Plan of Attack
Thus far I’ve read all the other major Joyce works: Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist, and Ulysses. I have picked up his one play, Exiles, and found it so awful I put it down after a few pages. I tried to read Ulysses a few times before getting sage advice from a beloved professor. He said one should start reading Ulysses knowing it will take at least three go rounds. The first time, just keep on reading to the end, knowing that you won't get a lot of it. The second time, look up every reference and study it as closely as possible. The third time, just keep on reading to the end, knowing all the Ulysses arcana you now know. It was great advice, as it gave me permission to just plow through when I didn’t understand something and to enjoy Ulysses as a good read. And it turned out it was a great read! Since then I’ve reread the whole thing a couple of times, and individual chapters many times, assisted by Gifford's Ulysses Annotated, Anthony Burgess’s Re Joyce, Stuart Gilbert’s classic study, and Richard Ellmann’s definitive biography of the guy, among other books.
So the plan is to attack the Wake in a similar way. Unlike Ulysses, it is going to be impossible for me to not look anything up at all the first go round. It’s just too damn difficult at times to figure out what is going on. But I’m going to initially limit myself to Burgess’s Re Joyce which is insightful but brief so I won’t be tempted to get bogged down in scholarship; the time for that will come later. I learned from my first read through Ulysses that the confusion is part of it. It’s a dream after all, and you’re not supposed to understand everything at once. Sometimes instead of thrashing to stay afloat, you have to let yourself be carried along by the rhythms and half-understood words and images. Of course you do that all the time and you’ll drown so we’ll see what the balance is.
OK we're off! Cheers and jeers welcome.