In the centre of a large, almost square room of beautiful proportions, stood a triangular table. At each edge a black and white mongrel dog sat upon its haunches, perched on a satin-covered stool, high enough to allow conversation. The table was made of walnut. The intricate whorls which are characteristic of that wood were dominant over the structural form of the table and the three dogs felt very much at ease in their places.
The walls of the room were painted a shade of pale lilac, which was warmed considerably by the evening sun which flooded through the huge framed window behind them. Outside, a garden which had evidently had much care and attention spent on it, lay still and peaceful. Nothing moved.
"We know why we are here", said one of the dogs.
"To discuss 'Finnegan's Wake'", replied the dog to the left of the first speaker.
"Let us begin", said the third.
"When I was young", began the first dog, "I picked up a copy of the book from a shelf in my parents' house. I was with a friend. We looked through the pages at random and read passages to each other. We laughed a lot and tried to speak in a similar way to the texts in the book. We didn't really understand it but felt an intuitive affinity with it. I instinctively knew that it was not a book I could read at the time, but I felt that my life would be incomplete if I died before reading it from cover to cover. As you both know, it was over thirty five years before I felt ready for the challenge. A couple of years earlier, I had read 'Ullysses' and found that I could understand how to read it once a method of reading had been adopted. This method is mechanical and involves reading the words regardless of their meaning. I could even think of other things while I read. I think there is probably a method for every reader. Mine is to read through the book, not worrying if I don't comprehend what Joyce is saying; rather, I aim at finishing the book so that I have an over all feeling at the end. I then re-read the book as many times as it takes for the poetry and meaning to emerge. If I was to concentrate on each sentence and only progress when I had fully understood the implied meaning of the abstract words, I would have no conception of the whole book, would I? This method of reading was used for 'Ullysses' and proved successful. Now I am applying the same method to 'Finnegan's Wake' which is of course a much more problemmatical undertaking. Pass me the lamb hot-pot will you?"
"Yes, that is very interesting", the second dog interjected, stifling a yawn, "I found that when I began reading the book I tried to get a picture in my mind of characters in places and certain events occurring in an order that might be sequential or disjointed, but would appear to have a shape, one could say. It was quite a shock when I realised that there appeared to be nothing whatever happening. No story, no shape; nothing but language. I found that extremely disconcerting and felt that I'd been cheated. Of course, that was something that was difficult to admit to, because I'd built James Joyce into a colossal artist in my mind, whose poetry would blast one with its power, however abstract it appeared on the page! Yes, give me some hot-pot too".
It must be said here that the three dogs had decided to read 'Finnegan's Wake' at the same time as each other and to discuss their feelings about it, with thoughts, misgivings, criticisms and any other issues that were deemed appropriate. It was their choice to have these meetings in the room described and at the triangular table, at fortnightly intervals. Only one requirement was asked. All three should read at least four pages a day so that for each meeting there would be a substantial amount of content to discuss.
Fabian Peake. 5th. Aug. 1991.
© Fabian Peake