400 years ago today: April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare died . . . for the first time.
He has endured many subsequent “deaths” over the past four centuries (I may have been an accomplice in one or two of them myself), including this classic atrocity depicted by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, wherein The Duke - an itinerant Actor and Con Man (the two professions are not mutually exclusive) - recites the famous Soliloquy from Hamlet . . . as he remembers it.
Stand back Ladies and Gentlemen, whilst I hammer yet another nail into the coffin . . .
James Joyce: Finnegans Wake (The Ondt and the Gracehoper)
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
A little seasonal Poe to brighten up your day . . .
Footnote: “Nemo me impune lacessit” = “No one provokes me with impunity”
A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888
“Quoth the umpire . . .
(Never mind . . . different poem.)
James Joyce: Finnegans Wake (Introduction)
Some years ago, I had a dream that took place in a combination library-pub. Several people were gathered around a table participating in The Great Finnegans Wake Challenge, or Read-Off, or if you will . . . Drinking Game.
The first contestant opened his copy of Finnegans Wake to the beginning, downed a pint of Guinness, and read as far as he could without stumbling.
(Yeah, I know . . . You’re probably thinking: “How could they tell?”
Well . . . judging is strictly hypothetical.)
Bluffing is permitted.
In fact, it’s mandatory.
My advice, while reading Joyce (and just about everyone else) . . .
“When in doubt, read with authority and no one will call your bluff.”
After a successful “challenge” the book was handed off to the next contender, who in turn downed a pint of Guinness, and continued reading.
The Wake and the Guinness meandered around the table during the course of the evening and the festivities continued . . . not until the book was finished (it is, after all, 628 pages) but until the Guinness worked its magic and the bloody thing started to make sense.
Sometime in the late ’90s, after several false starts during the preceding decades, I finally read Joyce’s epic in its entirety. (Or more accurately, I looked at every single word in it. There is a difference.) And I can proudly boast, with only slight exaggeration, that I understand . . . maybe about 1% of it. (Something about a bricklayer falling off his ladder and rising from the dead after a bottle of whiskey is spilled over his corpse.) But even “the other 99%” makes for a fun read.
So, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, and without the aid of Guinness (it’s early in the day), here is my stone cold sober assault on the first couple pages.
After that . . . you’re on your own.