restricted access Let Me Be Lost: Codebook for "Finnegans Wake", and: James Joyce's Letters to Sylvia Beach, 1921-1940, and: Joyce's "Ulysses": The Larger Perspective, and: Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to James Joyce (review)
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Reviewed by
Frances Phipps. Let Me Be Lost: Codebook for "Finnegans Wake."Barrytown: Station Hill, 1985. 210 pp. pb. $16.95.
Melissa Banta and Oscar A. Silverman, eds. James Joyce's Letters to Sylvia Beach, 1921-1940. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 221 pp. $25.00.
Robert D. Newman and Weldon Thornton, eds. Joyce's "Ulysses": The Larger Perspective, Newark: U of Delaware P, 1987. 310 pp. $37.50.
Derek Attridge. Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to James Joyce. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. 262 pp. pb. $9.95.

Frances Phipps's brilliantly illustrated Blake-Joyce volume, in an original book form to be commended, unfortunately opens on a misleading note that I am afraid I heard chiming repeatedly throughout: the title is a clipped quotation from Finnegans Wake that, once contextualized, does not seem to invite a reference to Blake's cosmogonic creation, and despite an appealing presentation of a vast array of scholarly material (the Egyptian part of which was already accessible through Danis Rose's Chapters of Coming Forth By Day and Roland McHugh's Annotations to "Finnegans Wake") the book, like many "comp, litt." attempts of its kind, blows the parallel out of all proportions. Bits from the Wake are too hastily marshalled for a Blakean enlightenment on the basis of homography (or homeography), too sketchily analyzed (see especially the scant treatment of the rainbow motif), and the Blakean themes that are said to pervade the Joycean are not assessed in the light of equally relevant contemporary ideas, thoughts, or experiments (especially the developments about time and simultaneity), or related to other similar sources of Joycean inspiration for a comparative appraisal. Her "direct" approach would have been more adequate perhaps for a study of the Blakean influence on the maturation of pre-Wakean fiction. More effective, apart from the Blakean glossary and helpful diagrams, are those instances when Phipps simply noted coincidences in the fictional universe and creative drives of the two writers (for instance, the elaboration of archetypal patterns). Yet her interlocking of texts is imaginative and together with the Egyptian iconography makes for a pleasant reading of a Blakean-cum-Egyptian voyage through Finnegans Wake.

Everything in this long-awaited edition of Joyce's letters to one of his most assiduous female mentors (aptly illustrated with a selection of generally lesser known photographs) makes it an outstanding contribution to Joycean scholarship. The [End Page 323] serviceable introductions complete with painstaking notes, as are the items of correspondence themselves, provide step-by-step, easy-to-follow landmarks in the peripeteiae of the writer's literary life in Paris while stressing the complex and changing relationship between the devoted Sylvia Beach and the inconsiderate Joyce, unsparing of others' efforts to advance his recognition and the publication of his works. The editors' often factual presentations fit in very well with their suggestions of what Joyce's overpowering control of his entourage was, which can be felt in the perusal of the (retranscribed) chronologically arranged letters, bearing incessant demands often couched in a subtly persuasive style, now self-commiserating, now sleek and courteous, always reaching its aim. The volume comprises a sizeable collection of so far unpublished material (from . . . Buffalo!) and the whole set of documents, together with a helpful index, sheds further light on Joyce's adjustments of sections of Work in Progress, his interests in certain books (especially Lewis Carroll, a well-known debatable source of inspiration), and primarily the intensity of editorial imbrogli, financial or other personal bothers through one crucial element in Joyce's milieu, and like the smaller-scale Adrienne Monnier dossier published earlier in L'Herne's Joyce, this complete record will definitely help us to refine our understanding of the complex interactions between creation, edition, and the artist's self-centered personality within the Paris literary society. A must on our bookshelves.

In a well mapped-out critical Odyssey, the compendium of essays on Ulysses attempts to reposition the "dominant tradition" (Sultan) seeing Ulysses as a ragbag of styles and hopes to lure us back to an after all naive conception of reading in which "storyness," events, plot, good old round human "characters" (but the volume hardly questions...


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