does anyone know a good moving company. The one that jumps out at me among the replies is Burke & Wills.

No. 345 (7 & 8.5.18)

Ezra-Pound-poet writer

One slightly bearded man

I am reading Ezra Pound’s Cantos in the garden and look up his Wikipedia entry for some background. At one point it says: “he seemed in an “abject despair, accidie, meaninglessness, abulia, waste”. I haven’t seen the word “accidie” since Mr Fitch taught it to us in Lower Sixth English in relation to something to do with courtly love over three decades ago.

The word comes up again the next day. I am reading John Buchan’s final Edward Leithen novel ‘Sick Heart River’, a very different text and context. (Although both writers had a shared interest in hating Jews.)

No. 346 (5-9.5.18)

Harriet Shaw Weaver in 1907

One clean shaven woman – Harriet Shaw Weaver in 1907

Quakers keep coming up all week. On Saturday I’m walking from Tavistock Square to Euston and when I cut through the gardens of the Quakers HQ opposite the station (Friends House) it is swarming with delegates to some major conference, one where they review their rules (as I hear the next morning on the radio). This is the second time I’ve found myself in this cut-through garden in the last few days – a couple of  days previously it was with my friend Safiya, talking YouTube videos and channels – not too spiritual.

I am reading about Ezra Pound in Wikipedia [see above] – his father was a Quaker; he went to Quaker schools.

I am reading Finn Fordham’s book ‘Lots of Fun at Finnegan’s Wake‘ in the Humanities Reading Room of the British Library – it is the first book I have called up since the Reading Rooms moved here years ago from the British Museum, I got a new Readers Ticket on Saturday. (The last book I called up was a Dr Seuss one called ‘The Big Leap’ as I wanted to use it as the basis of a script – that was back in The British Museum circular reading room where Pound worked daily). In it I learn Joyce’s patron, Harriet Shaw Weaver, was a Quaker.

I’m pretty sure there were a couple of other path-crossings with Quakers this week – one to do with a Quaker business.

***

While on the subject of Harriet Shaw, I noticed whilst reading Finn’s book today (Finn leads the Finnegan’s Wake Research Seminar I go to every month at the University of London/Senate House) how appropriate Joyce’s patron was called Weaver as weaving the text into an organic whole seems to have been the goal/result of his compositional method in The Wake, adding layer upon layer and gradually inserting references to other parts of the text to bind it all together.

There seem to be lots of words that connect writing and material/cloth:

weaving – text – texture – textile – Stoff (Ger. material) – stuff – thread – skein

text

late Middle English: from Old Northern French texte, from Latin textus ‘tissue, literary style’ (in medieval Latin, ‘Gospel’), from text– ‘woven’, from the verb texere “to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build” .

 

 

 

 

 

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