Falling off a ladder: a theological blog 8 – x – 19

Falling off a ladder: a theological blog 8 – x – 19

I’ve been trying to read a book called Finnegans Wake it’s complete nonsense I don’t why the feller even wrote it and I’d just about struggled through the first twenty lines when I came across this word that’s a hundred letters long I mean how can there be a word even in irish English  that’s a hundred letters long bababadlaghar oh feck I’m getting lost I can’t even pronounce it anyway the crib I’ve got tells me it’s about a feller falling off a ladder I mean if you fell off  a ladder you wouldn’t utter a word that’s a hundred letters long you’d just say oh feck I’ve fallen off a ladder  the crib says it’s about the fall of mankind as well but you’d have thought that Adam leaving the Garden of Eden would more likely have said oh feck than a word  a hundred letters long  turns out this feller also wrote another book that’s not about very much either so that’s two of them doublin’ as we say in Ireland this other book’s about a feller called Bloom though why the blooming heck he’s called Bloom I don’t know he’s really called Verlag anyway this feller Bloom just spends the day wandering round Dublin well we could all do that and this feller just wanders round in rings going from here to there and there to here and talking about hearing and ear-rings the crib also tells me that the French for ear-rings is perce l”oreilles but this feller refers to them as Percy O’Reillys I mean what’s the point of that you wouldn’t say to your wife over breakfast or brexit as they call it in the other island those are very nice percy o’reillys you’ve got hanging from your lugs today dear would you anyway the feller Bloom eventually makes it home to his wife in the small hours she’s called Molly and she goes on about this and that for twenty pages without even drawing breath so you can see why he wanted to wander round Dublin all day but he doesn’t say I love you or even had a nice day dear as any normal feller would but I’ll have two eggs for breakfast mind you he’s spent the evening committing Deuteronomy with a prostitute  called Bella Cohen and she was a caution to rattlesnakes I can tell you she must have given him drugs because everything that had happened to him during the day returns to him in nightmare and fantastic fashion for example a chemist he’d met in Westland Row came back to him as a bar of soap I mean that’s stretching a willing suspension of disbelief beyond the bounds of credibility don’t you think not that he told Molly he’d been with Bella Cohen of course so maybe he was just tired out and when he’d said he wanted two eggs for breakfast he fell asleep and talking about falling and a willing or rather unwilling suspension of disbelief puts you in mind of the feller and I mean he really was a feller who was suspended and fell off the ladder but I mean you wouldn’t utter a word a hundred letters long you’d just say oh feck I’ve fallen off a ladder,  would you not?

Joseph Campbell, the great student of mythology, thinks that Joyce’s books were all part of a single series that Joyce based on Dante’s writing.  He thinks The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was Joyce’s Vita Nuova, Ulysses was his Inferno, Finnegans Wake the equivalent of the Purgatorio, and there was going to be a Paradiso that Joyce never lived to write.  This idea really illuminated Ulysses for me and made sense of so much.  Hell is being trapped in the material which is true of so many of the characters in it, especially Molly.  Even good people, wandering aimlessly round and round, are so trapped, but because Leopold is a good man towards the end of the book he is beginning to find his way out of it.  I can’t really make head or tail of Finnegans Wake like most other people, but I can’t believe that such a great writer was only interested in puns and word play.  I can at least cope with the first paragraph, the one about falling off the ladder, and I find in spite of the complexity I love it.  What great treasures might await me in the rest of the book, if only I had the patience.  Perhaps that is what purgatory is, being patient, finding your way out of the tangled maze that, in the fallen condition in which you were born, the hell you found yourself in.  Has anybody got any useful thoughts about Finnegans Wake?  If only Joyce had lived to write that Paradiso!  How he would have given us the feel, the presence, even, thinking of Stephen walking over the pebbles on the beach at Malahide, almost the crunchiness of it. Joyce is the great artist of our quest for happiness – except for his model Dante. How do you describe total happiness?  If anybody could have done it Joyce could, but maybe even he couldn’t – and in the end nor could Dante- which is why he never wrote it.  But he certainly awakens you to the realization that you want it.















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