Dedicated to Bill Krauss, on his fortieth birthday

Krauss & I read Ulysses together as teenagers,
spent endless smoky nights listening to Bert Lahr & EG Marshall
in Waiting For Godot. (You're right, we were insufferable.)
After a couple of years of college, he started toting Finnegans Wake,
with an air of ' anybody can read Ulysses; the truly cool join the wake.'

I found Cyril Cusack's reading of Shem the Penman and we added
that to Zappa, Godot and The Firesign Theater on the playlist.
I couldn't make head nor tail of it. My copy came from the remainder rack,
marked down to $1.87. I started carrying it around too, in slavish imitation.
He moved away, we kept in touch,
I kept working at it, picking it up for a month, putting it down for two years.
Lugging it around, playing my worn cassette of Shem on college radio.

Twenty years later I mentioned to Bill my renewed interest in FW.
He then told me, he never actually read the damned thing, he only carried it around NYC
for a while, in forlorn hope of impressing the intellectually fast crowd he ran with at Columbia.
Well, its fairly useless in that regard.
Hell, it didn't even impress the other students in my Joyce seminar!

Boy, he had me buffaloed. WC Fields was right:

(For what its worth, Bill: It impressed me.)

We said we'd drop what we were doing in the year 2000 and open a used bookstore
on Broadway, wear ratty cardigans and chew cigars, and mutter "C'mon, kid!
This ain't a library!". I hoped to publish a novel by then, he wanted to make records.

As it turned out, he produced "They Might Be Giants" first two albums.
Now, I've published my novel. I didn't write it or anything or own the rights or make any money, but I have published it.

I still have no idea what FW means, and only feel like I know I.1, I.3, I.4,
I.7, I.8, II.2
and III.3 well, but I have looked at every page with a proofreader's eye,
five or six times.

Can machines think? Can scanners read? If yes, then, I've read it.