On August 8, 1937, James Joyce wrote to his step-grandson, the eighteen year-old American David Fleischman:
I have sent you registered a book you certainly will have read as a young boy, probably more than once. I need to know something about it. I never read it and have nobody to read it to me and it takes too much time with all I am doing. Could you perhaps refresh your memory by a hasty glance through and then dictate to your mother … an account of the plot in general as if it were a new book the tale of which you had to narrate in a book review. After that I should like you to mark with blue pencil in the margin the most important passages of the plot itself and in red pencil here and there wherever the words or dialogue seem to call for the special attention of a European. Don’t care about spoiling the book. It is a cheap edition. If you can then return it to me soon I shall try to use whatever bears upon what I am doing. (Selected Letters 387)
Joyce critics have drawn two conclusions from this letter. The first is that quotations from Huckleberry Finn [the book to which Joyce refers] is a conclusion supported by a perusal of the Huck Finn pages of a Wake workbook at Buffalo.
The second conclusion drawn from the letter is that “despite his many references to Mark Twain, Joyce never read him.” Anthony Burgess writes that Joyce’s interest in Twain was “mainly verbal,” and remarks “sadly, it has to be confessed that Joyce was no real Mark Twain scholar.” The consensus appears to be that Joyce simply cannibalized Twain’s novel, took various phrases from it further to universalize his Wake, to give it some American color.
In his recent study of Joyce, John Bishop rejects this view. He argues that “the spectral transaction by which Huckleberry Finn actually does find its way into Finnegans Wake suggests quite the opposite of what is usually assumed by people referring to this [the Fleischman] letter. Joyce knew the novel quite well”. Unfortunately, Bishop’s reading of the Joyce/Twain intertext is undeveloped, limited to one text paragraph and two long notes.
In the spirit of Joyce’s ransacking, or “appropriating” Twain’s novel for Finnegan’s Wake, Van Buskirk smashes the texts of Huckleberry Finn and Finnegan’s Wake inside the “Large Hadron Collider,” the world’s largest high speed particle accelerator, or “Atom Smasher,” and violently melds the two texts into a new universe, a new novel!
Therefore, Todd Van Buskirk presents the thesis of his new novel (as an appropriated plot) that fits perfectly with the text:
Huckleberry Finnegan is a girl with one ear that’s been pronounced completely deaf. However, unknown to everyone around her, she can actually hear a parallel universe, just a whisper away from her own. In that universe, Huckleberry is a boy with a very similar condition, only it affects his right eye. With one eye he can see into an alternate universe (our own). Neither can interact with what they see/hear in any way … until they find each other…
Huckleberrys would come he’s as sooner buy a guinness from all around there and give Jim than he’d stale store stout. This anything they had, just for a is Roo- shious balls. This is sight of that five-center piece; but they a ttrinch. riverrun, past Eve and NOTICE PERSONS attempting to find a motive Adam’s, from swerve of shore to in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons bend of bay, brings us by attempting to find a moral in a commodius vicus of recirculation back it will be banished; persons attempting to to Howth Castle and Environs. find a plot in it will Sir Tristram, violer be shot. BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR, d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance. EXPLANATORY IN this passen- core rearrived from North Armorica book a number of dialects are on this side the scraggy isthmus used, to wit: the Missouri of Europe Minor to wielderfight his negro dialect; the extremest form of the penisolate war: nor had topsawyer’s rocks backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary “Pike County” by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse dialect; and four modified varieties of to Laurens County’s gorgios while they this last. The shadings have not been went doublin their mumper all the done in a haphazard fashion, or time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity yet, though venissoon after, had a with these several forms of speech. I kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: make this explanation for the reason not yet, though all’s fair in that without it many readers would suppose vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with that all these characters were trying twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of to talk alike and not succeeding. THE AUTHOR. ADVENTURES pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen OF HUCKLEBERRY FINNEGAN Scene: The Mississippi brewed by arclight and rory end Valley Time: Forty to fifty to the regginbrow was to be years ago CHAPTER I. YOU don’t know about seen ringsome on the aquaface. me without you have read a The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner- book by the name of The Adventures ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur- nuk!) of a once wallstrait of Tom Sarte; but that ain’t oldparr is retaled early in bed no matter. That book was and later on life down through made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he all christian minstrelsy. The great fall told the truth, mainly. There of the offwall entailed at such was things which he stretched, but mainly short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, he told the truth. That erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead is nothing. I never seen anybody of humself prumptly sends an unquiring but lied one time or another, one well to the west in without it was Aunt Polly, or the quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out Polly–Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is–and Mary, and in the park where oranges have the Widow Douglas is all told been laid to rust upon the about in that book, which is mostly green since dev- linsfirst loved livvy. a true book, with some stretchers…