3 episodes

This is a five-part series about the most mystifying book ever written: James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. With a range of guests—including a novelist, an actor, a sleep specialist, a philosopher, and several Joyce scholars—Finnegan and Friends follows tangents inspired by Joyce’s novel of dreamy strangeness. We discover, along the way, that the Wake’s infinite complexity comes from attention to our most simple, elemental experiences (of dreams, of water, of local and familiar language). This show celebrates the wonders of the basic stuff of life.

Finnegan and Friend‪s‬ Adam Colman

    • Books
    • 5.0 • 7 Ratings

This is a five-part series about the most mystifying book ever written: James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. With a range of guests—including a novelist, an actor, a sleep specialist, a philosopher, and several Joyce scholars—Finnegan and Friends follows tangents inspired by Joyce’s novel of dreamy strangeness. We discover, along the way, that the Wake’s infinite complexity comes from attention to our most simple, elemental experiences (of dreams, of water, of local and familiar language). This show celebrates the wonders of the basic stuff of life.

    2. Dreams

    2. Dreams

    Finnegans Wake—a book of rebirth and reawakening—finds its engine for rejuvenation in dreaminess. This matches what neuroscientists tell us: sleeping and dreaming are regenerative, intellectually and physiologically. Dr. Jade Wu, a sleep specialist at Duke University, tells us in this episode, “Sleeping is actually a very very active state of the brain, and there’s a lot of life-affirming things happening. For example, the growth hormones are being released . . . your brain is literally refreshing itself when you sleep. So in a way you’re not so much dying as getting maybe a little younger in a way, or getting a little healthier.” She says that “sleeping is almost like a tiny bit of reversal of death.” In other words, sleep gives us something close to the plot of Finnegans Wake.

    We can’t say for certain that Joyce’s whole book is set within a dreamer’s mind, but James Joyce himself maintained it was his book of dreams and “nocturnal life.” And John Bishop’s classic study, Joyce’s Book of the Dark, charts the dream logic of the novel, and it makes a lot of sense. Still, whether or not the whole book is a dream, it’s often dream-like: illogical, obsessive, anxious. Joshua Cohen in this episode relates the dreaminess to the drunkenness of a wake, the drunkenness at the pub run by main-character HCE. Almost halfway through the book, we find HCE in his pub, drinking whatever’s left over in empty bottles. And at that moment, Cohen observes, one might consider the Wake “a kind of drunken dream-book.” Here’s the scene:

    "he finalised by lowering his woolly throat with the wonderful midnight thirst was on him, as keen as mustard, he could not tell what he did ale, that bothered he was from head to tail, and, wishawishawish, leave it, what the Irish, boys, can do, if he did’nt go, sliggymaglooral reemyround and suck up, sure enough, like a Trojan, in some particular cases with the assistance of his venerated tongue, whatever surplus rotgut, sorra much, was left by the lazy lousers of maltknights and beerchurls in the different bottoms of the various different replenquished drinking utensils left there behind them on the premisses by that whole hogsheaded firkin family, the departed honourable homegoers and other sly-grogging suburbanites"

    Is the groggy slygrogging mood one of drunkenness or of sleep? Or is it both at once, a mood of dreaming and wakefulness? (The “multiple things at once” approach will often carry you through Finnegans Wake; never rule it out.)

    Consider “replenquished” in the passage above, too. It’s an unreal word, describing the empty bottles. It must mean the fullness of replenishment (there’s still something in those bottles for HCE to drink) but it also tells us of a vanquished (emptied, defeated, “quished”) state. A fallen thing, an empty bottle, becomes a source for replenquishment, for bizarre fullness. Joyce’s word has the dreary desperation of our waking days (wherein we find emptiness and defeat and vanquishing and deserted pubs) along with the hope of our dreams (wherein we find compensatory fullness in that emptiness).

    Emptiness/fullness, or falling/rising: these opposites merge throughout Joyce’s book. Joshua Cohen says in this episode that the Wake, a book about an old man, is also “a book of second youth, maybe.” An old man falling asleep or drunkenly stumbling about drifts into the youthful play of dreams, or at least dreamy language, from which come novelty and rebirth. “Maybe that’s what night is,” Cohen says, “second youth.”
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    • 34 min
    1. Introduction

    1. Introduction

    James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake doesn’t work like other novels. It has lines like: “What clashes here of wills gen wonts, oystrygods gaggin fishy-gods!” In some ways, this makes the book almost impossible to read. H.G. Wells told Joyce, “You have turned your back on common men — on their elementary needs … What is the result? Vast riddles.” The Wake doesn’t have to be difficult, though; you don’t have to read it as a collection of unsolvable riddles. In Finnegan and Friends, we don’t regard the Wake as something to decode completely. Instead, we find in the book a well of inspiration for endless exploration.

    When you accept that you can’t perfectly decipher this thing, you set yourself free to notice rather than solve, and you’ll start to notice a lot. You’ll notice, for one thing, that Finnegans Wake deals with basic, shared, elemental experiences—of dreams, of water, of private chitchat. And it does all this in its own dreamy, fluid language. As Samuel Beckett wrote, of Joyce and the Wake: “His writing is not about something. It is that something itself.”

    Finnegans Wake also consoles. It’s the book of death giving way to life, of a fall that generates rebirth. The story, as much as it has one, draws connections between figures associated with a fall: the central, disgraced character HCE; Humpty Dumpty; and Finnegan (from the Irish song “Finnegan’s Wake,” about a guy who falls, is presumed dead, then turns out to be fine). There’s nothing total about such falling in this book, no complete catastrophe. The fall leads us into something much weirder. Here’s a sample from the Wake itself:

    The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.

    In collapse and decline we find hints of rebirth to some ancient glory—the return of the ancient Irish heroism of Finn MacCool. (“Hohohoho, Mister Finn, you're going to be Mister Finnagain!”) So we’re reading a book of sadness that leads to joy, of hazy connections that exist beyond gloom, beyond logic, and sometimes just at the level of sound (between Finnegan and Finn, again), all of which intimates the promise of life that never never makes perfect sense.

    Notice, too, that the title of the Wake lacks an apostrophe. You can read the title as an encouraging command, urging all Finnegans, all of us fallen and struggling people, to wake up into free-floating consciousness within our routine, elemental experiences. Episodes of Finnegan and Friends will trace this waking through one elemental experience at a time—of water, of dreams, of language—and each will be accompanied by notes like this one, on Joyce’s novel and on a related, Joycean life adventure.
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    • 31 min
    Finnegan and Friends Trailer

    Finnegan and Friends Trailer

    Prepare for our five-part series about the most mystifying book ever written: James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. With a range of guests—including a novelist, an actor, a sleep specialist, a philosopher, and several Joyce scholars—Finnegan and Friends follows tangents inspired by Joyce’s novel of dreamy strangeness. We discover, along the way, that the Wake’s infinite complexity comes from attention to our most simple, elemental experiences (of dreams, of water, of local and familiar language). This show celebrates the wonders of the basic stuff of life.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 2 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
7 Ratings

7 Ratings

Cisco Bananas ,

Is a podcast about Finnegan’s Wake listenable?

A joyous yes! As a reader, I’ve always stood timorously before the literary Everest that is Finnegan’s Wake. Unsure whether my past reading experiences had sufficiently prepared me, I could neither begin the ascent nor put aside the desire to make the climb. After listening to the first episode of F&F, I finally feel up to the challenge. My newly found confidence stems from the fact that the deeply-skilled host Adam Colman will be the one leading the Everest expedition. Onwards, ever onwards!

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