I am prepared to affirm this proposition: only James Joyce could read Finnegan’s Wake. It is not my desire to assert that only James Joyce could read it insofar as that verb can signify studying it closely in order to ascertain its meaning. Instead, I would invite you to consider the possibility that the characters who speak, for example, in the scene whose improbable, necromantic reading we owe to the talents of Teamdave (no relationship exists between the humble author of the present post and the enigmatic figure at the dark heart of this “team”) were the products of uncannily adroit mimetic effort conjoined to a memory and an imagination teeming with denizens, some without any tangible corollary. In fact, they speak a language that is familiar in some respects and yet it has been dexterously massaged and mingled with other, actual languages and further filigreed by words that only Joyce could pronounce because they were only ever uttered by the ghostly gallery in his brain. Only he could render it into speech, aloud, with perfect fidelity because only he had heard these words:
We can (legions have done so) meditate and research and rhapsodize and speculate endlessly about some of this, e.g. “Maria, full of grease” is a deft parody of the parts of prayer that pulls us from celestial reaches to grimy alleys in a trice. What I think is lost in the forest of footnotes is Joyce’s capacity to let speech splash into a lake of ink and show us—whether its producer was flesh or figment—often in the style of onomatopoeia or a Chinese exclamative particle, its spirited shape.
Increasingly, I wonder if this was a matter of having the capacity to remember a discussion—a swarm of discussions—between wrinkled, irascible Irish washerwomen with special clarity and force. Indeed, so much so that the memory could leave off and the imagining of the next utterances begin seamlessly, with the character, the melding of manner and matter to make meaning, preserved. If this holds then the presentation so cleverly contrived by Teamdave is a kind of doubling of Joyce’s dialogue with the dead and the dreamed and those of us still daring to eat.
Originally posted April 16, 2012