On Finishing Finnegans Wake

Gabrielle Carey in the Sydney Review of Books:

James Joyce once famously said that if it took him seventeen years to write Finnegans Wake, then a reader should take seventeen years to read it. In his usual prophetic way, he turned out to be exactly right. My Finnegans Wake Reading Group started in July 2004. We finished in February 2021.

‘We’ll be dead before we get to the end!’ we often joked. In a sense we never really expected to arrive at the famous last words: A way a lone a last a loved a long the

And then it happened: page 628 was within reach.

James Joyce received the first copy of Finnegans Wake in his hands on 30 January, 1939, just in time for his 57th birthday on 2 February. So I scheduled our final reading for 2 February, 2021. But then I postponed it. And postponed it again. And then a third time. I had never done that before. For seventeen years I had been religious about sticking to the set day and time – the last Sunday of every month – no matter what. But now I realised there was part of me that didn’t want to read that final page. Because what would I do next? Finishing Finnegans Wake felt like the end of a long, literary marriage and I instinctively understood what that meant: a bad case of post break-up blues. Or was it because I’d been convinced that the Wake was a world without end when in fact, as Joyce writes, it was whorled without aimed.

More here.