I received this guide to James Joyce’s masterwork as a gift when I was a small child, but never had an opportunity to read it;  this hardcover copy was lost somehow over the years.

Finnegan’s Wake was required reading for the literature humanities course usually taken by first-years when I was at Columbia. I still have not learned as much as I’d like about this text, so I bought new copy of Skeleton Key in paperback today to explore this work again.


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.

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