Since its publication in 1939, countless would-be readers of Finnegans Wake — James Joyce’s masterwork that consumed a third of his life — have given up after a few pages and dismissed it as a “perverse triumph of the unintelligible.” In 1944, a young professor of mythology and literature named Joseph Campbell, working with Henry Morton Robinson, wrote the first “key” or guide to entering the fascinating, disturbing, marvelously rich world of Finnegans Wake. The authors break down Joyce’s “unintelligible” book page by page, stripping the text of much of its obscurity and serving up thoughtful interpretations via footnotes and bracketed commentary. A Skeleton Key was Campbell’s first book, published five years before he wrote his breakthrough Hero with a Thousand Faces.
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