In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Geo in Brentwood reports:
Houyhnhnm Press, in conjunction with Penguin, is publishing a new version of James Joyce‘s Finnegans Wake, amended with “9,000 minor corrections and alterations…to punctuation marks, fonts, spacing, misspellings, misplaced phrases, and ruptured syntax.” I find this more confusing than Joyce’s novel.
When I first heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. Perhaps it was a joke? After checking my sources and finding out that this was indeed happening, I wondered why no one else was outraged. Where have all the Joyceans gone (besides the two who spent 30 years on this new edition)? How would Joyce feel about this? During his life, he’d bombard brave-yet-naive translators with instructions on what absolutely must not change.
But Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon have, in a way, considered the source. Every change in the new edition came from “30,000 pages of manuscripts, notes, drafts, typescripts, and proofs used by Joyce.” Though I personally wish the text to remain as it is, I doubt whatever changes Rose and O’Hanlon make will take away from the novel’s overall aura.
Perhaps I’m getting all worked up over nothing. Maybe there’s not much difference between amending Finnegans Wake and abridging The Canterbury Tales or anything by Shakespeare. Perhaps it will encourage more readers to tackle Joyce’s novel. I spent a mind-bending period of time leaning over the novel, Joseph Campbell‘s A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by my side. I could’ve done something else during that time, like go to the gym or learn to drive stick-shift, but I chose to do this instead. Not everyone would make the same choice. After all, stick-shift cars are more affordable.
Read the Wakesian version of this post over at The Urchin Movement!