Marja-Leena Rathje
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"That ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia." - James Joyce, Finnegan's Wake

She, looking for a clever quote, but not sure what this means...

Marja-Leena | 13/09/2006 | 9 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Photoworks, Urban


I frequently suffer from insomnia--but have never
yet experienced the ideal variety.

I think he means ideal for him, the author: he wants readers with just the right balance of crazed restlessness and utter exhaustion, maybe.

Heh, yes, me neither, Patry!

Dave, you may be right! I think I'd have to find that passage in the book and see it in context. Maybe.

Ideal reader - for the author, someone who seeks enlightenment in the text, perhaps?

Ideal insomnia - trying to gain something precious at least, even if it still means losing sleep, perhaps?

It is certainly a thought-provoking quote, and one that gets under the skin of one's mind - just as I find your photo has done. I just want to play around with it as an image.

Thanks for the input, Omega. Sometimes in those hours of sleeplessness, I have found creative ideas emerging - but not always. I usually read, but nothing too mentally challenging or exciting or I'd never get to sleep! I'm glad the photo intrigues for I think it somehow fits the mood of a dark night of deep thoughts.

That night my husband was also having trouble sleeping, and this morning after a bit of a restless night, I woke up thinking about funerals that I've been to. I realized that all this is because we are worrying about a dear friend who is very ill in the hospital. And I wasn't even aware that I was thinking about him during the nights.

I had to laugh out loud at your appraisal of Joyce's words... I, too, had no idea what he meant! Ha! Ha!

I've often had weeks and weeks of severe insomnia and I cannot say that it EVER felt ideal, except if you were to try to evaluate it as PERFECT insomnia, in that it was utter misery. When you learn to live with it, the discomfort and ongoing agony you feel can, I guess, feel like another state of exquisite suffering. The ideal insomnia would probably be a perfect balance between the anguish of the body and the anxiety of the mind. Hee! Hee!

Miguel, your comment was the first mail I opened this morning and it gave me the first laugh of the day, a laugh of delight to hear from you in such a long time! Oh, insomnia is a curse, never an ideal experience. The only ideal thing about it is that it might inspire some writing, confused thought it may be. Joyce is infamous for how he plays around with words and confuses us with what he might mean, don't you think?

In school I had a writing professor who looked at periods of insomnia as an ideal time for writing. He claimed to have written his latest novel all between the hours of one and four in the morning. I have tried it occasionally during sleepless nights but as you say, it's often either a confusing mess of thought or I wake up so fully that I spend the next day bleary-eyed and useless.

But when I had severe mononucleosis a few years ago, and couldn't do much of anything that required getting out of bed, I happened to get this cosmic directive in a fortune cookie: "Your mind is alert. Put it to good use." They call it sleeping sickness, but lying around in bed all day left me over-tired and unable to sleep, my body tired but my brain racing. So I lay there and wrote about 1000 words a day of my novel during that illness. The delirium of insomnia actually helped get me through what had been a stagnant period in my writing.

I always though Joyce wrote for readers who were writers. As if he wanted you to get what he was doing, not just what he was saying. I've never read Finnegan's Wake, though. I'll think of Joyce the next time I have insomnia.

Wow, Anita, thanks for your wonderful input from a writer's perspective. "Joyce wrote for readers who were writers" - interesting! I've heard that said of some printmakers! (I don't think I've read Finnegan's Wake either.)