15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Book like None Other,
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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.