Brief story of the founding of
The Finnegans Wake Society of New York

The Finnegans Wake Society of New York was founded on the fiftieth anniversary of James Joyce’s death, 13 January 1991, when it held its first meeting at the historic Gotham Book Mart in New York City.  The palindromic significance of the year and the symbolism behind the month of January, the month named after Janus who with two faces looks both backwards and forwards, coincidentally played a role in initiating the Society’s founding on that date.  This date also happened to fall on Sunday, the day of resurrection, a fitting image to underscore the echoes in the book’s title and the ballad on the hod carrier Tim Finnegan. 

The first go-round took over five years with meetings twice a month, on a designated Sunday and Wednesday, before we could “begin again to make soundsense and sensesound kin
again.”  The tradition of holding a Finnegans Wake dinner on January 13th started the following year, and “venissoon after”, a Finnegans Wake party was held during the summer often in what can be construed as a primordial garden located in Hell’s Kitchen.

During this period of time, a study group consisting of a few “sober serious”-minded members emerged to delve deeply into the text and scrutinize “every word, letter, penstroke, [and] paperspace.”  Slightly transmogrified, the Society is still plunging into the “liffeying waters of” Finnegans Wake.

Nicholas Fargnoli,
founder & president
The James Joyce Society of NY