You will not be surprised to hear that I still have no real clue about proceedings in Finnegans Wake, but let’s not allow that to hinder us. At last we are introduced to the leading man, (assuming he didn’t pop up earlier and I missed it) although even that isn’t straightforward. He is Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, known more commonly by the nickname Here Comes Everybody or HCE for short. It looks like everyone/thing baring the initials HCE is actually him too, or relates to him in some way. So the main character might actually be lots of people. Even places. You see? Me either, at first – but one becomes strangely accustomed. Anyway. I think he might be a pirate and there is a King – I think the Sailor King, whatever that is – involved. The King seems fairly friendly with HCE.
There is some discussion of what are either plays or songs that are most charmingly named : Accept These Few Nutties!, Take Of That White Hat!, Stop His Grog, Put It In The Log and Loots In His (bassvoco) Boots among others.
A little while later there is a paragraph that begins by suggesting that some people have just been described but it is tricky to work out who these are. I will stick my neck out and say one them is Napoleon the Nth.
There has definitely been something occurring in the park – we are made aware of the park by the arrival of ‘annoying Welsh fusiliers in the people’s park’, but they are the least of our worries, however annoying they might be. Someone has been up to no good with two young ladies:
“…of having behaved with ongentilmensky immodus opposite a pair of dainty maidservants in the swoolth of the rushy hollow whiter, …”
It is difficult to tell if the perpetrator is HCE or possibly someone Welsh, but I am leaning towards the former.
After some brief talk of sponges, we seem to be back on the pubs and gambling theme, most probably horse racing. There is a super description of a fellow named Frisky Shorty, who I am fairly sure is a bookie:
Frisky Shorty, (he was, to be exquisitely punctilious about them, both shorty and frisky) a tipster, come off the hulks, both of them awful poor, was out on the bumaround for an oofbird game for a jimmy o’goblin…
It certainly paints a picture. I have also identified another chap who goes by the charming name of Treacle Tom – I can tell you that he sleeps nude in lodging houses but not much else.
We are then either back on the pub crawl or getting inebriated in general before Joyce – clearly a man after my own heart – ends this chapter on a song, unexpectedly called ‘The Ballard Of Pearse O’Reilly’. I do not know who Pearse O’Reilly might be and the song only makes things more confusing. It kicks off as some sort of tribute to Humpty Dumpty, drifts into a verse about horns and butter (no, really) and then seems to almost turn into a different song about someone called Hosty. Hosty has problems with bailiffs and the Duke of Wellington pops up again towards the end.
I definitely think the key to reading this book is not to focus too much on trying to understand it, rather just let yourself go with the flow. The vast majority of the text I simply don’t comprehend at all. But there are definite rhythms to the work that go some way to invoking something akin to understanding, but not in a way that is easily explained. It’s bloody weird, is what it is.
I am still struggling to keep track of characters, but Here Comes Everybody is helpfully announced by way of his initials, albeit in sometimes abstract forms. He has definitely been up to mischief in the park with either one or two young ladies, but it is difficult to ascertain exactly what. I wonder if this represents the way gossip is spread around a town; several varying accounts making it impossible to really know the truth.
One thing I have certainly managed to ascertain is that drinking features heavily throughout, at least thus far.
Also, my spellchecker hates me right now, I am sure.
Fikup, for flesh nelly, el mundo nov, zole flen! If she’s a lilyth, pull early! Pauline, allow!
Great, isn’t it? I mean – anything could be going on here. I hope Pauline allows it, whatever it is.
(Just realised that this is my 300th post! Hurrah!)