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BOOK REVIEWS Wakean Annotations Roland McHugh. Annotations to Finnegans Wake. Revised Edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. xv + 628 pp. Cloth $75.00 Paper $24.95 ONE OF THE ALLURES of Finnegans Wake is its inaccessibility. Like a titular monarch it reigns over the realm of (post)modern(ist) literature, omni-historic, excessive, aloof, and endlessly intriguing. Inspiring gossip and speculation, its raison d'être is unclear, but its prestige undeniable. Roland McHugh's Annotations to Finnegans Wake, Revised Edition, both pays tribute to the Wake's glamour and, in a sense, constrains it. McHugh began preparing his revised Annotations in 1981, the year after the first edition appeared. During ten years of revising he has leaned heavily on Ian MacArthur's addenda and corrigenda and less so on Laurent Milesi's shorter list of suggestions. With the aid of these sources and his own research, he has increased the number of direct quotations from Joyce's manuscripts and "trim[med] away certain glosses that are not substantiated by manuscript material." He has also adhered to "identifications that are 'reasonable'." Additionally, McHugh acknowledges the influence of over twice as many works as he did for the first edition of Annotations, including all the latest glosses of Wakean language borrowings. Unfortunately, however, in my necessarily limited examination I do not find evidence in the Annotations that these recent findings have been used to full advantage. Among the manuscript-based information McHugh supplies are explanations of the Wáke's sigla, signs Joyce employed to emblematize conglomerate characters and their predicaments. Here, as in the first edition of Annotations and in The Sigla of "Finnegans Wake" (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977), McHugh's explications are enlightening and exceptionally useful. Also useful is the format oÃ- Annotations, an oversized, page-by-page, line-by-line gloss of the current Viking edition of the Wake. McHugh draws attention to the format of his work, noting its advantages over several of the more specialized, alphabetically arranged guides to the Wake. Indeed, the cover review boasts that "By placing the two books side by side, the reader can eliminate the need to consult alphabetical lists, indexes, or other devices in other handbooks." This is the most blatant and foolish kind of publisher's hyperbole. More than most literary works, the Wake begs to be supplemented, explicated, and 253 ELT 36:2 1993 interpreted in myriad formats and from every imaginable point of view. No single work can be expected to accomplish this feat. Only collective treatments of the Wake, McHugh's among them, can serve the Wake's gargantuan purpose. McHugh himself, somewhat more modestly, invites the reader to "hold a page of Finnegans Wake alongside its counterpart, allowing the eyes to slip momentarily across to Annotations at the end of every line. By all means stop and ponder at intervals. If possible, try to find an area of the Wake which strikes you personally as intriguing or beautiful, and contemplate those things in it which Annotations illuminate" (v). Acting on McHugh's advice, I turned to page 196 of both texts (i*WT.8), where the washerwomen verbally launder Earwicker's dirty linen. This deceptively easy-to-decipher passage, like every other Wakean episode, is crammed with allusions and echoes I am not equipped to appreciate unaided. But, since McHugh's lines are numbered in increments of five and the Wake's lines are unnumbered, I found it much more difficult to allow my eyes to "slip momentarily" from primary text to gloss than McHugh's instructions imply. Furthermore, in order to make sense of the gloss, I had either to be thoroughly familiar with McHugh's system of cryptology (an accomplishment requiring at least modest dedication) or interrupt my reading to discover, for example, that "r" stands for "river." However, once McHugh's code (which is based on rather common abbreviations) is committed to memory, the gloss becomes quite useful. Realizing that V indicates "river," it becomes immediately apparent from McHugh's text, for example, how pervasive and important is the river motif in FW 1.8. However the gloss is far from exhaustive. In supplying "the cream of all available exegesis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 253-255
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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