YMMV: Finnegans Wake

  • Dancing Bear: Ask a person what he or she knows about Finnegans Wake: the first thing to come to mind is most likely the style of the book, rather than the actual content. Though to be fair, the former makes the latter rather hard to discern.
  • Epileptic Trees: From literary critics. With years of training they are well placed to hold forth on how Joyce counterpoints the surrealism of the underlying metaphor by utilizing indigenous ligneous vegetation with a tumid episodic spasmodic pathophysiology.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The book is surprisingly popular in China. A new translation sold out of its first pressing within the first month of publication. If the Chinese have been gifted with any special insights into what the book is all about, they certainly haven't shared them with us.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Quite possibly the purest form of true art, made by the distillation of multiple layers of mutual meta-incomprehensibility. Joyce said it would take about three centuries for anyone to figure out what was really going on in the book. One suspects he'd be disappointed if Wikipedia really has the explanation of what he was saying.
  • Vindicated by History: Most of Joyce's contemporaries and even his own family thought the book was stupid or a joke. It initially had negative reviewers, although one reviewer held off on judging the work, predicting that in the future, "with sufficient study and with the aid of the commentary that will doubtless arise, one might be ready for an attempt to appraise it." He was right.