A LIST OF EVENTS CELEBRATING THE 75th ANNIVERSARY OF James Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE

Image Image

     FINNEGANS WAKE FW75 PROGRAMME:

Sunday May 4th, 11.32am:        Official launch of ‘FW75′ by Robert Ballagh  at the Phoenix Park Visitors Centre until May 24th

Wednesday May 7th, 12.30pm: Vincent Deane on FW and the Phoenix Park at the Phoenix Park Visitors Centre

Thursday May 8th, 6.30pm:         Here Comes Everybody, the songs of FW  Café Chantant at Phibsborough Library

Wednesday May 14th, 12.30pm  Mapping Joyceborough with Gerard Meaney  at the Phoenix Park Visitors Centre

Thursday May 15th, 6.30pm:        Here Comes Everybody, the songs of FW  Café Chantant at Rathmines Library

Wednesday May 14th, 3.00pm   Seven films celebrating 75 years of FW From the 7 UNESCO Cities of Literature: Reykjavik, Iowa, Norwich, Krakow, Melbourne, Edinburgh and Dublin at the Phoenix Park Visitors Centre

Wednesday May 21st, 7.00pm: Dermot Bolger in conversation 

  with Barry McGovern at Farmleigh.

Admission free but booking essential

Thursday 22 May 12.30pm      Finnegans Wake as ‘a Proudseye View of Dublin’  With Oran Ryan  The crypt of Christchurch cathedral

Thursday May 22nd, 6.30pm:     Here Comes Everybody, the songs of FW    Café Chantant at Drumcondra Library

Wednesday 28 May, 12.30pm    Finnegans Wake and Dublin’s new cultural  quarter,Parnell Square With Des Gunning – James Joyce Centre, 35 Nth Great George’s St.

FW75 – a hubbub caused in Joyceborough – For the Website go here

DROP BY AND CHECK OUT THIS CELEBRATION OF ONE OF THE MOST BRILIANT COMPLEX AND BEAUTIFUL BOOKS EVER WRITTEN- AND ITS ALL ABOUT DUBLIN!

Advertisements

‘I Cant Feel Anything’

NYMPHOMANIAC I [LARS VON TRIER](2014)

I have always considered Lars Von Triers movies excessively apocalyptic in the most black humour sense imaginable. Its like as though he premises every story with a worst case scenario and pushes it to the limit to see what might happen. He does movies about the end of all life on Earth or  horrific Injuries of loved ones or parents dealing with the accidental death of a child or the consequences of living with nymphomania. Having  watched a few of them already, I sat down to watch this one with a certain apprehension. The thing about sexual addiction is that its an unknown. No one really know what the origins of the addiction is, in this case the addiction is that of a person having between seven to ten sexual encounters a day as well as having a full time job, but the nymphomaniac, played by Charlotte Gainsborough (and her younger self by Stacy Martin), is deeply concerned about the havoc and destruction her behaviour has wreaked  upon others, a pattern of behaviour she felt unable to stop. Her foil in this lengthy story telling is Stellan Skarsgård, who plays an excessively open-minded intellectual who ruminates endlessly on fly fishing, the prose of Edgar Allan Poe, and in the most reasonable easy going manner imaginable, how Gainsborough’s character must in some way see her sexual compulsiveness as simply that – an addiction.  While carefully detailing the experiences and encounters of her life, from the sexual games played as a teenager to characterizing her lovers in musical components of a Bach polyphony (an unforgettable and beautiful piece of cinematography), Gainsborough neither abdicates responsibility for her actions, seeks easy psychological explanations for it, or does anything else save tell the truth of her life. She recalls one moment in her childhood, a moment where she feels utterly alone in a vast and unforgiving cosmos, utterly empty, beyond sadness. She couldn’t feel a thing. and this is an ambiguity one feels throughout the movie, sometimes shock, sometimes hilarity, sometimes profound sadness – even and especially when the heights of eroticism are being reached. The beauty of this kind of good storytelling is that one is left with an awareness that, as always, there are no short easy explanations for the human condition, which is in its own way very satisfying to see on screen. Moreover the injection of humour into Von Triers style of storytelling has added much colour to an already multifaceted brilliant palette.

The Earthian

image

One of the nicest things about living in Wicklow is the chips one gets in the local chipper. Linas  chipper, aside from having the trademark Wicklow Town polite pleasant friendliness, cook some of the nicest chips I have tasted since my time as a little boy eating the chips from the Aprile cafe on Richmond Street Dublin City (I wonder if it is still there). Last Friday I went up to get a bag and outside the takeout there stood a man with a sign saying he was an Earthian, travelling the world and he was accepting donations of food. I felt a little odd, indeed, I always feel a little guilty not giving donations but I walked past this person, looking down and seeing he introduced himself as an Earthian, a word representing a concept I regarded as interesting, mainly because I have something of a lifelong interest in science fiction. His eyes were clear, calm and observant. His teeth and skin were in excellent shape. He was dressed in a reflective coat and a heavy belt (which looked new). He wore a white rimmed hat, no sunglasses, heavy socks and a pair of formidable walking boots. This person was not however your typical walker. He greeted each person that passed him rather calmly and courteously. He also didn’t seem to care whether or not they greeted him back and there was an air of calm about him I liked. I didn’t greet him, and I avoided his gaze. I don’t remember whether he greeted me. I went home and ate my chips and mentioned that odd fellow who was looking for food donations outside Linas Take Away in Market Square.

The thing was I met him again. The following Sunday, Iza and I went to a barbecue at the Dominican Ecology Centre at Bayview Wicklow Town, literally five minutes walk from our front door, and once again outside the Domincan College and Ecology Centre (apparently 70 acres in size). And there he was. 

Earthian

Again he was greeting people and occasionally people were coming from the organic shop and giving him food. Everyone who gave him food got a hug, something I liked to see but made others rather jittery. He apparently doesn’t accept any kind of money. I wondered how he paid for medical expenses or tickets or suchlike. I asked him how he got past airport security since he doesn’t have a passport, doesn’t have a name, and no country of origin. I do believe though he comes from the middle east.  The name, in other words referring to himself as Earthian – a citizen of Planet Earth, a planet with only human borders and political entities and blocs that have been fought over for millennia, wont get one through very highly guarded regulated monitored borders, especially airport security. He smiled and said he doesn’t use airports. I said that’s a good thing, because if you don’t present a passport you tend to get sent back. He smiled again, and he said – sent back where? I mean, he said, if you don’t have an address where would you get sent back to?  The holy naiveté made me smile, and, well its a good answer, one he very obviously had given before to many other people living in the paranoid post 9/11 Earth.

Earthian’s thesis, if it can be called such, is that if a sufficiently substantial movement could be generated to remove the notion of borders on this rather small planet, then one of the prime motivators for war and conflict would simply evaporate. I agreed in principle with him, but considered it rather unlikely this would ever happen, seeing as much of the planets economic systems are run on the notion of private property, capitalism, and profit, which is how things are and not in any way, to my mind, an evil in themselves – just not something that hugely interests me, and definitely interests Earthian rather less. his worldwide travels began after the economic crash in 2008, when, working as a computer engineer, he took the decision to allot eight to twelve years of his life to travel all over the world with a message of peace and certainly with all the hugs he was distributing, love, an acknowledgement of the ultimate unity of the planet despite its many deep divisions, the need for caring for the ecosystems that make it up, and a striving for an end to war. I pointed out he was only one person. He pointed out this proverb which made us all laugh.

If you think you are too little or too small to make a change you obviously haven’t spent a night with a mosquito (African Proverb)

I hope never to spend a night with a mosquito, but I do know that my hero Socrates used refer to himself as a stinging fly (a mosquito certainly comes under that description), someone who used ask the awkward questions which showed up the hypocrisy and self deception of the greedy and the thoughtless. Then again lets not pursue that analogy to its logical end, considering what horrible things happened to Socrates. Anyway we talked for a while and then we wandered into the organic shop inside the Domincan grounds and Earthian (I still cant get used to calling him that) stayed outside. we wandered round saying hello to people, talking, and visiting the animals, most of whom were going to be slaughtered ( its always disturbing to see creatures fed the finest foods, looking exquisitely beautiful, in the best of health, only to know they only exist in such a state to be  devoured by those who care for them) After a while I returned to Iza to see her sitting with our friend, engrossed in conversation about his travels. There is hardly a country he has not been to. I believe he is going to England next, and then to Iceland, a difficult place to get into. We offered him money before we went our separate ways. He refused. We asked him what he would like. He said whatever we wanted to give him. We went into the organic shop and bought him some goodies, and gave them to him after he came back from the toilet. He hugged us both.  And then he was gone. An interesting person. I kind of miss him now.

Walking the Driving Range

A walk on a Perfect Day

A couple of days ago I went to deliver a letter and got struck by a car. I was more or less unhurt, save for a bruised shoulder and a leg that still remains a tad stiff. It will be a few days before I can go back to the gym (you can’t work out on a bruised shoulder as it can worsen the injury), so for the most part I rested up and basically was as lazy and unproductive as the excuse of being thrown up on the bonnet of the car can give you. I did yoga, took pain killers, slept and ate, and today I went for a walk along the coast with Izabela, who took this tiny clip right here:

© I Titefka 2014

It was one of those perfect days, the sea sparkled like as though there were little bits of silver floating on the surface of it, and yes the air really was fresh and sweet and the grass was dry and the sun shone from a cloudless sky and though my leg hurt and my ankle ached and my back hurt almost as bad as my shoulder, it didn’t matter a damn and we sat on top of a small cliff and looked down on the waves and the diving sea birds who had this preternatural gift for riding incredibly high waves dangerously near the rocks and the waves clipping the little birds as they disappeared down and reappeared sometimes with a fish sometimes with nothing, and it was like something out of a dream and the area was  filled with other walkers and dogs (the people of Wicklow Town are huge animal lovers, the place is filled with Cats and Dogs, and birds, and shops selling animal feed and bird houses and seed bags – the town even has its own much adored pet bull seal called Sammy who is fed twice a day by the local fishmonger)and and tourists and students sitting out with sandwiches and we moved on down the coast for about half a mile onto the golf course and then you saw the putters and the drivers and we kept an eye out for seals but didn’t see any. We sat out on a high outcrop and I let my legs dangle over the cliff face (a very small one I might add) and the waves roared and grumbled and the golfers behind us went swish and crack and moved as if they had a purpose. We got thirsty and tired and went in a homeward direction and got into a load of trouble with the aforementioned grumpy golfers as we had to walk in front of their driving range. They started shouting   for us to move out of our way, which we didn’t, and they started simulating golf swings directed at us, which made us all the more stubborn and as we passed  the cranky golfers we commented loudly how golf just ruined a good walk – using the immortal words of Mark Twain. What a great day.  Annnd, here comes Wicklow Towns newest celebrity:

All Along the Watchtower

Battlestar Galactica as Theology

The excellent Battle star Galactica, which I loved watching, does have a heavy dose of theism running through it, which makes it even more interesting to watch because it touches on subjects other more conventional series rarely dare to go near. Not only that but it holds the view that those who do not embrace Gods Plan for them, are in trouble. For instance Gaius Balthar the brilliant womanising egomaniac scientist who caused the death of billions (incidentally hands down my favourite character) is consistently in one form threatened with death or ruin or being found out (which would entail the death penalty) if he doesn’t do Gods bidding, which is usually the Cylons’ bidding. Its an interesting if not delightful vision of God, and an even more delightful vision of God who didn’t do squat to stop mass genocide by encouraging Gaius not to allow the beautiful Cylon alien lover into his life and into his mind.

The existence of evil (genocide, evil deeds, disease, war etc.) doesn’t disprove the existence of God. It also doesn’t prove it. Its just that God seems more interested in making Gaius Balthar a believer than stopping the death of billions of his beloved children.  The existence of a well designed universe (the stars, planets, the beauty and order of the universe, human and non human intellect etc.) neither proves nor disproves the existence of  God. It does however demonstrate a well ordered universe for which a good explanation is needed. If in the case of the well designed universe or the existence of evil or the existence of consciousness or miracles or private revelation, the balance of probability shows in favour of the existence of God (it actually doesn’t by the way – not by a long shot, but go with me on this one) rather than not, this does not in any way constitute what even remotely might be considered a proof of Gods existence. Probability can never replace evidence. You cannot employ scientific methods on a subject (God) and start weighing probabilities. Its something of a desperate attempt to prove the ultimately disprovable. R. Swinburne has a book on it, which I finished recently, or rather dragged myself kicking and screaming through recently. You can get it here. Be warned though, its heavy going and feels at times like logical legerdemain than good argument.

Battlestar Galactica however is addictive viewing. The world ends and a race of robots chase forty thousand human survivors across space as they search for a mythical Earth spoken of in scriptures and prophecies and suffusing the dreams and longings of the leaders and followers with equal measures of hope and despair as they struggle internally to survive with what little they have left. They are outnumbered, outgunned and with a divided leadership with something of a penchant for massive internal strife. Worse still there are enemy agents in their midst, agents that are almost so human that they are indistinguishable from humans, agents who are capable of sexual and psychological manipulation at the highest levels of leadership and of the intelligentsia, of regeneration, resurrection and rebirth. These enemies within, these humans who are not humans who do not know they are not humans, but robots who have yet to be ‘switched on’ Manchurian Candidate style are in a position to destroy the leadership of Battle star Galactica and  perhaps the entire fleet. So the enemy is everywhere. These are foes in which no amount of intelligence gathered  is ever lost, even if you shoot them out an airlock into the cold emptiness of space. They also have a plan, and they seem to have won the war. This space chase for the last forty thousand survivors is a a mere mop up operation, so one might think.

The kinds of tension that such a virtual pressure cooker of circumstances is the complex mind bending, reality distorting, hyper-violent story of Battle star Galactica where nothing is as it seems and God has a plan to save mankind, right down to the tiniest of events, down to what appears to be the most tragic and impossible of circumstances. No event is trivial, no death accidental. Randomness or evolution or natural selection or dreams and hopes and the ancient prophecies are all emanation from the all good all wise all loving God, who has gifted all his beings, whether they be human or robot or a blend of both (Cylon is the name for the robots, and they have evolved into being part machine part organism). Some of the brightest and most brilliant are inadvertent puppets of the Cylons until they discover what evil they have done through their selfishness and negligence and some of the most nondescript of the crew do the most good and make the smartest moves of all. No one in this show is free of wrongdoing, just as no one is completely evil.

This is a series that thankfully defies description and defies convention in the best possible way. Its a space opera and its not. Its feminist and yet some of the female characters commit horrifically unethical acts, pro gay both in the military and in civilian life and yet this is not even an issue that is open to debate, pro equal rights and yet filled with all kinds of injustices, pro democracy yet it feels at times like a military dictatorship. It debates just war theory, the death penalty, the ethics of torture, abortion rights, the limits of democracy, the power of unions in an unjust labour situation, the power and necessity of sexual self expression for a healthy being, the stratification of society, education rights, the value and values of spirituality, the debate between science and religion, polytheism versus monotheism versus strict scientific rationalism versus atheism, historical inevitability and the cyclical nature of history, and the meaning of comedy.

Most of all this is a story that though set in a science fiction genre. As the story progresses, it talks all the time about a plan, a plan set in motion since the beginning where an all benevolent  being wants his children to live together in harmony. This theology is of course debated, dismissed, disparaged, and renewed throughout the story. In the end the answer is there is no answer, but a deepening of the mystery of the human and non human will to live, will to power and will to survival and will to understand, the necessity of reconciliation, and the egoless embracing of  wisdom.

You might be wondering why I called this blog post ‘All along the Watchtower”. Aside from it being one of the most marvellous songs ever written by Bob Dylan performed by Jimi Hendrix, and it being a catchy title for a blog post, its a song deeply embedded in the storyline of Battlestar Galactica. It acts as a mnemonic and a mantra for the continuing self discovery of the central characters. its one whose use you will hopefully love as much as I did when I was finally made to watch this wonderful series.

Haveth Childers Everywhere

       FINNEGANS WAKE AS UNIVERSAL BOOK

Here Comes Everybody[2]

Since I have been writing – or should I say rewriting – most writing is a form of rewriting – and trying to shape – for a lecture on Joyce’s Wake  on the 22 MAY in the Crypt of Christ Church Cathedral at 1 Pm, I begin to understand just how isolating this work must have been for James Joyce. Why? Well, many of his closest allies and champions had abandoned him thinking that his latest work, called Work In Progress  before being called Finnegans Wake, unreadable. The notion of something being unreadable is interesting. It presupposes that one should never encounter an obstacle or multiple meanings or difficulty in discerning a text. Like in the Bible. Or the Rosetta stone. Or Hieroglyphics. Or Heidegger. Or a doctors handwriting.

Joyce ploughed a lonely furrow writing what would become Finnegans Wake:

His brother Stanislaus, who had supported him in so many ways for decades, thought it an exercise in obscurantism or basically the work of a psychopath or a literary fraud.

Ezra Pound, poetic champion and genius in his own right, the man who got A Portrait of The Artist  published before his own work, wrote regarding the Wake  that “Nothing so far as I can make out, nothing short of divine vision or a new cure for the clapp can possibly be worth all that circumambient peripherization.” Charming.

Harriet Shaw Weaver who basically financially supported JJ and his family for years, despite commissioning the work from him, again in a strange ‘circumambient’ way, had very mixed reactions to it.

Even the Dial, a magazine that actually commissioned work from JJ, rejected the text when JJ finally sent it to them. It was a difficult time for Joyce. a lonely difficult time.

That being the case,  I think the words of Arthur Schopenhauer are apt here when he says in The World as Will and Representation “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see”. Again one has to ask: why did Joyce go on?  What did he see? It was and still remains difficult to “see” what JJ was doing when he was writing the Wake. This is a challenging book, a book of the future. This is a book about a future where languages will one day blend into other languages, an event that has happened to language for millennia, and will continue to do so for all time. English, for instance, is created from a dozen or so languages.

Joyce’s method of blending and interacting and concatenating meanings is not an exercise of intellectual obscurantism, but the recreation of new meanings, sometimes a dozen or more at once, by the sheer restructuring of language that Joyce so brilliantly effects in FW . Finnegans Wake, by gathering together so many languages, so much knowledge, so much humour and pathos in this beautiful work, encapsulates all that is great, our capacity for fallenness, but moreover, our capacity like Tim Finnegan, to rise up again.

It would be an extraordinary act of intellectual snobbery on the part of Joyce to write a work that he imagined destined for a few specialists. He joked about it, certainly.  But this was a book he wanted to give to James Stephens to finish, because he felt he couldn’t go on. Hardly the mind-set of a man on a 17 year ego trip. This is a book he collaborated on and with a team of researchers. Joyce made his dream book from the world and intended it for the world.

FW is a book about the world, a novel of living breathing characters, a builder, his spouse, their children, and Here Comes Everybody. We see HERE COMES EVERYBODY _ everywhere – Helmingham Erchenwyne Rutter Egbert Crumwall Odin Maximus Esme Saxon Esa Vercingetorix Ethelwulf Rupprecht Ydwalla Bentley Osmund Dysart Yggdrasselmann (FW 88.20) – (This actually spells out HERE COMES EVERYBODY ) [1], homosexual catheis of empathy 522.30, He Can Explain (FW105.14 )  He calmly extensolies (FW 6.35), Head-in-Clouds, Health, chalce, endnessnessessity (FW 613.27), Hear! Calls! Everywhair!(FW 108.23), Heathen church emergency (FW 574.7), Here endeth chinchinatibus( 367.4), Heaviest corpsus exemption (FW 362.17), Heavystost’s envil catacalamitumbling, Hecech (377.3), heavengendered, chaosfoedted, earthborn (FW 137.14) , Heinz cans everywhere (FW 598.1), Hell’s Confucium and the Elements, Helpless Corpse Enactment (FW 423.32)

The notion that this isn’t about everybody – considering the hundreds of references to ‘everybody’ plus the fact that the main chapter is an everyperson, an everyman, well, I don’t want to overstate things.

This is a geography and a history and an epic of the everyperson. This heavengendered, chaosfoedted, earthborn (FW 137.14) book.

 Finnegans Wake took 17 years to finish. It takes more than time and more than a good idea and more than the kind of extraordinary learning and dexterity and feel for the music of language that James Joyce had to produce something like the Wake.

Harold Bloom in his book The Western Canon (P.422) voices his fear that the removal of works like FW from the curriculum that pose real cognitive and imaginative difficulties is a real tragedy. I wonder was it ever on the curriculum? FW, Bloom fears will end up being studied by the same group of enthusiastic specialists that read and reread Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. You could do worse, I guess. (I read the Faerie a lot myself)

Finnegans Wake elicits a kind of fanatical following. A casual search of electronic media will show just how avidly this book is devoured and loved. FW is a book for everyone, a multicultural multilinguistic multihistorical work of comic power. It sees so much joy and hope in life despite the carnage and troubles of history. It’s full of history. All of history in microcosm. Its a funferal (FW120.10). A fun funeral. “In the name of the former and of the latter and of their holocaust. Allmen.” (FW 419.9-10)

The notion of the world as book, or a world dreamed up as a book, a piece of language mirroring the world and the interconnectedness of the person in the world. If one would like to employ a metaphor for Joyce’s intentionality around Finnegans Wake, it would be like an internet like structure, a network of interconnecting and contrapuntal referencing images and metaphors and myths from the story of Isis, the circularity of being and non being as Finnegan rises up only to fall down, the cycles of light and dark, the cyclogical queries about the meaning of life and death, birth and demise, the seemingly endless queries about the deeper cycles that occur within the body, the cycling of blood through the veins and through the heart, mirrored by the tides, the moon, the sky, the night. One can employ conventional language to describe these things, but Joyce’s words, portmanteau words, the conflating of meanings from several sources and several different languages, allusions to mythology and scientific and technological terminologies, does so much more and so much more efficiently, and with an incredible energy and wit and efficiency. The difficulty is to see that each, some, or many of these words do so much more than point to a singular meaning.


[1]Rev. Ralph William Lyonel Tollemache-Tollemache (1826–1895) –This is a parody on Joyce’s part on the absurd lengths the good reverened went to name each of his fifteen children.

[2]Joyce took the initials from H. C. E. Childers, a Liberal member of the British parliament in the 1 88os, known, in satirical magazines, as ‘Here
Comes Everybody Childers’, mainly because of his considerable girth.