Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Our Annotated Wakes

'Finnegans Wake for Fritz Senn is what we do with it. But it is also what it does with us. We produce a wake by the way we steer, but we also steer by the Wake that we produce.'

Finn Fordham, Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake

One thing that many of us do with our Wakes is write all over them. This copy belongs to Danis Rose, co-editor of the 2014 Corrected TextHouyhnhnm Press put the photo on their website to show that Rose has put a lot of work into the book. Here he's not just annotated references and foreign words but corrected the misprints. You can see that he's made  'camiflag' at 339.13 plural with the addition of a red 's'.

This picture circulated all over social media after a Twitter prankster posted it claiming it was Susan Sontag's copy. Here's a witty comment from Eric Jarosinski's Nein Quarterly (A Compendium of Utopian Negation).

You can tell a lot about someone by the way they annotate their Wakes. Some readers, like Rose, write boldly in ink. Others write in pencil, showing a subservient attitude to the text, or perhaps the sense that their readings might change. Some annotated Wakes are wild and free, with pages covered with a 'riot of blots and blurs and bars and balls and hoops and wriggles and juxtaposed jottings linked by spurts of speed' (118.28). Other annotaters, like Roland McHugh, are neat and well organised:

'I began to annotate my copy of FW. I transferred information to it in very small writing, using a mapping pen. I could actually get two lines of writing between every two FW lines, and I used twelve different colours of ink to specify different languages.'   

Roland McHugh, The Finnegans Wake Experience, p56
McHugh and Rose are both intentionalists - they want to find out what Joyce consciously intended when writing his book. Many of their annotations give the sources of his quotations, as revealed by his notebooks. In The Index Manuscript, Rose defines the Wake as 'an ordered aggregate of elements each of which can be identified with a unit entered in one of the notebooks....Without a knowledge of the referents these structures are ultimately vacuous and induce in the reader mental exhaustion (through the strain of supplying forced referents).'

By 'supplying forced referents', Rose means reading the Wake creatively. Many readers, like Clive Hart, John Bishop and John Gordon, create their own meanings. McHugh quotes a letter from Clive Hart in which he attacks the intentionalist approach: 'For all we know, JJ may have intended FW to be a cookery book. Who cares what he thought? What are the book's intentions?'

Last September, the excellent James Joyce Gazette posted the picture of Rose's book on Twitter as the first in a series of annotated Wakes, using the hashtag . The Gazette invited readers to  'Share pics of your personal copy of FINNEGANS WAKE … annotated!'

The second annotated Wake the Gazette shared belongs to the Spanish artist Dora Garcia.  She's added post-it notes to her Wake. In 2013, Garcia made The Joycean Society, a documentary about the Zurich Wake group, which has been reading the book continuously since 1986. Her Wake shown here was displayed in her 2014 residency Of Crimes and Dreams, in the Montperrin Psychiatric Hospital in Aix-en-Provence.  

These pages come from pages 228-9 in the children's games chapter. The area highlighted in yellow on the right page has Joyce's wonderful alternative comic titles for the central episodes of Ulysses: 'Ukalepe. Loathers’ leave. Had Days. Nemo in Patria. The Luncher Out. Skilly and Carubdish. A Wondering Wreck. From the Mermaids’ Tavern. Bullyfamous. Naughtsycalves. Mother of Misery. Walpurgas Nackt.'

Isn't 'Had Days' a great title for Hades? – Joyce's chapter about the dead of Dublin. Another brilliant one is Bullyfamous - Polyphemus the Cyclops - the Citizen as the famous bully! 

Below is Marshall McLuhan's Wake from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library website. He was a respectful pencil annotator, and there are only a few annotations on the page displayed. But he was also a creative reader. In 1968, in War and Peace in the Global Village, he argued that the book's ten thunderwords each represent one of the  technological stages of human history. His son Eric later developed the theory in a book The Role of Thunder in Finnegans Wake. It's shame the library doesn't show a page with one of those thunderwords. I bet it would be covered with annotations.

The next one comes from the copy annotated by another creative reader, the German experimental writer and translator Arno Schmidt (1914-79). It's from the website of the Zentralbibliothek in Zurich.

A facsimile of Schmidt's annotated copy was published as a book in 1984, with 100 copies given free to public research libraries. I found this one on the Indiana Bloomington website.

Looking up Schmidt, I found an entertaining description of his Wake work, from a paper by Friedhelm Rathjen:

'Schmidt's readings of the Wake have left virtually no traces in Joyce scholarship, and the reasons are quite obvious: being a strongly original writer himself, Schmidt imposed his own eccentric conceptions of the literary work of art on Joyce rather than looking for Joyce's conceptions,and, moreover, Schmidt tried to overcome his “anxiety of influence” by wilfully disparaging Joyce's character, the professional Joyce exegets, and in part also Joyce's works, especially certain aspects of Finnegans Wake. According to Schmidt, the scene of Finnegans Wake is laid in Trieste rather than Dublin, and the whole book deals with nothing  else but the rivalry of James and Stanislaus Joyce over Nora Barnacle.'

Imposing 'eccentric conceptions' on Joyce is a good description of the creative approach. Joyce wanted his readers to do just this. He told Adolf Hoffmeister that his book could 'satisfy more readers than any other book because it gives them the opportunity to use their own ideas in the reading.'

I was delighted to find this next Wake shared by the Joyce Gazette. It belonged to Karl Reisman, another creative reader. Until his death in 2014, Karl was a regular contributor to the online page-a-week Wake reading group, fwreadIts archived postings, painstakingly collected by Karl, can be read on fweet, where there's a page dedicated by Raphael Slepon to his memory.

Karl was an anthropologist, whose main interest was in African, Caribbean and African-American folklore and language.  He argued that the Wake uses 'Creoles and other languages to subvert the fundamental bases of European culture and language dominance.'

In this page from the Anna Livia chapter, Karl found echoes of the Middle Passage and the presence of Jamaican Creole and Haitian Voodun. I love the fact that all of Karl's annotations here have an African theme. He sometimes reminded me of Charles Kinbote in Nabokov's Pale Fire, who relates everything in John Shade's poem to the kingdom of Zembla. But Karl, unlike Kinbote, was well aware of what he was doing. After one particularly ingenious interpretation, he commented, 'I admit this is going pretty far, and I do not really claim Joyce knew this or did it  – but it would fit nicely. And is not impossible.'

You can read Karl's fascinating discussion of this on his website here along with several other articles.
After the Joyce Gazette issued the invitation, readers started to come forward.  The first was Susie Lopez, who's an American artist living in Dalkey.  She's been turning her Wake into a beautiful work of art. Here's a climactic passage in the middle of the S√©ance chapter (Bk 3 III). I love what she's done with the SILENCE on the right page

She's covered her pages with waves, trees, leaves and many other images. Have a look at Susie's astonishing work by following her on Twitter.

Peter O'Brien has been doing something similar with his Wake, which he shared in the Globe and Mail in June 2018. Describing this page from the Anna Livia chapter, he said, 'As I looked at this page, I kept seeing the words “her” and “she,” so I decided to play with them. This section of the book references hundreds of rivers, so I’ve underlined each one, and then painted a small section of the Rio Grande here'.

Here's a wild and dynamic Wake from @Marcello Fanfoni, which he tweeted in 2016 after finishing the opening page. Good luck with the rest of it Marcello!

For a comparison, here's how the Polish visual artist, Jakub Wróblewski, has annotated the same opening page, after printing it on a much bigger piece of paper. With the scholar Katarzyna Bazarnik, he's been turning Joyce's book into a film, 'First We Feel Then We Fall', which you can read about here. The need to visualise the book means that lots of Jakub's annotations are lovely little drawings.

After I shared these annotated Wakes to the Blotty Words Wake reading group, Frances McCormack commented, 'NO! What a destructive, horrible thing to do. I would never do that!'

She then added, 'Just kidding!' and shared her own copy. Here are her annotations to the Museyroom section. I like her question at the top, 'Is there a narrator?'

Frances says, 'I've had my copy 24 years, and I keep writing more and more on it. It's falling apart, and it's been chewed by kittens too!'

So far, there are more than twenty annotated Wakes to look at on twitter. I've only had room for a few here.  One of the Wakes, which belonged to the poet and short story writer, Delmore Schwartz, can be viewed in its entirety thanks to the Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, who have digitised it

This Wake is so fascinating that I have looked at it here in a separate post.

The Beinecke Library also shared pictures on twitter of Thornton Wilder's Wake. Wilder is one of the few writers to have been influenced by Joyce's book. His play, The Skin of Our Teeth, was so similar in theme to the Wake that Campbell and Robinson accused him of plagiarism. Compare his neat orderly annotations with the chaos of Schwarz's.  Read about the Wilder papers at Yale here.

I'll finish with my own Wake. When I started reading it, in 1981, you could only buy the Faber paperback, which has much smaller pages than the hardbacks. I wanted to be able to write between the lines, like my tutor Charles Peake, whose battered heavily annotated copy was a source of envy to me.

I'd been reading it for a couple of years when my sister's boyfriend Michael tracked down a Faber hardback for me So I had to go back and start again. Yes, I've annotated the Wake twice!

The yellowed colour of the paperback on the right is another reason you need to find a hardback copy. Its spine is also broken and the pages are falling out.

I ended up with minute handwriting, and I now need a magnifying glass to read my own notes.

I'd love to see many more annotated Wakes, such as the copies owned by Robert Anton Wilson, Anthony Burgess, Samuel Beckett, Fritz Senn, David Hayman, Clive Hart, William York Tindall, Joseph Campbell, Philip K Dick, Charles Peake, Adaline Glasheen,  J.S.Atherton, Finn Fordham, John Bishop, E.L.Epstein, Matthew Hodgart, Petr Skrabanek, John Gordon, Jack P Dalton, Robbert-Jan Henkes, Luca Crispi, Erik Bindervoet, Vincent Deane and all the rest of you Wakeans out there.

If you've written on your Wake, you can share a picture of it on twitter by posting it to @JJ_Gazette.