HG Wells on FW
“Who the hell is this Joycewho demands so many wak-ing hours of the few thou-sands I have still to live for aproper appreciation of hisquirks and fancies and ﬂashesof rendering?” (Ellman 621). Three decades later,Vladimir Nabokov would call the
a “coldpudding of a book” (71). In 1966, Clive Hart, adevoted Wakie, claimed that he doubts if thereare a dozen people apart from professional Joyceans anywhere who have actually in goodfaith read
from beginning to end(135).
Until recently the matterseemed closed
. Finnegans Wake
would continue its shadowyexistence in an academic Hadesfueled by the energies of a rela-tively small band of scholarssquabbling with one anotherover who had “really” read the book as opposed to who justpretended. And then some-thing remarkable happened.The Web woke the
fromits deep slumber.
is everythinganyone has ever said about it,and more. The tens of thou-sands of transparent overlaysin the book (Joyce actuallycalled his method of composi-tion “working in layers” )added up to nothing lessthan.... well, than everything.Like Plato before him, Joycefelt that human beings, whileawake, exist in a state of pro-found forgetfulness of whothey are and where they camefrom. Our birth, in Word-sworth’s famous lines, is “but asleep and a forgetting.” Thehuman creature is the one whohas fallen into what the Greekscalled “amathia,” the ignorancethat stems from forgetfulnessof everything important. In the
Joyce exults in the ironythat we are most asleep whenwe are awake and only in sleepdo we begin to awaken to allwe have forgotten.The
comes out of thefoggy dew like the ghost ofHamlet’s father, intoning “Re-member Me,” or as Anna Liviarephrases it on the last page ofthe book, combining “remem- ber” with “memory,” “Meme-moreme.” If
could possibly be summed upin a singleword, that wordwould be “re-member.” It is agrand Joyceanword which doesa lot of work, so much in factthat as Humpty Dumpty (apervasive inﬂuence in the
) says to Alice, you haveto pay it extra. To remember isnot only to bring to mind whathas been hiding, but also to re-assemble carnally, to re-member, to rebuild ﬂeshy bitsinto an animate whole. It is si-multaneously a mental andphysical act, linking word toimage and gesture, mediatedexperience to pantomime.Authentic remembering givesthe Book back its body, which,so to speak, had been mutilated by print culture and scatteredto the winds, littering the land-scape. Of utmost importance in
is the ﬁgure of