Sunday, April 14, 2013
my neighbour’s fire
There are children's rhymes represented in Finnegans Wake too, and songs, and other unliterary language, so that the reader's attention is out of the book as well as inside, the brain detects the type of language being used, it is swollen with the scenery around that language (a tender raised spot with material underneath, like a pimple), it re-senses the idea of a playground as it has understood the word before, perhaps it is haunted briefly by the absence of an actual playground (it was not aware before, now it is aware that it is not in a playground), or it feels a sea shanty and senses an atmosphere of sailors who are not there, it experiences the ability of the book to utilise a word it has seen before (but now it is in a new setting), it sees "wisden" "grace" "bails" close together in one paragraph about sex and it intuits an atmosphere around the word "cricket," even though the writing does not announce in so many strict and informative words, "Now I am going to talk about the sport known as cricket, which you are not watching because you are reading my book but which once upon a time you watched or experienced; however I have taken it into myself now as a part of my own essence" (the book would turn everything into a dream of the past if it had that power; that is the power it is trying to exert, a power that would expel the rest of the universe) or, another scenario, the mind does not recognise the rhyme, it does not recognise the shanty, it does not know bails or Wisden, and then the pimple that the writer must have imagined himself producing in the reader's mind does not appear, the brain is calm and mild, it goes on as if nothing has been said, there is no wound or mark, nothing will burst.
And any book can make a reference to the outside world, saying, "cat," and suggesting in this abbreviated way that you might summon up some sort of rough mental silhouette of living cats-slash-cat-associations, or "house" and reminding you of houses, but in this instance it is different, it is the reference within language to another form of itself, it is as though you saw a gum tree refer to an apple tree by growing an apple; the Wake grows an apple, it grows a pear, it grows the frond of a fern, and so, I ask myself, Joyce the straddling ringmaster, how does he maintain his own presence in that orchestra?
He glues puns, portmanteaus and riddles in and between all the styles he picks, this is his style, the in-packed-style, tucking a word that belongs to one style into the language of another style, and that tucking and portmanteauing and in-bridging is his continuity, in other words knots with different-textured strings or cords; if this action of knotting and craftwork went away then I would be in a different book, but as long as I feel as if I'm doing a crossword puzzle I can keep my composure, I have not suddenly begun reading another book, I am still looking at Finnegans Wake.
The author is this knitting action, that is how he has chosen to be, and in other books chose differently but here in Finnegans Wake he is a knit, and it occurs to me that he does not celebrate or frame the other styles so much as eat them. (You may light a candle at your neighbour's fire, says Jonathan Swift in his Letter of Advice to a Young Poet (1721), but the candle is still your own; though it is not always easy, as Geoffrey Hill once pointed out, to know when Swift is serious.)
So every style supports his style and is linked to every other style by his style.