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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun at Finnegans Wake - and some advice/warnings to the curious
To start: I love this book. I love its music, its humour, and its pathos. I love its poetry, puns and sheer beauty.

However, you may not.

I would imagine that if you pick up Finnegans Wake, read a few pages, and begin to think "this is really annoying, what does it all mean?" then it's simply not the right book for you. If, by contrast, you read a...
Published on 30 Jan 2011 by Harry O'Carpus

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete Book
This book is famously hard to read but it is well worth the effort. Reading it aloud or listening to a recording helps beacause there is so much poetry in the text but do read the complete book. The kindle copy of this book I received has passages missing from the end of book III chapter 3 and Book III chapter 4. There are a considerable number of pages missing although...
Published 21 months ago by Andrew


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete Book, 8 July 2012
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This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Kindle Edition)
This book is famously hard to read but it is well worth the effort. Reading it aloud or listening to a recording helps beacause there is so much poetry in the text but do read the complete book. The kindle copy of this book I received has passages missing from the end of book III chapter 3 and Book III chapter 4. There are a considerable number of pages missing although the book is not advertised as abridged. I notice that other reviewers refer to the footnotes. My version did not have any so maybe I have a different version although my account on the Amazon site identifies this as the copy I bought. If I had known this I would have paid more to get a complete copy.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun at Finnegans Wake - and some advice/warnings to the curious, 30 Jan 2011
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
To start: I love this book. I love its music, its humour, and its pathos. I love its poetry, puns and sheer beauty.

However, you may not.

I would imagine that if you pick up Finnegans Wake, read a few pages, and begin to think "this is really annoying, what does it all mean?" then it's simply not the right book for you. If, by contrast, you read a short section and find yourself thinking "wow, this is amazing, but what on earth does it all mean?" you're in with a chance of enjoying it. If you're interested in reading Finnegans Wake, and are not sure whether you'll get on with it, I'd heartily recommend either borrowing it from a library or skim-reading a few pages in a book shop. Now that it's in Kindle format you can even download a sample to try it out - although watch out for the occasional typo in the electronic version! It does seem to be a book that makes readers who are unsuited to it very angry - so, save yourself wasting money and try it before you buy it.

Another word of advice, if you've read earlier Joyce but not Ulysses or FW, try Ulysses before the Wake. If you don't get on with Ulysses, you're unlikely to enjoy FW.

I first read the thing from cover to cover without recourse to any other materials like the A Skeleton Key to "Finnegans Wake" or Roland McHugh's amazing Annotations to Finnegans Wake, and it took me much longer than any normal book. I'll be honest and say I had absolutely no idea what was going on in places. But gradually the sense does filter through. It's a dream, not an instant thrill-a-minute page-turner, and if you're worried about the absence of linear plot, you'd be better off looking elsewhere.

If you know at least one other European language, that will help, as will - perhaps most importantly - patience, memory, and an enjoyment of puzzles and puns. One of the great pleasures of the Wake is the way that phrases lodge themselves in your brain as you work them over and decipher all the possible meanings - illumination can come at the strangest and most unexpected times. My opinion is that arguments regarding the book not standing up because the reader requires other materials to work it out are nonsensical - it's simply that you or I are mere mortals and not as erudite as Joyce so it takes more effort to assimilate all the different layers of meaning.

Good bits to start with are the scene with the Washerwomen ("O, tell me all about Anna Livia!"), and Anna Livia's final monologue. I'd also suggest investing in the abridged audio version read by Jim Norton (who played Bishop Brennan in Father Ted) - it's wonderful, and hearing it read aloud makes sense of many things that seem obscure on the page: Finnegans Wake

To return to a more personal note, I think it's a wonderful book which, for me, has made most other books seem a lot less exciting. It isn't an exaggeration to say that for me, reading it was life-changing, and I suspect I'll be reading it, chuckling at it, and occasionally getting infuriated with it for the rest of my life. I hope you will, too.
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79 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Books, 14 Mar 2006
By A Customer
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This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
People who don't like Finnegans Wake often feel obscurely resentful, and can't believe that anyone else genuinely does like it. I firmly believe that you can't persuade anyone to like anything, so I'm not going to argue with anyone who thinks that I'm fooling myself, or trying to show off. Saying you like Finnegans Wake is in any case a bit like saying you like Arnold Schoenberg's music; most people won't know what you're talking about, and most of the rest won't believe you and think you're pretentious anyway, so the moral is, there's very little kudos in saying that you _do_ like the damn book.
It's just the ultimate novel. All novels, even the simplest, have various layers of allusion or symbolism going on; this one just has more. All novels are written with some kind of self-conscious style; this is the most stylish. All novels are structured one way or the other; this is uber-structured. I've often thought that Finnegans Wake is in many ways a precursor of HTML. Some genius should do an online version of it. Practically every word would be a hyperlink, leading to a page or so of annotation (Roland McHugh's book 'Annotations to Finnegans Wake' is the most ambitious print venture of that sort, but with the novel itself you get the most alarming sense that the layers go on forever...)
Every novel is difficult if you've never read novels before. If you've only read trash, then even a middling good novel is tough going; the writer demands more of the reader. James Joyce merely wants you to spend the rest of your life reading this book. Personally I think that's one of his better jokes. To go back to Schoenberg again (yeah, I know it's not exactly enticing to compare Joyce to Schoenberg, but bear with me), the essential thing is that there's just more going on here; Schoenberg has a million tunes going on at once, Joyce has a million linguistic things going on at once. I don't call that "having a shoddy grip on his talent", I call that generosity.
After trying to work out why people resent this book so much, I've come to believe that some people hate to think that there's anyone out there who's effortlessly smarter than they are. I, for one, am happy to accept that Joyce can just write anyone else off the planet.
Personally, I believe that the book becomes a lot more realistic if you read it with an Irish accent in your head. But try it and see. Nobody will seriously believe that you're reading it, so what have you got to lose?
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94 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're big enough try this one, 8 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Finnegans Wake is the most daring novel ever written. Despite this, it seems to be its fate not to be appreciated for what it is. Its original publisher Faber has let it go out of print. Its very name is mostly given wrongly ... Adolescents who have struggled with Ulysses feel that it is their right to abuse it.
So what is it, after all?
The funniest novel ever written. The best book about adultery. The best book about sibling rivalry. The only book which reruns a country's history from the point of view of a provincial pub landlord. The best written book ever. Better than Ulysses.
Right, I'm obviously not going to precis the plot or anything. Why should you read it?
The first thing to say is that you can read Vico, Bruno the Nolan and the Four Masters if you want, but why bother? It's not an intellectual book. Joyce was clever enough, but he wasn't an intellectual. So this is not a book for intellectuals. Hardly surprising, Joyce was much more interested in the smell of dirty knickers than in philosophy.
Read it aloud in a cod Oirish accent if you want to feel the prose. Get the casettes to help you out, I have.
Read the prose from "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recurculation back to Howth Castle and Environs." to "Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the"
Yes it does make more sense if you reverse them. This is something you learn.
What about the first words of the most accessible section, about the Liffey. (This is a gross simplification of the theme.)
"O tell me all about Anna Livia! I want to hear all about Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia? Yes, of course, we all know Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now" And thus the washerwomen set off, we can only follow.
If you read the work you will gain information in a thousand areas. Here are some at random
How to talk dirty in geometry classes. The irritating qualities of unpruned trees. Aspects of chicken rearing. What the thunder said. (Quite a lot, actually) What a quark really is. The role of Norsemen in Ireland. And many, many more.
I repeat this is not an intellectual book, you don't need to be a scholar to read it.
I first read it when I had just turned 16. I had romped through Ulysses without a note and without a qualm. I found the Wake a bit tougher and had to give up around page 300. However, I trusted Joyce, every time he wrote a book it was better than the last. So I started again. I used the Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by Campbell and Robinson; now a VERY rare work. Today I would use A SHORTER FINNEGANS WAKE, Edited by Anthony Burgess. Spend thirty or forty hours getting your bearings and the book is yours for life.
Read it regularly if you want. If you don't want todo this, park it by your desk and open it at random whenever you fancy, read a page aloud, laugh a lot.
So, why make the effort? Well if you like well made plots, neat outcomes, clean lines on a well-polished body, don't bother. If you like puns, obscure jokes, fake scholarship and a swamp you will never plumb, give it a go.
What about the words stuffed with meanings? Well, mainly they are just the shortest way to tell a good joke!
Give it a go, save it from the maniac academics.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clarity and labels need not apply, 22 Mar 2002
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Observe the maxim "People fear what they don't understand". This is not to say that anyone has an especially clear idea of the Wake's meaning. But the expectations of the reader will inevitably let them down, and they will become angry and frustrated.
If you study this book with an open mind (I don't pretend that it can be "read" straight through, or without the benefit of analytical texts), you will find yourself learning more than you could have hoped about philosophy, history, Ireland, writing, epistemology, art, and humanity than you ever could have supposed. Each sentence will stimulate the curious mind to greater knowledge.
Joyce would be amused at the tirades presented here. Even academics and writers cannot agree on whether this is trash or treasure. With such controversy around a topic, how could it not have some inherent worth? People love to label things. Finnegans Wake cannot be labelled.
The bottom line is, you will get out of this book what you put into it. A glance at Campbell's Skeleton Key will prove that at least he gained a great deal of meaning from it. To get Joseph Campbell running that fast, this work must be worth something.
If you decide to "read" it, don't expect to put the puzzle together. Read a bit each day (like a page). Consult Campbell, Tindall, McHugh, Bishop. Read about Ireland. You will hopefully be inspired. If not, the book is not for you. Don't scorn it for that reason.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funnier than any book I have ever read, 12 May 2011
I think the time has come for Finnegans Wake fans to stop having to constantly justify their passion for this book and share our favourite aspects of this inimitable work.

What often gets missed among all the discussions about the book is just how funny it is. There are few books that have had me crying with laughter - this is certainly one of them.

Joyce's inventive use of language allows him to create a world like no other - few more enjoyable reads can ever be had.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the Wake, 17 Jan 2010
By 
William D. Freeman "wdavidfreeman" (Southern California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Audio CD)
This is an abridged reading (about 1/4 of the orginal) of a very long book that is probably the most notoriously difficult thing to read in literature. This may be the best way to taste the waters.

It is often said that you must hear the text in the spoken "oirish" to appreciate the music of the words. Well here you have two Irish actors very experienced in dramatic readings of Joyce.

The set includes a 110 page booklet with the text of what is read out. Thus you can follow and listen simultaneously, and this may prove your key to understanding just what the book is really all about. If you are at all curious you should give it a try.

A note of clarification: This set released in 2009 is marked as the "70th Anniversary Edition", the book having first been published in 1939, but this set is in fact a re-release of a recording made by Naxos in the 1990s and re-released once before in 2003.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book like None Other, 15 Sep 2010
By 
Harry the book monkey (Citizen of the world) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is not an easy book to read. apart from all the issues of the language of the book (words from 65 languages are used) and grammar (what there is of it), the fact that its hard to determine how many character there are (Joyce himself maintains there aren't any) there is the problem that a number of the cultural references Joyce make use of are becoming increasing remote for modern readers. To a certain extent those who read it when it was first published had a certain advantage over modern readers despite all the academic studies on Finnegans Wake.

Personally I think the best approach is to read a few books about Finnegans Wake to try and find a way in. I would also suggest reading Finnegans Wake along with a book like William York Tindall's A Readers Guide to Finnegans Wake or Roland McHugh's Annotations to Finnegans Wake. I read Finnegans Wake with the Readers Guide, as Tindall's book is helpfully broken down into chapters that mirror the chapters of Finnegans Wake; so I was able to read a chapter of Finnegans Wake and then look at the corresponding chapter of the Readers Guide. If I want to re-read it I will probably by the Annotations and use that for my companion text.

Other than that I would suggest not getting fixated on having to understand everything you read. As I understand the book it would fail in its aims if you did. So if you don't understand something don't panic, let it wash over you and enjoy the book as best you can.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chapelizod Dreaming, 1 Dec 2003
By 
E. Bradfield (Walton-on-Thames, Surrey England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Paperback)
I’ve always wanted to review Finnegans Wake as it’s been a friend for over 30 years. Not that I’ve ever read it from cover to cover (who has?). But it is a constant joy- ideal for a page or so at bedtime. All you idle loafers who dally with Proust on languid summer days should throw him away and start with Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker dreaming in his Chapelizod Co.Dublin pub instead. Ennui will never be the same.
The first time you pick FW up is like trying to read a book in a language you don’t understand but are sure some of the words look vaguely familiar. After a good deal of frustration plus a bit of knowledge about the structure it starts to click, especially how funny it all is. Help is on hand from the likes of William York Tindall’s Reader’s Guide and there’s loads of great Finnegan and Joyce stuff on the internet. Give it a go – after all if the Japanese can translate FW into their language (yes,true) you can try to do it into English. And another benefit – neither Ulysses nor Mr Pound’s Cantos will ever look difficult again.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It makes no sense so it must be good, 16 May 2012
This review is from: Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I was already aware of what to expect when I first read this great collection of random words having read Ulysses recently and already knowing James Joyce is mental. I was not disappointed. Most of the words that I could read seemed to bear no relation to the words that came before and after them and then there were the words that were not even words at all. There is no plot to speak of and I can honestly say I understood none of what I read but I am never one to go against the massively superior class of people who tell us this is great literature so five stars it is.
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Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics)
Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) by James Joyce (Paperback - 29 Jun 2000)
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