chapter
12 Pages

Shem the Textman

Asearlyasthetitlepagewe'reinmildperplexity."Finnegans Wake"-whatdoesthattellus?Perhapsjustthatthetypesetterhasbeencareless, forshouldthewordnotbe"Finnegan's"?Buttheauthor'sname,"JamesJoyce," suggestsotherwise,forfromthatauthorwe'velearnedtoexpectoddthings. TheveryfirstsentenceofhisAPortraitoftheArtistasaYoungManarrays wordsofoneortwosyllablesinasyntaxofutternaivete,andthreeofthose "words"wewillneverhaveseenbefore:"moocow"and"nicens"and"Tuckoo." (A"word,"bytheway,issomethingwe'velearnedtoperceivebetweenspaces foreandaft.Thus"moocow"isoneword,nottwo.)

Sobacktothattitlepage."Finnegan'sWake,"withtheapostrophe,isthe titleofasongaboutawake,foracertainTimFinneganimperfectlydeceased, perhapsmerelybesotted,andcertainlyresurrectedbywhiskey.(Wemaylearn onedaythatitisnotanIrishsong;no,anAmericansongaboutastageIrishman,abeingwhoinhisAmericanincarnationwasunderstoodtobe normallydrunk.ItwasinAmericatheycoinedthenamepaddy-wagonforthe Saturdaynightdrunk-tankexpress.)

Oris"Wake"perhapsaverb,andarewebeingtoldthatwhole constellationsofFinnegansarecomingawake?Ifso,thenatleastthe orthographyisaccurate,thoughitdoesseemoddtoberemindedtooofthat song.