Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finnegans Wake, Part II, third division

So! I says to myself, if I am going to indeed "blog" Finnegans Wake I should perhaps eschew the silly titles and proceed logically, division by division.  Except, of course, that I am already beginning to doubt what I said in my last FW post about each division having a discernible manner of telling.

If we are dealing with dreams, we can't avoid Freud, and we have to be careful not to make of his dreams Joyce's choices.  For Freud a dream is irrational, but it has a unity.  It is senseless on the surface, but it has a meaning, and a purpose:  wish-fulfillment.  Freud, good man, will bring order and meaning and utility even to the dream.  I'm not sure Joyce does.  And I wonder if those stray phrases which sages say somehow suggest themes and foci of sections of the Wake are arbitrary.  Just a caution ere we fail.

And furthermore:  re the dream theme, I wonder if even that's hit too hard.  We all have dreams and we know what they're like.  I am at some job I held twenty years ago and I don't know what to do and I'm afraid  I'm going to get fired.  Or, I am trying to get a lot of people and luggage packed into a car I've never seen before, and I realize the car doesn't have air conditioning and the road is made of red brick.  The examples are trivial.  A dream is a little situation.  It may be absurd, but its not usually puzzling, or in any way like words on a page.  Finnegans Wake isn't like that at all.  It's a nonstop stream of sentences, mostly incorporating pun upon pun, portmanteau words overflowing into phrases, quotations, song lyrics, liturgical snippets, double entendres, triple entendres, with lengthy incomprehensible stretches, sometimes related to a recognizable subject, sometimes not, sometimes coming back to recursive figures, sometimes not.  If there is any overarching theme it may relate to a fall and a death and a revival.  But even that may be less essential than the "threaded pearls," the atomic bits, that make up the text.

So here we are, paragraph four, not one mention of Part II, third division.  Just another preliminary confession that I don't really know if Joyce has yet bothered to let me in on the joke.

In form this section is mostly text in paragraphs.  Some paragraphs begin with dashes, suggesting spoken conversation.  The only exception is a central dialogue between two characters called Butt and Taff, with occasional "stage directions" in italics.  This calls to mind a similar dialogue between Mutt and Jute near the beginning of the book and (having done a quick flip) a dialogue between Muta and Juva near the end.  "Mutt and Jeff."

I had said in my last post that this section may concern a tavern.  In that I must admit I am influenced by the occasional, inescapable conventional designation, here fortified by an illustration called "The Tavern."  The first sentence (and paragraph) declares:  "It may or not maybe a no concern of the Guinnesses but."  Guinness seems a reference to the famous Dublin beer and brewery.  Our talkers, Butt and Taff, suggest a butt (a cask for beer or wine) fitted with a tap.  But from there...well, I wouldn't bet good money on it.  Some of the passages suggest the sound of someone reading Finnegans Wake drunk (not helpful).  And there's a fairly plain account toward the end of someone (HCE?  King Arthur?  The last king of Ireland?) collecting and imbibing leftover beer and ale and spirits and driving out either the customers or the old inhabitants of Ireland--the "mouldy Firbolgs" and the "Tuatha de Danaan."

Nevertheless, most of the talk in between, to the extent that I can decipher it, seems military, or naval in subject matter--contentious, boastful, aggressive.  There is an occasional quatrain written without the conventional lines:  "His bludgeon's bruk, his drum is tore.  For spuds we'll keep the hat he wore And roll in clover on his clay By wather parted from the say."  And the usual references to Genesis ("Guinnesses," "Giant crash in Aden") and the four evangelists ("Mr Justician Matthews and Mr Justician Marks and Mr Justician Luk de Luc and Mr Justician Johnston-Johnson," "The fore oldsters were aspolootly at the wetsends in the moiling walter, trying to. Hide! Seek!").  All through a glass, darkly.



No comments: