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Hart, Clive / Structure and motif in Finnegans wake

Chapter one: some aspects of Finnegans Wake,   pp. 23-43 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 23

I: NEW IRISH STEW (190.09) 
our fascinating best-sellers brilliantly edited and condensed for your greater
enjoyment, and all bound together in one luxurious volume.' So runs a recent
advertisement for a collection of ' condensed books', but it also does very
well as a description of Finnegans Wake, unless four be too low a figure.
Even the word ' best-sellers' is not so wide of the mark as it would have
been a few years ago. The novel of which Mr. J. I. M. Stewart has written:
' it is in the main a closed book even to most persons of substantial literary
cultivation" has recently been issued in a low-priced paperbound edition
of 20,000 copies, and I am told that a further printing is already projected.
It may be that the number and variety of the ' condensed books' contained
in Finnegans Wake accounts for the growing popularity of what must by any
estimate be accounted an extremely difficult work to penetrate, for once
a break-through has been achieved, the reader can find in it, according to
taste, a history of Ireland, a survey of English literature, a universal
mythology, a naturalistic novel, an autobiography of James Augustine Joyce,
a summary cosmology. Whether this impress as intriguing, pretentious, annoying,
repellent, beautiful, dull or brilliant, all must agree that Finnegans Wake
is a quite extraordinarily rich production. Joyce claimed to have discovered
that he could do anything with language,2 but even more impressive than his
1 J~ I. M. Stewart, James Joyce, London, 1957, p. 37. 
2 Givens, p. 13. 

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