October 1, 2002
11:31 AM   Subscribe

A nice introduction to the works of the hilarious and somewhat neglected Flann O'Brien, or Miles na Gopaleen, about whose novel At Swim-Two-Birds Dylan Thomas wrote was "Just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl".
posted by interrobang (15 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest that readers, having tried and failed to like or appreicate this writer, turn to last week's New Yorker magazine and read the piece by Franzen on difficult novels.

This author fits the bill Tried and sent me rushing back to Realistic novels.
posted by Postroad at 11:51 AM on October 1, 2002

At Swim-Two-Birds: Trippy brilliance. For me, it will always go best with a dose of Sweeney Astray .
posted by Shane at 11:55 AM on October 1, 2002

O'Brien is one of my favorites. The Third Policeman is in my top ten.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 12:04 PM on October 1, 2002 [1 favorite]

Not to be a pedantic spelling correction type or anything, but O'Brien's secondary nom de plume is actually spelled "Myles na gCopaleen", (roughly, "Miles of the Little Horses") with the mightily confusing Irish Gaelic eclipsis and all, made even more confusing because even though it's eclipsed it's still an English phonetic spelling after the eclipsis. "Flann O'Brien" is also a pseudonym, as he was actually born Briain Ó Nualláin, English language name Brian O'Nolan.

Babble of trivia. Don't mind me.
posted by chuq at 12:35 PM on October 1, 2002


Flann O'Brien, or Brian O'Nolan (as we shall call him here), was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, in 1911. Briain Ó Nuállain (pronounced "Brian O'Nolan", roughly) wrote fiction as "Flann O'Brien", and his column in the Irish Times appeared under the name "Myles na Gopaleen" (or "gCopaleen").

-- from my first link.
posted by interrobang at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2002

The Dalkey Archive is still a favourite of mine. Glad to see that he still merits attention.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2002

bang: Well, that's what I get for skipping the first one. :-)
posted by chuq at 1:24 PM on October 1, 2002

Thanks for the reminder, but not one of the links leading up to the book itself, gives even a hint of the depth of insanity and delicious meaning that that the man was able to produce. And yes, just thinking about Two Birds, The Third Policeman and The Dalkey Archive, leave me feeling as warm all over as a pint or two of freshly pulled Guinness. Recommended.
posted by donfactor at 2:51 PM on October 1, 2002

I fell in love with Flann O'Brien when I was reading a book about how to write journalism and the author listed some of the "How to Write Newspaper Cliches" or whatever they're called (there are also Latin and Gaelic versions) -- in catechismal form. Unfortunately I can't seem to find a sample online and can't remember that many of them ("Is a man ever taken to the hospital? No. He is rushed". "Are issues debated? They are hotly debated." etc.). I dropped the journalism book and ran to the library to get more O'Brien and found the service which offers to cut the pages of your unreadable books, add sage annotations and for quite a reasonable fee fake up inscriptions, and well, that was it. -- No one can describe his humor. You can only go out and read it. I personally wouldn't start someone on the novels, unless they have a high tolerance for cheerful nonsense; almost everyone likes the journalism and can be eased into, say, The Poor Mouth after that.
posted by redshoes3 at 2:54 PM on October 1, 2002

Moira: Amen to that, except I myself started on the novels and was hooked immediately, so ya never know. But Postroad should give the journalism a try.
posted by languagehat at 3:33 PM on October 1, 2002

I'm with languagehat on this one. I started with The Poor Mouth (actually, a dual-language version, as I figured it was a good way to learn Irish: An Beal Bocht on one side of the fold, The Poor Mouth on the other) and was hooked immediately. Had to get more books to read when I was done. Never did get much good at any of the reading in Irish (which I've been told repeatedly is a shame), but I do love his books.

Didn't know about the newspaper cliches writing. I'm going to have to look for that. Thanks for the tip, redshoes.
posted by aine42 at 4:57 PM on October 1, 2002

The Hard Life is a good one too. The brother who writes pamplets on various subjects with all the information plagarized from encylopedias, and sells them by placing classified ads reminds me of that infomercial guy who got rich "placing tiny classified ads".
posted by chrismc at 5:51 PM on October 1, 2002

aine: Me too -- The Poor Mouth and the attempt at An Beal Bocht! Never got that good at Modern Irish, but what an introduction!
posted by languagehat at 7:44 PM on October 1, 2002

languagehat: Not to derail the thread too much, but... last time I was in Ireland, I picked up a book/tape combo of some of Padraic Pearse's prose. The book is Irish/English and the tape is a reading of the same in Irish. It really helps to hear the Irish while you try to read it. If you want more info, e-mail me and we can discuss.
posted by aine42 at 4:40 PM on October 2, 2002

interrobang: This is great. Thanks for the introduction this guy---I'll put in a call to my indy bookstore for more! Oh, and, interrobang? I LOVE your posts. Please keep them coming!
posted by realjanetkagan at 2:22 PM on October 3, 2002

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