If the challenge of reading James Joyce’s Ulysses is a thing of legend, then the challenge of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake is that amplified untold amounts. Getting past page one takes a bit of effort and few go much further beyond that.
Michael Chabon is among those few, reading the whole darn thing. The writer, known for his own amazing novels including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Wonder Boys, wrote a great essay on his experiences with the book and how life-absorbing reading it could be. A sample:
At some point in the course of that year, my younger son and his classmates wrote poems about their parents, immortalizing their most salient aspects and traits, and in my son’s poem I am depicted, arrested for an instant in the midst of the eternity it must have seemed to him, “reading Finnegans Wake.” If in his poem he erected a kind of statue to his father, then Finnegans Wake was the pigeon that had come to roost on my hat.
Chabon’s New York Review of Books piece is require reading.