I told myself I was only going into the bookshop because it had a good range of philosophy books and that there might be a slight chance that among the stock there would be something on the German philosopher Martin Buber.
Of course, the search was in vain. It did not mean, however, that nothing had been bought. It always seems impolite to leave a bookshop empty-handed. Dublin might sustain more bookshsops per head of population than many places, but that didn’t mean that they were not struggling.
Among the books with which I left was James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. I have never read it. I have read Ulysses three times, but Finnegan’s Wake has always seemed a step too far. Hylton Edwards, the legendary Dublin actor and producer was once told that Finnegan’s Wake had been translated into Swedish, ‘From what language?’ he asked.
There seems an odd synchronicity in having bought Finnegan’s Wake on the day of the summer solstice.
There seemed a plethora of images of Glastonbury Tor being shared online today. Why? There is not a shred of evidence to sustain New Age claims about Glastonbury. I grew up with a view of it from my bedroom window. We had ancient tales of Joseph of Arimathea and Arthur, which we liked but discounted, but the neo-pagan traditions are rooted in the romantic notions of the late-19th Century.
No-one who lived in mid-Somerset would seriously have believed that Glastonbury was the centre of anything, except perhaps a now defunct sheepskin industry. Even now, no-one among my very large extended family seems to regard Glastonbury as anything other than a town which lends its name to a pop festival in the village of Pilton.
It is astonishing how big an edifice has been built on such slight foundations.
Why the synchronicity?
Well until today I was completely unaware that Finnegan’s Wake was set in Chapelizod and the Phoenix Park. From the bedroom window of my flat, I overlook the village of Chapelizod and the walls of the park beyond.
Contemplating the myths created around Glastonbury, I wonder if future generations will build similar ahistorical traditions around Chapelizod. It has already happened with Ulysses, Leopold Bloom has gone from being a character in a story to someone whom some people seem to believe to be true.
Perhaps Finnegan’s Wake is too inaccessible, too incomprehensible to become the foundation of strange traditions. But if you had asked someone forty years ago if they thought pictures of Glastonbury Tor would be seen around the world, they would have asked you why.