The first revised/ corrected edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, the Ur book for this reviewer, has been released in Ireland by Houyhnhnm Press in an expensive(US $400) edition and even more expensive limited edition, edited by Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon, preceding its release next year ina regular trade edition by Penguin. A launch party was held earlier this week at the American Irish Historical Society in New York,accompanied by liltingly beautiful harp music, a speech by Danis Rose, who worked on the editing for 30 years(he also released a major edited version of Ulysses in 1997), and readings by many others, including Christopher Ricks and Denis Donoghue. It was quite an event and I will let my colleague and member of the NY Finnegan's Wake reading group Judd Staley summarize this exquisite evening:
Rose's talk was fascinating. He spoke for a while about the history of the project, which he and John O'Hanlon have been working on for 30 years. Apparently it all began with the question "Is FW coherent?" A close examination of one of the questions from I.vi (I think he said the Shem question, but that can't be right: that one's only two lines) led him to believe that there were textual problems, and so he embarked on a study of the manuscripts. He described Joyce's writing process as "like a mason building a wall": "not creating, but composing." The Wake is basically other people's words, taken from Joyce's reading and collected in the notebooks, layered together in order to create a beautiful "fairy tale."
He demonstrated the evolution of the text with a look at the first half-sentence, showing how it grew from the first manuscript (which began "brings us to Howth Castle & Environs! Sir Tristam...") through the first fair copy (adding "back"), through 8 (!) type-script revisions to give us the 1939 text. The new edition has a few variations even here: the spelling of "commodius" changes to "commodious," and the final "and" becomes an ampersand. Those are the ones I noticed.
Probably the most exciting thing about this whole project is that all of the synoptic text, reflecting all of Joyce's stages of revision, is in a hypretext format and will hopefully be available online eventually.
He then spoke about the last half-sentence. This was the best part of the talk. First of all, there are two new words in the new edition: "a lost"; so the sentence now reads "A way a lone a lost a last a loved a long the". He also said that the placement on the page is very important, to demonstrate the link back to the first page, as well as the link to "Paris, 1922-1939" (which, of course, combines with the last sentence to give us "A-L-P," the river of the first word). The new sentence now has 13 words, 7 of which are articles; both are significant numbers for Joyce. But the earlier drafts end differently: the original last sentence was "A bit beside the bush and then a walk a long the" (I think that's what he said; maybe somebody else heard it differently?) Rose spoke quite eloquently about the evolution of the tone of ALP's final soliloquy, as it grew darker when Joyce decided to "kill ALP." Rose suggested that the last words are not ALP speaking, but rather a "narrator." ALP's last words (according to Rose) are "The keys to. Given.", mirroring the last words of Christ dying in despair, before redemption. Then the narrator comes in, with the rhythm of ocean waves, laughingly delivering "the letter," which is of course to carry us back to where we started. He cited the "recirculation" of the opening as an allusion to the Roman ceremony of "recirculatio," a rededication of the city to the gods. It was really quite an explication.
Here's a poem/song we wrote called Slavery is back in Style--
Slavery is Back in Style
C 2010 by E Kabak
There is trafficking in humans,
And child labor as well
There are millions upon millions
Who are living in hell
There are workers in debt bondage
From the Danube to the Nile
Knavery’s omnipresent, and slavery’s in style
Slavery is back in style, slavery is de rigeur
From the laborer who’s mixing bricks
To the one who just now slaps manure
From the largest multinationals
To the government of Sudan
Everyone is playing at enslaving fellow man
Slavery is back in style
Our companies did it for a while
Working 14 hour shifts when you’re 14---
Just to make kids’clothes—it’s a little obscene--
And every night we go to bed
some worker’s dying in our stead
Prison labor here at home for victimless crimes
Toiling in the hole to eke out a few dimes
While you drive your SUV
Profit’s driving slavery
Trafficking in sex, she’ll smile:
"Slavery is back in style"
Right here in the USA
Many sweat for puny pay
The CFO’s soft whisper-The fourth quarter hurts-ow!
The CEO says “No sweat, we’ll just fire ten thou”
And though you may be very smart
You work now at the supermart
No benefits-you’re temps on trial
So you better hold your bile
Chain gangs walk in single file
People live in slum shitpiles
Tea Party folks may shout”Sieg Heil”
Slavery is back
Like a sneak attack
Slavery is back in style.