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Countless would-be readers of Finnegans Wake — James Joyce’s 1939 masterwork, on which he labored for a third of his life — have given up after a few pages and “dismissed the book as a perverse triumph of the unintelligible.” In 1944, a young professor of mythology and literature named Joseph Campbell, working with novelist and poet Henry Morton Robinson, wrote the first guide to understanding the fascinating world of Finnegans Wake. Page by page, chapter by chapter, A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake outlines the basic action of Joyce’s book, simplifies and clarifies the complex web of images and allusions, and provides an understandable, continuous narrative from which the reader can venture out on his or her own. This edition includes a foreword and updates by Joyce scholar Dr. Edmund L. Epstein that add the context of sixty subsequent years of scholarship.
“Campbell and Robinson deserve a citation from the Republic of Letters for having succeeded in bringing out their Skeleton Key at this time....The chance to be among the first to explore the wonders of Finnegans Wake is one of the few great intellectual and aesthetic treats that these last bad years have yielded.”
— Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker
“Joyce has found in Mr. Campbell and Mr. Robinson the ideal readers who approach his book with piety, passion, and intelligence, and who have devoted several years to fashioning the key that will open its treasures.”
— Max Lerner, The New York Times