Monday, January 13, 2014

PQ reviews Finnegans Wake book

I'm currently re-reading the Robert Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey. That's in preparation for my plan to re-read Ulysses later this month.

So it will be later this year before I can get around to tackling Finnegans Wake. But when I do, PQ will be one of my main guides.

PQ has now written a two-part review of a book about Finnegans Wake that came out about four year ago, [I got that wrong, see PQ's comment]  Joyce's Book of the Dark by John Bishop. Part one is here; part two is here. 

PQ's verdict? "Joyce's Book of the Dark is a masterpiece of literary criticism while at the same time an eye-opening scholarly consideration of sleep. Bishop begins with the provocative premise that Finnegans Wake is, at all times, a record of what goes on inside the body and mind of one sleeping person (that is, not just dreams, but even the extended mysterious dreamless periods) and proceeds to build upon that argument almost ad nauseam, deploying snippets from the text of the Wake relentlessly through twelve progressively groundbreaking chapters concluding with a most brilliant and original theory of what the flowing female character Anna Livia Plurabelle really represents in the book ... Many readers consider Joyce's Book of the Dark to be the finest analysis of Finnegans Wake that's ever been written and I have to agree. "

Robert Anton Wilson on Finnegans Wake. 


Eric Wagner said...

I enjoyed Joyce's Book of the Dark. I know Bob Wilson didn't like how Bishop oversimplified Bob's ideas about the Wake in Bishop's intro to Finnegans Wake. I had the pleasure of participating in a Finnegans Wake study group with Bishop at the 2010 North American James Joyce Conference. Due to poor health Bishop couldn't physically attend, but he led the group via Skype. Mark Cheng and Shelly Brivic also participated. I encountered many people at the conference who spoke very highly of Prof. Bishop.

PQ said...

Eric, are you referring to the Joyce conference from June 2011? If so, I was there too! I participated in that reading group you mention. It's a shame Bishop suffered a stroke, he's one of the most brilliant Joyce scholars alive and he's supposedly been working on a book about Ulysses.

Thanks very much for sharing my post, I've spent an embarrassingly long time studying this book and preparing the review, so hopefully a few people will read it.

Two things about it:
- Bishop's book was actually published in the mid-80s originally. It was four years ago that I came across it.

- The review is a 4-part piece, will have the rest of it posted soon

Eric Wagner said...

PQ, yes, I had the year wrong. I read the first section out loud at that study group that day at Cal Tech in the Einstein collection.

I started Bishop's book back in the 80's, but I didn't finish it until about ten years ago. I've toyed with rereading it. It definitely helped me understand the Wake, especially Bishop's chapters on the senses and how the ears work during sleep.

gacord said...

Yep, thanks, PQ. You've definitely caused me to add yet another groovy book to my "must get" list.