Thursday, 24 April 2014

Finnegans Wake, Illustrated!

The postman recently brought me an object of great beauty - a review copy of the new Folio Society edition of Finnegans Wake, illustrated by John Vernon Lord. I was delighted to get hold of this, not least because it costs £99!

The book weighs 5lbs and stands a foot tall in its black slipcase. It's black because Finnegans Wake is a night book. There's a bolt of lightning shooting down from the top left corner, standing for the 100 letter thunderclaps that blast their way through the book. In his introduction, Lord says that he was also thinking of Anna Livia Plurabelle, the personification of the river Liffey:



'As 'lightning' the image appears to go diagonally downwards towards the earth, representing the Fall. Alternatively, seen as a river, the tributaries go upwards and join together as a kind of resurrection.'

That quotation shows just what a lot of thought that Lord has put into his illustrations, and what a great interpreter of the Wake he is too. He's thinking like Joyce here




Sliding the book out of its case reveals a night scene, with a full moon and clouds above an endless ocean - where the Liffey pours its water at the end of Finnegans Wake. Hovering above are Joyce's sigla - the symbols he used to indicate the characters. On the back there is also the constellation of the Great Bear, whose pattern is echoed in the arrangement of the sigla. 

In his introduction, Lord talks about the many uses of the stars and clouds in the book:

'We have 'Nuctumbulumbumus', which suggests cumulonimbus thunderclouds and, at the same time (through the Latin ambulabamus), the notion of us ambling in the night.'





Here's the very first illustration - a general treatment of the nature of writing and Finnegans Wake as a 'nightmaze' and a 'jungle of woods.'   Humpty Dumpty appears here and in several other illustrations.

The narrow strip at the bottom is a 'predella', something you find at the bottom of medieval altarpieces, like this one by Carlo Crivelli. Lord uses these predellas as a link between the illustrations.






Lord has picked eleven pivotal moments in the book to illustrate. The first one is the great Fall from the book's opening page. It's the fall of the hod carrier, Tim Finnegan, from his ladder in the comic ballad.


'One morning Tim was rather full.
His head felt heavy, which made him shake.
He fell from a ladder and he broke his skull
And they carried him home, his corpse to wake'


It's also the fall of the giant Finn MacCool, Adam, Humpty Dumpty, Parnell, Lucifer and all other falls through history, including Wall Street crashes.  In the background, towers are being erected - the New York Woolworth building, the Tower of Babel and the Eiffel Tower.

'Oftwhile balbulous, mithre ahead, with goodly trowel in grasp and ivoroiled overalls which he habitacularly fondseed, like Haroun Childeric Eggeberth he would caligulate by multiplicab-les the alltitude and malltitude until he seesaw by neatlight of the liquor wheretwin twas born, his roundhead staple of other days to rise in undress maisonry upstanded (joygrantit!),a waalworth of a skyerscape of most eyeful hoyth entowerly, erigenating from next to nothing and celescalating the himals and all, hierarchitectitiptitoploftical, with a burning bush abob off its baubletop and with larrons o'toolers clittering up and tombles a'buckets clottering down.'  4.34-5.05

The giant Finn falls, forming the city of Dublin, with his 'humptyhillhead' at Howth and his feet in the Phoenix Park. That's Howth Castle in the predella at the bottom.


I particularly love this second illustration, which shows HCE's encounter with a cad in the Phoenix Park - an event which leads to his own fall and disgrace. On the left, the cad is greeting HCE in Gaelic.

Here's Lord's description of the illustration.

'It is alleged in this ‘chapter’ that HCE behaved improperly in Phoenix Park, indecently exposing himself (behaving ‘with an ongentilmensky immodus’) in front of ‘a pair of dainty maidservants in the swoolth of the rushy hollow’. The cad tells his wife about HCE’s alleged lewd behaviour and his wife tells a priest over a cup of tea, who in turn tells a professor at the races, who lets everybody know about it. The all-seeing eyes among the trees, the pointing fingers and the four sets of mouths all represent this cycle of snooping, accusation, rumour and gossip about HCE. The ‘thunderword’ appearing diagonally across the illustration makes the sound of glass breaking, perhaps representing the collapse of Earwicker’s world.'

The illustration also shows how HCE got the name Earwicker, given to him by a king who met him trapping earwigs.

The predella at the bottom shows Oliver Cromwell, and Humpty Dumpty falling from the Magazine Wall in the Park - illustrations of the ballad mocking HCE on page 44.




The next illustration is of the hen, another version of ALP, scratching a teastained letter out of a midden, as described in Book One, Chapter Five.

Lord writes, 'It seems as if the whole of the world’s existence is being brought out of the earth, foraging for a record of the past: ‘where in the waste is the wisdom?’'

Here's J.S.Atherton's description of the Hen chapter:

This midden is a symbol, elaborated later, for the inhabited world in which men have left so many traces. The letter stands as a symbol for all attempts at written communication including all other letters, all the world's literature, the Book of Kells, all manuscripts, all the sacred books of the world, and also Finnegans Wake itself. One reason why The Book of Kells is included here is that it was once 'stolen by night...and found after a lapse of some months, concealed under sods' (Sullivan)  The Books at the Wake  p62-3


That's the Tunc page of the Book of Kells at the bottom.


Here's Lord's illustration of Joyce's fable of the Mookse and the Gripes, a retelling of Aesop's fable of the Fox and the Grapes.  The Mookse and the Gripes are the rival twins, Shaun and Shem, and Space and Time. It's also a fable about Pope Adrian IV, the English pope who granted Ireland to King Henry II of England.

The challenge here is to depict the 'gripes' - Shem in the form of a bunch of grapes. Lord gives us straightforward grapes, but have a look at Ralph Ziegerman's solution here.

Lord's description:

'The Mookse is represented by Pope Adrian IV (Nicholas Brakespear, or ‘Bragspear’), the only English Pope. He is sitting on a stone, ‘pompifically’. He finds the overripe gripes (grapes) wrapped around a tree by the edge of a ‘boggylooking stream’. Above them is Nuvoletta, as a cloud on a balcony, spraying mist: ‘Nuvoletta in her lightdress, spunn of sisteen shimmers, was looking down on them, leaning over the bannistars and listening all she childishly could....The Gripes is also a representation of Shem, with Shaun as the Mookse. Their arguments descend into insults, and the two arguers eventually metamorphose into an apron and a handkerchief on the bank of the river Liffey.’.

Nuvoletta is Issy, the daughter in Finnegans Wake.

For the next few I'll quote Lord's descriptions of them.

'This illustration is mostly based on the Latin episode when Shem mixes ‘ink’ from his own excrement and urine and ‘through the bowels of his misery’ he writes ‘over every square inch of the only foolscap available, his own body’. It appears that whilst Shem prepared the ‘ink’ he chanted ‘fermented words’, possibly 'Lingua mea calamus scribae velociter scribentis', which is from Psalm 45:1, ‘My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.’ This is represented in my version of a twelfth-century psalter illumination from St Albans. The expression ‘fermented words’ could of course be alluding to the text of Finnegans Wake itself, having the same initials as well as being something of a description of its text.'





  'Here we can see the two washerwomen gossiping about Earwicker and Anna Livia Plurabelle by the banks of the Liffey. The river expands into a map of Dublin Bay, thus illustrating how the women become further apart from each other during the course of their gossiping. Bats fly above them (‘The chittering waters of. Flittering bats, fieldmice bawk talk’), and salmon are swimming in the river, a recurring theme throughout the book: ‘like any gay lord salomon, her bulls they were ruhring, surfed with spree’. Below the moon, a few stones can be seen on the sheet below the large rock, representative of the transformation of one of the washerwomen and symbolising the static state of permanence. ‘I feel as heavy as yonder stone,’ she says. A butcher’s apron hangs from the smaller tree; a tree that represents the transformation of the other washerwoman, symbolising growth, movement and eventual death. ‘I feel as old as yonder elm,’ she says.'



'This is closing time in the tavern: the landlord, Earwicker, has drunk his customers’ leftovers, sucking up ‘whatever surplus rotgut . . . was left by the lazy lousers in the different bottoms of the various different replenquished drinking utensils’. Earwicker’s manservant, Sackerson, holds the key to the tavern door: 'Ere the sockson locked at the dure. Which he would, shuttinshore. And lave them to sture.' Finally he calls out, "Tide, genmen, plays'. The group of customers ‘all pour forth’ from the tavern. Each of the four singing old men (‘the fore olders’) are walking out of the frame in different directions: ‘North’, ‘Soother’, ‘Eats’ and ‘Washte’. There is a strip of sixteen composers’ portraits across the top of the illustration, brought into the text in the form of wordplay. The first three, from the left, are Rossini (‘rosescenery’), Haydn (‘haydyng’) and Meyerbeer (‘mere bare’).'

This is a wonderful illustration of my favourite chapter, Mamalujo, in which the ship-board lovemaking of Tristan and Isolde is witnessed by the four senile old men.

I laughed aloud when I spotted the four old men at the bottom.

'Tristan and Isolde are ‘kiddling and cuddling’ as they sail away from the aged King Mark of Cornwall (‘Kram of Llawnroc’). Above them, mocking seagulls are crying out: ‘The winging ones, overhoved, shrillgleescreaming. Seahawk, seagull, curlew and plover, kestrel and capercailzie.’ The four old men, among the waves with their donkey, are known as Mamalujo: in this chapter Matt Gregory, Marcus Lyons, Luke Tarpey, and Johnny MacDougall. In another guise they hover at the top of the picture as the four gospels (‘gastspiels’), represented here in a similar way to their appearance in the Book of Kells. They spy on the lovers, having much to say but only little of value, ‘all their mouths making water’.'  


Here's another of Joyce's fables, the Ondt and the Gracehoper, which is about Time and SpaceThe feckless grasshopper is Shem, Joyce and Time. The respectable ant is Shaun, Wyndham Lewis and Space. Time gets the last word: 
 

Your feats end enormous, your volumes immense,
(May the Graces I hoped for sing your Ondtship song sense!),
Your genus its worldwide, your spacest sublime!
But, Holy Saltmartin, why can't you beat time?
419.5-8

 
Here's Lord again:

'The Ondt and the Gracehoper is based on the well-known fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. Shem is the Gracehoper (represented as an artist, author, painter and musician – wasting his time), and his brother Shaun is the Ondt, the practical businessman for whom money matters most. Attributes of the artist (easel, guitar and pen) surround the Gracehoper, whilst the Ondt is coughing and asking questions, with his hoard of cash situated behind him. In the end Shaun falls into a barrel, which rolls backwards into the river Liffey. Some of the philosophers mentioned in the text have also been incorporated into the illustration: Confucius, Melanchthon, Aristotle, Schelling, Plato, Schopenhauer, Vico, Kant, Maeterlinck and Leibniz. Wyndham Lewis, who is also mentioned, is between Kant and Maeterlinck.'



 'Shaun has now been ‘metandmorefussed’ into Yawn: ‘Pure Yawn lay low. On the mead of the hillock he lay, heartsoul dormant mid shadowed landshape…’ He is put through an inquisition by the four old men, accompanied by their donkey, who hold a ‘starchamber quiry’ over his character. The ‘Mamalujo’ are represented on the four sides of the illustration, as the four symbols of the Evangelists (based on how they appear in the Book of Armagh). The four ‘apostles’ are also ‘quartermasters’, standing for the four provinces of Ireland (here depicted by their flags). They cross-examine Yawn about the fall of his father, Earwicker. Later Yawn seems to become HCE, boasting about his feats, as well as his accomplishments as a builder. The interlacement design is based on one by Leonardo da Vinci, and represents the ‘spreading abroad’ of the ‘drifter nets, the chronies, gleamy seiners’ nets’ by the four inquisitors.'


Lord has a very controlled and orderly style - he's described his influences as Paul Klee and Victorian steel engravings. It's interesting to compare his approach with Clinton Cahill's looser Wake illustrations, for the James Joyce Centre, Dublin. Cahill has also given us the scene with Yawn and the Four Old Men (right).

These are two very different ways of representing the dream state. Lord's method reminds me of Hitchcock who, talking of the dream sequence in Spellbound, said he wanted to represent dreams not with the misty style usually favoured by Hollywood, but with hard edges and sharpness of daylight.  

Cahill gives us the murky dreamscape.

For examples of other Wake illustrators, read PQ's excellent Finnegans, Wake! blog.

Here's John Vernon Lord's final illustration, using superimposition to show a woman who is also a river. Lord writes:

 'Anna Livia Plurabelle’s face merges with the sea as she delivers her monologue at the end of the book. She is a personification of the river Liffey, which flows, as a dissolving dream, into the vast ocean at the dawn of a new day. ‘This baylight’s growing,’ she says, hence the strip of light across her forehead. After a sequence of drawn illustrations we now have an image based on a photograph in order to indicate wakefulness and reality after the dream. The photograph is of Nora, Joyce’s wife, an inspiration for Anna Livia Plurabelle. Anna’s last line of the book is ‘A way a lone a lost a last a loved a long the’. This, an incomplete sentence, completes itself at the very start of the book as ‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle & Environs’. The book finishes where it began; the endless cycle of time goes on.'


A lot of research has gone into these illustrations, as you can see from Lord's beautiful working notebooks, which the Folio Society have put on their website.





THE CORRECTED TEXT  

The book uses Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon's 'Corrected Text', which has around 9,000 changes to the 1939 published version.  Unlike all other editions of the Wake, it has different pagination, so it can't be used alongside critical resources, such as McHugh's Annotations or Fweet.  But Rose and O'Hanlon write in the preface, 'It is not a replacement for the 1939 edition...but an alternative to it.'


My main objection to this version is that they've broken up the final chapter into four separate sections. If Joyce had wanted it to be in four sections, he would have had it laid out like that. This reminds me of Rose's controversial 'Readers Edition' of Ulysses, where he broke up Joyce's beautiful poetic compound words ('snotgreen scrotumtightening sea' becoming 'snot-green scrotum-tightening sea') - supposedly to make it easier to read! You can read John Kidd's review of that here. That review led to a great spat in the pages of the New York Review of Books.

Despite this, all Joyceans should get a copy of the Corrected Text. I can't think of any better way of buying it than with John Vernon Lord's wonderful illustrations.  

Order a copy from the Folio Society.

 






2 comments:

  1. Get FW2 as an etext, then the pagination doesn't matter and you can reformat it as you like. Overall, the corrections are priceless.

    If you get the Folio, you'll never dare annotate it.

    The Ballad above is from FW1, isn't it? http://fwpages.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-ballads-music.html

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  2. Yes, they've reformatted the ballad. I used the first version because I'd already scanned it for another posting.

    http://peterchrisp.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/a-walk-through-phoenix-park.html

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