Monday, September 16, 2013

'Coincidance' Week One

Here's a good sentence from Robert Anton Wilson's essay, "Synchonicity and Isomorphism in Finnegans Wake":

"Vico said that every verbal coincidence was a poem showing a new reality."

That's at the top of page 23 in my New Falcon edition, and it seems to be like a pretty good one sentence summary of the article.

I am no Joyce scholar, and I am counting on the James Joyce experts to weigh in, using the comments. I suppose everyone reading the article will have his own verbal coincidences that come to mind. Every time I see Joyce's name, I can't help think of another Joyce, a young woman I got a crush on in college at about the time I was reading Illuminatus! A verbal coincidence: Joyce's middle name is Elaine. My wife Ann's middle name is Elaine.

On page 21, Wilson mentions a Dublin bookstore named Brown and Nolan. Barnes and Noble, a bookstore with the same initials, is the last major bookstore chain standing in the U.S. -- if I had chosen to buy my copy of Coincidance at a bookstore rather than from Amazon, it's where I would have gone.

Wilson writes repeatedly of the two girls and three British soldiers who encounter H.C. Earwicker in the incident in Phoenix Park (page 10, for example); Wilson doesn't say so, but wouldn't this be an example of the Law of Fives? Also on page 10, Wilson offers the theory that the incident occurred at 11:32 a.m. When I got in my car Sunday morning to run the first errand of the day, trying to think of what I should write in this blog entry, I glanced at the clock in my car's dashboard and noticed that it was 11:32 a.m.

Wilson mentions on the last page of the essay that Ireland is divided into four provinces.  Coincidance is divided into four parts, each of which has a James Joyce essay.

Reading Wilson's essay made me aware of more holes in my reading: I haven't read Tristam Shandy or The Golden Bough. I downloaded them both and put them on my Kindle. Reading the essay also reminded me that I simply have to read Frances Yates Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. (As he often did, Wilson misspells her name as "Francis.")

For a reading schedule for the online discussion of Coincidance, see this blog entry.

23 comments:

supergee said...

Wilson is a prime example of how bad spelling doesn't mean one is stupid: "excercize," "Lawrence" Sterne.

tony smyth said...

Small thing, but the bookstore is actually Brown and Nolan, Its a common Irish name (my parent's neighbours and the local large supermarket are both Nolans).

fuzzbuddy said...

Yates died the same day I was born.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Tony, thanks for pointing out the typo. Now fixed.

Supergee, Agreed. When I interviewed Teresa Nielsen Hayden about copyediting The Widow's Son, she mentioned RAW's spelling.

gacord said...

As long as we're picking on old Bob. On page 20 of my New Falcon edition he says "mahon" is gaelic for bear. Then riffs on this a few other times with spelling variants. The gaelic for bear is... béar. "Mahon" to me sounds a lot like the way you say "Mó thoin" which means "my ass." So either RAW just got his facts wrong on that one or maybe (more likely in my opinion) he's having one over on us in his routine effort to keep us questioning everything, including himself.

PC said...

Please note: "Frances" is the female version of "Francis". Because the author in question, Dame Frances Amelia Yates, is indeed a woman the spelling is actually correct. Old Bob has not exposed his ignorance in this particular case. As for Dame Yates, she is a very interesting author and historian whose works are well worth exploring.

Steve said...

We also learn that Kierkegaard was a compulsive masturbator (8).

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

@PC I think you may have misread what I wrote. RAW spelled it "Francis."

PC said...

My mistake Tom, I did indeed misread what you wrote. Feel free to delete the post.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I'll leave it up because like your recommendation of Yates. I know I'm overdue to read her myself. Real Soon Now, perhaps after Pynchon ...

Oz Fritz said...

I have another copy of Coincidance on the way any day now. It's one of my RAW favorites.

The full title, of course, is Coincidance: A Head Test.

Before the book, RAW used the title Coincidance for a lengthy piece on Finnegans Wake that appeared in Semiotexte[e] USA (p. 155), a compendium of cutting edge articles put together by Peter Lamborn Wilson in 1987.

Wilson begins this piece like you would notate a magick experiment:

"This experiment was begun at 11:54 a.m., 6 May 1985 in a house on the hill of Howth in Dublin, Ireland"

He then qabalistically analyzes this sentence and mentions that:

"Howth derives from the Norse, 'hoved', head. Some of the locals call it Ben Howth, but since Ben in Gaelic means head also, this is a wonderful redundancy: Head Head"

Eric Wagner said...

I loved that piece in Semiotext[e].

On page 5 of Coincidance, Bob calls February 2 James Stephens' birthday. Actually, Stephens, an orphan, didn't know his birthday, but he chose February 2 and he chose to name himself after the Fenian leader James Stephens.

In terms of typos, Bob and Ezra Pound tended to have a few. I still love their books and value them. I regret typos in my book as well.

Eric Wagner said...

Coincidentally, the new issue of Sight and Sound features "The Wicker Man" on the cover http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/sight-sound-october-2013-issue for the fortieth anniversary, and Bob mentions the wicker man on pg. 8.

Eric Wagner said...

I also love the poem "A Wicker Basket" by Robert Creeley. I met Creeley at the Ezra Pound centennial in 1985. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171567

znore said...

My favourite part of RAW'S essays on the Wake is where he demonstrates the virtually impossible, interdependent loops of synchronicity that run all throughout FW. Joyce was writing on a level that was beyond human.

Illiaminated said...

McMahon means "Son of Bear" so obviously there is ome correllation between old gaelic word for bear and Mahon.

gacord said...

Ah, must be old gaelic. I hunted all over and couldn't find it. I'm sure, at the end of the day, RAW picked up plenty of Irish when he lived in Dublin. Admittedly I've only been studying for a few months now. Nonetheless, he's still often having one over on us. Now back to my note taking for the next entry...

Illiaminated said...

In forewords RAW asks, perhaps rhetorically, why there are 12 eggs in a grocers box and 12 citizens in a jurors box. I'm reading The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio and there is a theory briefly referenced that the old english usage of base 12 may be related to the segments of the fingers (excluding the thumb) or the joints including the knuckles.

Livio also posits that the pythagorean correlation of 2 = feminine and 3 = masculine may be related to the configuration of breasts and male genitalia.

Livio also mentions a biblical passage - 2 Samuel 23 which refers to a unit used for building called the "3 warriors" (3 soldiers anyone?). All in all it's quite a complementary work to be reading along with the first chapter of Coincidance

gacord said...

As long as I have gaelic on my mind (sorry folks, it's a big part of my reality tunnel right now) on pg. 9 RAW brings up the "thuartpeatrick" from FW 3 (Thou art Peter) I also see Tu (or Thou) art Patrick. But if use gaelic pronunciation "th" makes an "H" sound so it becomes Who art Patrick?/You art Patrick. So Joyce is asking us (rhetorically) who we are (and asking us to ask ourselves) and in the exact same statement answering it for us (or asking us to answer it for ourselves.)

RAW then says "It is also the pea-trick by which language in FW says more than Logical Positivists think language can ever say." I think it's fun little bullshitting (of each other and of ourselves) like this in Joyce's work that ensnares some of us Joyce nerds and definitely so captured RAW, enough to keep him busy for decades at least.

Also, since 1132 (and loads of 23 paradigms too boot) is all over FW I'll just say that every 32 is a 23 for me. In much the same way as Doug Adam's 42 is Leary's 24 conspiracies within any given group for me. Order, in this case, becomes irrelevant.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

OZ: Do you recommend the rest of Semiotexte[e]? I ought to track down a copy.

GARY: I believe that Eric Wagner used the 11:32 number by listening to each of Beethoven's 32 piano sonnets 11 times.

Oz Fritz said...

Yes, Tom I do, it's a snapshot of leading edge underground writing at the time.

A verbal/numerical coincidence from the Semiotexte[e] article - RAW writes:

"Looking into the Good Book (Finnegans Wake), we find that 11 runs through it like a refrain, usually as part of the mystery number 1132, which has largely baffled commentators; ..."

In the Book of the Law, Nuit the sky Goddess says,

"My number is 11, as all their numbers who are of us."

My copy of the book arrived today so I might have more to say after reading the first part.

Levi Edwards said...

Joyce's middle name was not Elaine, (unless you mean that chick).

Daddy Eroshka said...

@Illiaminated

Livio... the masculine form of Livia.