riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
— First sentence of Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce
Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street,
A gentleman Irish mighty odd,
He had a tongue both rich and sweet,
An' to rise in the world he carried a hod.
Now Tim had a sort of a tipplin' way.
With the love of the liquor he was born.
An' to help him on with his work each day,
He'd a drop of the craythur every morn.
Whack fol the dah, now dance to your partner
'Round the floor your trotters shake.
Bend an ear to the truth they tell you,
We had lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake!
— "Finnegan's Wake", Traditional (1st stanza)
Typos in Finnegans Wake? How could you tell?
— Kim Stanley Robinson, on the mid-1990s publication of a "updated" edition that boasted of correcting typos, among other revisions
One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot.
— James Joyce, about Finnegans Wake in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 24 November 1926
If our society should go to smash tomorrow (which, as Joyce implies, it may) one could find all the pieces, together with the forces that broke them, in Finnegans Wake. The book is a kind of terminal moraine in which lie buried all the myths, programmes, slogans, hopes, prayers, tools, educational theories, and theological bric-a-brac of the past millenium. And here, too, we will find the love that reanimates this debris ... Through notes that finally become tuneable to our ears, we hear James Joyce uttering his resilient, all-enjoying, all-animating 'Yes', the Yes of things to come, a Yes from beyond every zone of disillusionment, such as few have had the heart to utter.
—Joseph Campbell, A Skeleton Key
"Thereís something about Finnegans Wake that is not intellectual. It's not snooty. Some people say it sounds good when read to babies. I'm not sure about that, that it's a magical thing. It is a document that gives people the opportunity to decode it."
—Joel Reisman, quoted in "A Slow Devouring" by Steve Marcone, The American Scholar, Spring 2008
In Somerville, Massachusetts, an unabridged, unapologetic dictionary lies on a pub table surrounded by lagers, pints of Guinness, burgers, chicken Caesar wraps, and Corona-bottles-turned-salt-and-pepper-shakers. Itís a Tuesday night, and the dictionary has been pulled off the shelf near the bar to help certain patrons decode what many consider to be the most dense, difficult piece of literature ever written. Right now, eight members of the Finnegans Wake reading group are, for the most part, chewing. Soon they will read aloud a page or two of the Wake, as they do every week, and discuss the passage for about an hour. Some have been doing this since 1997. They are not yet halfway through the book.
— From "A Slow Devouring" by Steve Marcone, The American Scholar, Spring 2008
The immediate reaction [to the density and impenetrability of Finnegans Wake] is "how the hell are they going to make a Classics Illustrated comic book out of this one?"
— "Eutychus", The Straight Dope, "Is James Joyce's novel "Finnegan's Wake" a joke?"
"Nothing so far as I can make out, nothing short of divine vision or a new cure for the clap can possibly be worth all that circumambient peripherization."
"[T]he work of a psychopath or a huge literary fraud."
—Stanislaus Joyce, brother of the author
"Ulysses towers over the rest of Joyce's writings, and in comparison to its noble originality and unique lucidity of thought and style the unfortunate Finnegans Wake is nothing but a formless and dull mass of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next room, most aggravating to the insomniac I am."