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Seattle Man Plans To Memorize And Perform Joyce's 'Finnegans Wake'


So every year around Christmas time in Seattle, Neal Kosaly-Meyer gets on stage and performs.


Yeah, not Christmas songs, though, not Yuletide jingles. But instead this...

NEAL KOSALY-MEYER: Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk.

GREENE: You're not going to believe this, but that was one word from "Finnegans Wake," that work of experimental fiction by James Joyce. And Neal Kosaly-Meyer is not only performing Joyce's words, he is attempting to memorize the entire book.

KING: Yeah. He says it's going to take him 17 years to do it, which, coincidentally, is the same amount of time it took James Joyce to write the book. Neal said it all started when he read that first word, which comes on the very first page.

KOSALY-MEYER: It was like one thing led to another. It's like, if you give a mouse a cookie kind of (laughter). It's like a little drum solo that I can do anytime I feel like it.

KING: As you might imagine, it has not been easy.

GREENE: But that has not stopped Neal, who says you can't really think of "Finnegans Wake" as a normal book. You have to think of it kind of the way we think of music.

KOSALY-MEYER: It can be thoroughly enjoyed - delightfully thoroughly enjoyed - without understanding a bit of what's going on in it. I mean, there is something going on, but I think you can read through the whole book and if you decide I'm not going to worry about understanding it, the music of it and the fun of it is there anyway.

GREENE: But we asked Neal to prove that.

KOSALY-MEYER: And spoke she to the dour in herpetty perusienne - Mark the Wans, why do I am alook alike a poss of porterpease? And that was how the skirtmisshes began

KING: Neal memorized and recited Chapter 6 this year. He's on track to have all of "Finnegans Wake" memorized by the year 2030.


KOSALY-MEYER: (Singing) Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty, how he fell with a roll...

GREENE: And you could catch Neal performing Chapter 7 of "Finnegans Wake" next Christmas in Seattle.


KOSALY-MEYER: (Singing) By the butt of the Magazine Wall. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.