What is Riverrun to Livvy?

By Bill Cole Cliett | Filed in Riverrun to Livvy

The main mission of Riverrun to Livvy is to invite all members of the literary laity into the fellowship of Finnegans Wake.  This website is dedicated to deciphering and decoding literature’s most deliberately obscure and difficult work for those readers who love literature and language and are unafraid to venture into a twilight zone of words few have ever attempted or, having attempted, have quickly thrown in the proverbial towel.  For while the Wake can boggle the brain more quickly than any other work of fiction, it is not, as so many reviewers have asserted, “unreadable.”  It only requires a new definition of reading, a new way of deciphering those way-out alphabetical constructions from James Joyce’s creative mind.

Despite the Wake’s warning that “Trickspissers vill be pairsecluded,” it is not and should not be forbidden territory.  And yet, because of its inherent complexities, Finnegans Wake has become confined largely to college English departments and the halls of academe.  Scholars write in their scholarly ways, primarily for other scholars, and in doing so have discovered and uncovered a treasure trove of meanings and understandings, some that Joyce himself may not have realized, and produced a ton of tomes.  But few of these works, as valuable as they are, are read outside ivory towers.  It is for this reason that I, after reading and rereading so many of these books of literary criticism devoted to the Wake, decided they needed to be translated into everyday language for the everyday, but curious, reader, to bridge the gap between the academic and the everyday.  And since Joyce said of his last book, “It’s meant to make you laugh,” I’ve attempted to add an element of entertainment by filling my work with the puns, riddles, and jokes that Joyce loved along with, in Wakean style, plenty of popular culture and personal digressions.  Like the game of chess, Finnegans Wake can be read and enjoyed on many levels, from beginner to grand master.  So, in my writing, I’ve laid out a welcome mat reading “Y’all Come” at the Wake’s front door

To borrow words from Finnegans Wake, “I am no scholar.”  More than anything, I am a literary layman in love with language and all that words can be made to do.  So, when well into a life of wide-ranging reading I finally came face-to-face with the formidable  Wake, I was transfixed.  James Joyce made words do more than anyone before or since and, when existing words didn’t do the trick, he simply invented new words by the thousands.  Having once read that no one can be considered truly educated without having read at least one page of Finnegans Wake and, upon taking up the gauntlet and reading the first page, I was transfixed.  Here was the ultimate work of literature, the novel at the end of the literary universe.  As the Wake says, “nobirdy aviar soar anywing to eagle it.”

My fascination with the Wake’s first page and my in-depth study of it encompassed many years, shadowed by, not fear exactly, but a timidity of venturing beyond that point into deeper waters.  But I eventually took the plunge and swam straight though to the end which, given the Wake’s circular style, brought me right back to its beginning.  The pleasure, joy, and laughter that I found in this book so many critics decried and derided made me want to introduce it to a larger reading audience, those common readers like myself.  Since my training and background has been in elementary education where it was my task to translate the unknown and difficult into the known and understandable, it seemed natural to do the same with adults as I did with young children.  And, when it comes to Finnegans Wake, we are almost all children.

So far this desire to interest others in Finnegans Wake has led me to write the two books and two Kindle Singles described in this website.  They are my attempt to tempt more readers into the “nightmaze” of an incredible book, to put aside all their literary heebie-jeebies and join me in enjoying lots of fun at Finnegans Wake.