Book Club Has Been Reading the Same Book For the Last 28 Years

A California-based book club has recently finished its first reading of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, a notoriously difficult book that it started reading 28 years ago. Joyce once said that the demand he makes of his readers is that they should devote their entire lives to reading his works, and some people actually took those words to heart. The book is so difficult to read that no one person can truly say they get it, which makes it perfect for community reading. It’s apparently written in a convoluted mix of reinvented words, puns, and allusions, referencing about 80 languages. People can’t even agree on where the book is set or who the characters are. Experimental filmmaker Gerry Fialka started the book club dedicated exclusively to Finnegan’s Wake in 1995. Each month since then, 10-30 people would show up at a local library to read two pages of the book and discuss their opinions. Eventually, they slowed the pace to just one page per monthly meeting in order to give themselves more time to debate. So, they spent the next 28 years going through the book just one time. Ironically, it has taken the group more time to read the book than the 17 years Joyce took to write it. Sadly, he died shortly after publishing it, so he never had the chance to explain his writings, or at least give some clues. Now, it’s up to the readers to decipher the literary puzzle.