James Joyce described his book in many ways, including some of what we can reasonably take to be his favorite characterizations within the book itself. One that occurs relatively late suggests that it is a gift, a “beautiful crossmess parzel”. Overtly hostile readers might focus on the “mess”, but a more benign reaction would take Joyce simply to have set a gigantic puzzle, a lifetime's worth of the most ingenious, taxing, and witty cryptic crosswords. There is an obvious way to think of the Wake that gives it more credit. By solving these individual puzzles, a large mosaic within which significant patterns and insights emerge. However, this chapter argues that until one has some general conception of how the book was to be conceived, there is little hope that individual passages can be puzzled out in ways that allow for integration.
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