A SHORTER FINNEGANS WAKE
Though James Joyce is safely lodged in the pantheon of modern literature, he still occasions impudent remarks. Nathalie Sarraute: "He drew out of the obscure depths of the human being only an uninterrupted unrolling of words." Now Finnegans Wake, his wordiest aria, and surely the strangest ever sung in any language, has been compressed into a manageable concert performance by Anthony Burgess, distinguished Joycean scholar and dashing word-man himself. Salvaging what he considers the most essential parts, interlocked with a running synopsis of the deleted passages, Burgess has come up with roughly a third of the original text. (The length is a mere 250 pages.) He produces a sort of Noah's ark, gleanings from that great flood of myth and dreams as filtered through the mind of N. C. Earwicker, our Dublin Everyman, and structured on Viconian cycles (the triadic sequence: religious, heroic, human), or what Joyce calls "the same anew," while Earwicker, his family, (including the famous Anna Livia Plurabelle), and his friends, swirl through a variety of transpositions, consummations, and resurrections, past and present, till the last line of the book returns us to the first, and man's eternal saga comes to its paradoxical "hithernadthithering." never-ending close. No doubt pedants will object to the Burgess "cuts" but since he has tastefully selected the more readable portions, accenting Joyce's robust lyricism and heartiest puns, and kept a good weather-eye open towards shaping the novel's outrageously double-dealing symbology, A Shorter Finnegans Wake may well prove to be a college favorite, and perhaps even seduce a few stalwarts into attacking the real thing.