Finnegans Wake is a desert island book. It has to be read aloud, so that's what I'm doing! You can listen and read along using the links below.
Finnegans Wake is a night-time stream of consciousness; a dream. The main characters are a Dublin publican, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE), and his wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP). In the dream, HCE merges with the landscape of Dublin, and ALP merges with the river Liffey, so the love and marriage between them is told and retold through the ages as the river flows through the landscape. There are two sons (Shem and Shaun) and a daughter (Issy).
In my opinion, the best way to read Finnegans Wake is to dip in and out of it (like a river!) and especially, to read it out loud. Even if the 'plot' seems obscure, as a dipping reader you gradually amass sensations and impressions and a dream-like perception of rebirth, recirculation, eternal return, and love. It's full of humour too. Above all, don't feel you have to understand any of it...
First, Nuvoletta. It's an elegiac passage set by the banks of the River Liffey on a summer's evening, at twilight. The Mookse and the Gripes have been arguing. Nuvoletta tries to get their attention. The washerwomen come to collect the Mookse and the Gripes, who, it turns out, are pieces of laundry. The evening falls.
'This way to the museyroom' is in a completely different mood - joyful, exuberant, madcap. It's a mixed-up, gobbledegook account of the Battle of Waterloo (and other things) from an enthusiastic museum guide.