Night Lessons/ Sloe Reading   Leave a comment

(260.1 – 267.21)

In this passage all directions are whispered; all section “headings” are read loudly; and the footnotes are read all together at the end!

…I walked in the woods today, to practice a few forest stories for a storytelling session I’m doing tomorrow night.  Gaelic stories and the training of the seanachie (storyteller) provide a contextual background for the Wake. The stories I’m working with are from the Western Highland Tales collected and retold by Sir Fitzroy Maclean; and they show the influence of both Celtic and Norse cosmologies (Joyce similarly notes this interplay of Celtic and Norse in Irish vernacular in the section of Wake I read today, 265 – footnote 2).

With regard to the interplay between Irish and Scots Celts, the introduction to the story about Diarmid and the Great Boar in WHT, tells how “Diarmid O Duibhne’s mother was sister to the Irish hero Finn MacCoul” (33). Note, Finn MacCool is the answer to the very long squirming question number  1 in the radio quiz in Finnegans Wake (126.10-139.14).

Another link: in his general introduction Sir Fitzroy Maclean talks of the importance of the clann (children) in Scots and Norse stories; and the genealogical sense of relatedness to a patriarchal chief in both these cultures (13;15). This reminds me of how the Wake’s “narrative is articulated around HCE.

And finally to the sloes. I was delighted to find them, as I thought I’d missed out of my sloe gin making for this Christmas. But, I have a big plastic bag full of them now. Hurray! I’ve stuck them in the freezer, to burst their cell walls, before I macerate the fruit in gin. I’ve been wanting to make more sloe gin since I read that this thick “syrupy liquor” is what Blazes Boylan orders for himself in the bar of the Ormond Hotel, in the “Sirens” episode of Ulysses (254, in the Oxford edition).

I’ve never seen sloe gin in a pub myself. But, in the Lake District you can find damson gin in the public houses of the Lythe valley. I wonder how many pubs served sloe gin in Dublin, in the early 20th century? Presumably it was produced on a cottage industry scale? Doing my best crone impression, I picked mine from stunted bushes on a wind blown heath overlooking Geneva.

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