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Finnegans Wake for Dummies

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 1, Fall 2008
pp. 97-111 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0117



"Finnegans Wake for Dummies" is an answer to a perennial problem: how to begin reading the Wake. The Finnegans Wake paradox states that Finnegans Wake cannot be read except by someone who has already read it; what this article proposes is a new way of reading the book, not from front to back, but in order of difficulty. This "ski-slope" method of reading, beginning with the easiest sections, turning to the intermediate sections, and ending with the really fiendish bits, allows the text to afford the reader a sense of achievement as each level is passed, a sense it otherwise withholds until the final page. The three rounds, beginning with the Mamafesta and ending with the farewell in the pub ("Goodbark, goodbye!"), roughly correspond to the order of composition, so that the reader moves chronologically through Joyce's writing process.

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