Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

A GUIDE TO FINNEGANS WAKE

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, is an indispensable book for anyone interested in Joyce and should make many new readers for Finnegans Wake.

This last book of James Joyce is a very great poem, one of the top works of literature of our time. It is in some ways, in fact, a more extraordinary production than Ulysses--digging deeper into human psychology, breaking new intellectual ground and exhibiting Joyce's musical genius as perhaps none of his other books does. Yet Finnegans Wake has acquired the reputation of being inordinately difficult to read, and Joyce has even been accused in some quarters of having perpetrated an insolent hoax or excreted an insane mess of gibberish. Even readers who have admired Ulysses have been reluctant to tackle its successor. But the book has now been out five years, and it is time that these doubts and inhibitions were dispelled. The appearance of the Campbell-Robinson key should open a new era in the acceptance and currency of Finnegans Wake. In recommending this guide, however, I want to make a few suggestions of my own which are, it seems to me, needed to supplement this introduction.

In the first place, it is an excellent thing, though perhaps not absolutely required, for the reader to be fairly familiar with the other writings of Joyce. Then, it

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