Flann O'Brien

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At Swim-One-Thread

Jordan (Jordan), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 02:43 (thirteen years ago) link

[He removes his battered, shapeless workingman's cloth cap and awkwardly places it over his heart...] Let us always remember and never forget Let's have a heated debate about At Swim-Two-Birds.

Aimless (Aimless), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 03:13 (thirteen years ago) link

course he wrote some other books too eh!

Josh (Josh), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 04:12 (thirteen years ago) link

Could a Mod add a Spoiler Alert to the title so's I can make an observation about The Third Policeman's huge influence on twist endings in second-rate movies?

I Supersize Disaster (noodle vague), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 05:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Hmmmm. SPOILER ALERT!! Will that do? If not, I could look up the HTML for increasing the point size, turning the font red, and giving it a 'blink' attribute. Please don't make me do that. I beg of you.

Aimless (Aimless), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 15:11 (thirteen years ago) link

i still haven't read my copy of 'the third policeman' but i don't care if you ruin it for me!

Josh (Josh), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 15:55 (thirteen years ago) link

I watched The Machinist the other night, you see, and after thinking "Oh God it's going to be another bloody Jacob's Ladder/Sixth Sense no-surprise-whatsoever twist ending" I thought about The Third Policeman, and though I'd guess there are books that predate it that use the same plot device, I doubt if anything ever used it so elegantly and with such a weird combination of humour and horror.

Not that plot is the first, second or even third thing you'd read Flann O'Brien for. His journalism as Myles na Gopaleen might even be the best writing he did.

I Supersize Disaster (noodle vague), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 17:02 (thirteen years ago) link

Is that available in book form? I loved At Swim-Two-Birds. Need more. Why haven't I read The Third Policeman? Because the title makes me think of Graham Greene? If so, why haven't I read The Third Policeman?
A bit of Flann is my reading plan.

Øystein (Øystein), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 18:01 (thirteen years ago) link

I would rate At Swim-Two-Birds as the work that revealed his peculiar genius, but The Third Policeman as his most all-around satisfying work.

As I have said in another thread, I am personally very partial to The Hard Life: An Exegesis of Squalor, a work which I recently saw dismissed as hack work by some critic (Wm. Gass, if I recall correctly), but who also was predictably enthusiastic about ASTB and 3rdP.

I must demur from his opinion, however positively stated it may have been. While The Hard Life is not mined from precisely the same vein as his better-praised books, I find it deeply humorous, and the keel of it just as deep and well-laid as his best. I would describe it as a hard, strong grasp upon the nose of his native land, followed by a steady anti-clockwise twist. Perhaps Gass has none of the Irish in him and couldn't see the full quality of the humor or how well aimed it was.

Joyce wrote Dubliners and Portrait before Ulysses and the Wake, setting this up as the normative sequence or progression in the eyes of critics. O'Brien started right out with ASTB and only later wrote Hard Life, which sequence then gives critics a wrong impression of regression because it doesn't match Joyce's way of doing things. The only O'Brien book that merits (in my opinion) that rap is The Dalkey Archive, his last and sadly, also his weakest work.

Aimless (Aimless), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 19:40 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, I like The Hard Life fine too. It doesn't have the fireworks of the other stuff, but it has plenty of funny, and beautiful observation.

I Supersize Disaster (noodle vague), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 20:24 (thirteen years ago) link

i'm v fond of 'the poor mouth', talk about that one

tom west (thomp), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 20:50 (thirteen years ago) link

Don't be shy then. Give it a whirl yourself.

Aimless (Aimless), Tuesday, 5 September 2006 20:56 (thirteen years ago) link

I seem to recall a gone missing part on the other thread where our man the pinefox cast doubt on the tipsheet and the **CAST IRON PLUNGERS** in ASTB

My Little Ruud Book (Ken L), Thursday, 7 September 2006 01:42 (thirteen years ago) link

I'm only about 20 pgs into ASTB, but is the wordiness (in the "always use a big word when a smaller one would do" sense) supposed to be a parody of how a wise-ass college student would write?

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 7 September 2006 12:47 (thirteen years ago) link

Amongst other things, yeah. Also a certain Irish addiction to gigantism (also mocked in the "Cyclops" chapter of Ulysses) akin to the "everything's big in Texas" mentality. And folk tale exaggeration in general.

Why does my IQ changes? (noodle vague), Thursday, 7 September 2006 14:17 (thirteen years ago) link

There are several books of his collected newspaper writing, of which I stand in awe. I can't imagine a contemporary columnist packing in so much wit and reference at such a high level, or being allowed to do so by a contemporary editor.

Paul Eater (eater), Friday, 8 September 2006 14:04 (thirteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
I'm about 30 pages from the end of At Swim-Two-Birds and it's gotten a lot funnier as it goes along.

I'm very curious to know if my co-workers were feeling it (book club discussion on Wed., I think we're going to go to an Irish pub for propriety's sake).

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 25 September 2006 13:29 (thirteen years ago) link

I'm reading ASTB as well Jordan, but am only 50 pages or so into it (the wild west stuff). Finding it funny, so that bodes well as I get further in.

Jaq (Jaq), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 14:08 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

Updike on Flann:


scott seward, Sunday, 10 February 2008 02:54 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

I heart Brendan Gleeson but really??? Am not at all sure.

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 16:58 (nine years ago) link

yeah likewise. vanity disaster project.

well, prob not disaster but certainly can't see it shining

k¸ (darraghmac), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 16:59 (nine years ago) link

worse case scenario it's a crap film you won't have to see. gleeson is a great actor anyway.

no time for the prussian death cult (nakhchivan), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 17:17 (nine years ago) link

I haven't watched the show, but wasn't there renewed interest in Flann when the TV show Lost mentioned The Third Policeman?

Poldark City (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 17:19 (nine years ago) link

Only saw In Bruges the other week and was strongly reminded of The Third Policeman. It's still mostly brilliant tho.

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 17:20 (nine years ago) link

I've seen the 60s movie of Ulysses btw and it's not dreadful, just pointless.

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 17:20 (nine years ago) link

I'm excited, actually - like In Bruges.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 7 September 2010 17:53 (nine years ago) link

This is quite exciting in a way!

Trying to work out what can be BAD about such a thing, I think it is that it (the bad film, when it's bad) somehow supplants and displaces the great book, in the distracted public memory or something, even though you don't want to let this affect you and may affect to ignore it entirely. And esp this is bad if the film is very different in plot etc.

But then such bad things are not that bad, compared to life's really bad things.

And the film might not even be bad.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 7 September 2010 17:57 (nine years ago) link

I will say that the project doesn't seem utterly impossible, but the chances of success seem fairly remote. A lot of things happen in ASTB; it often bursts with life and incident. And ASTB has a certain coherence, achieved through its consistent tone and playfulness. But a coherent plot is nowhere to be found and was never contemplated by the author as a necessity.

In order to "work" as a feature film, ASTB would almost certainly require the imposition upon it of a more coherent plot, including both a first and a final act. Once you have imposed a coherent plot, you have probably driven a stake into the heart of the book.

I wish them well.

Aimless, Tuesday, 7 September 2010 18:20 (nine years ago) link

He could go the Naked Lunch or Tristram Shandy route and make it a film about the book, since it's often a book about books itself.

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 September 2010 18:37 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

i am reading the third policeman, which i have not done before.

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:33 (eight years ago) link


puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:36 (eight years ago) link

incredible book imo

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:36 (eight years ago) link

yeah it is a good one

call all destroyer, Monday, 10 October 2011 00:37 (eight years ago) link

I was at a bookseller's convention once and the dalkey rep there (the book's publisher) said that this was the publisher's highest selling book by far because it was featured for 3 secs in the show Lost

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:40 (eight years ago) link

i've read lots of compendium myles na gcopaleen stuff but never his longer works, and am going in blind tbh.

enjoying it v much so far

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:41 (eight years ago) link

i would like to point out that i've not been prompted by lost, tbf. there's been a lot made of o'brien the past few weeks in the irish times due to the centenary of his birth and it seemed time

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:44 (eight years ago) link

at swim two big bottomed birds all over the newsie wewsies

nakhchivan, Monday, 10 October 2011 00:46 (eight years ago) link

i'm unpacking queen, o'brien, obviously my own post and, bizarrely, whiney g

Did i miss or misappropriate anything

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:50 (eight years ago) link

i like how i was v confident in predicting gleeson's failure to produce a satisfactory filmic version of a book i haven't read upthread, vmic that

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:51 (eight years ago) link


nakhchivan, Monday, 10 October 2011 00:52 (eight years ago) link

mathers-like refusal of everything

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 00:54 (eight years ago) link

Third Policeman = awesome
Poor Mouth = much less awesome

nostormo, Monday, 10 October 2011 01:13 (eight years ago) link

Thought this revive would be about the 100th anniversary: http://www.irishtimes.com/indepth/100-myles/

ATSB is my favourite book of all time but for my shame I have never read anything else by FO'B. I do have an unread copy of An Béal Bocht lying around somewhere...

psychedelicatessen (seandalai), Monday, 10 October 2011 01:27 (eight years ago) link

well the centenary was involved alright

Read 'miles of myles' maybe 15 years ago and always meant to look further but tbf robert jordan happened and y'know yourself.

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 01:32 (eight years ago) link

I think An Béal Bocht would be a lot funnier to someone who spent many, many years mastering the Oirish Tongue via the solemn study of several dozen memoirs written by simple villagers from the Gaeltacht, whose like we shall never see again, I might add, nor, belike, their little curraghs and wee piggies.

Aimless, Monday, 10 October 2011 01:56 (eight years ago) link

i think i could dig it, istr a couple of scenes he wrote lampooning eg synge, o'casey and poss. yeats's depictions of prataí munching ochóners that were on-the-mark

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 01:59 (eight years ago) link

I have not encountered a MILES OF MYLES.

the pinefox, Monday, 10 October 2011 08:17 (eight years ago) link

i think that was it, at least

at-zing-two-boards (darraghmac), Monday, 10 October 2011 09:51 (eight years ago) link

i don't read novels in dialect

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 19 September 2015 23:40 (four years ago) link

I read 'em with my bowl of Froot Loops and cold milk.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 20 September 2015 09:30 (four years ago) link

good day for authors named flann something on ILB

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 20 September 2015 09:46 (four years ago) link

have never heard of that, but looks interesting... shades of dostoyevsky's bobok

no lime tangier, Sunday, 20 September 2015 11:57 (four years ago) link

That is definitely in the right spirit

good day for authors named flann something on ILB

Indeed. Had to resist urge to start a parody about Flann Rice, among others.

The Starry-Eyed Messenger Service (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 20 September 2015 12:20 (four years ago) link


mick signals, Sunday, 20 September 2015 22:01 (four years ago) link

two years pass...

i'm 60 pages into the third policeman and somewhat drunk. flann o'brien is the holy grail

imago, Monday, 23 October 2017 20:59 (two years ago) link

An excellent primer for astb but I maintain my position above, you need to read a bit of Sean O'Casey et al first

Gary Synaesthesia (darraghmac), Monday, 23 October 2017 21:16 (two years ago) link

Kind of an ideal state of being imago has going there, tbh

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 23 October 2017 21:16 (two years ago) link

all noted

imago, Monday, 23 October 2017 21:36 (two years ago) link

this shit is acatalectic

imago, Thursday, 26 October 2017 14:26 (two years ago) link

It's catholic fyi

Gary Synaesthesia (darraghmac), Thursday, 26 October 2017 14:54 (two years ago) link

It wasn't Catholic enough. He became afraid of it.

alimosina, Monday, 30 October 2017 22:41 (two years ago) link

OK I got to the guessing-names bit that Father Ted obviously ripped off and was dissolved in laughter on the tube. I wonder how much of Father Ted is just reconsidered O'Brien...

imago, Friday, 3 November 2017 17:54 (two years ago) link

Great holy suffering indiarubber bowls of brown stirabout!

Terry Micawber (Tom D.), Friday, 3 November 2017 17:58 (two years ago) link

Music tie-in here.

alimosina, Friday, 3 November 2017 18:48 (two years ago) link

I think it's more likely the novel steals from Ted tbh

Gary Synaesthesia (darraghmac), Friday, 3 November 2017 19:23 (two years ago) link

well was a rug ever pulled

imago, Wednesday, 8 November 2017 16:48 (two years ago) link

six months pass...

Have read ten pages of ASTB and it is obviously some kind of personal grail

the list of birds alone has me forever

imago, Sunday, 13 May 2018 09:16 (one year ago) link

well, yes

gneb farts (darraghmac), Sunday, 13 May 2018 09:46 (one year ago) link

the maritime wren!

imago, Sunday, 13 May 2018 09:50 (one year ago) link

read, my child, and learn of the marvels it contains

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 13 May 2018 16:10 (one year ago) link

eleven months pass...

FOB seems to specialise in these extended bravura sequences where all literature else is cast into a pyre. in 3P it was the underground chamber and i'll be beggared if the cress-green cress of the full seventh of that book's length that is the confusion of the tellings of finn, shanahan and lamont doesn't figure somewhere in the reckoning of which is ASTB's. unless somehow it has greater in store

imago, Tuesday, 16 April 2019 14:45 (seven months ago) link

I don't exactly understand that comment. Can you explain further?

the pinefox, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 09:52 (seven months ago) link

I recommend THE COLLECTED LETTERS OF FLANN O'BRIEN, though not as a way of preserving any mystique.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 09:53 (seven months ago) link

Myles na gCopaleen’s collected columns are the best, but I read The Third Policeman a while back and it was honestly one of the strangest things I’ve ever read. I need to read it again.

gyac, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:16 (seven months ago) link

By that I meant that pages 58 through 91 of ASTB make for a truly astonishing passage. I was speculating as to whether the book will have greater in store for me during the remaining course of its pages, of which I have now read 104.

imago, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:24 (seven months ago) link

Are you deliberately taking years to read this novel?

the pinefox, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:28 (seven months ago) link

Savouring every syllable.

Do you like 70s hard rock with a guitar hero? (Tom D.), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:28 (seven months ago) link

third policeman might be the most terrifying book i've ever read

devvvine, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:32 (seven months ago) link

obvs a masterpiece, as is astb

devvvine, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:33 (seven months ago) link

Page 104 has heralded the beginning of a section concerning a Pooka and a Good Fairy that is threatening to drown all that precedes or follows it in mirthful frenzies

imago, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:36 (seven months ago) link

love the running articles towards the start of 'the best of myles' collection, which begin with him proposing a business where he roughs up rich peoples books, so that people think they've been read, and gets more absurd each week until dublin society is being terrroized by social blackmailers

devvvine, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:42 (seven months ago) link

Ordered this just now cuz of this thread (Penguin Classics ed.)

Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 11:01 (seven months ago) link

The Myles stuff is incredible! I started re-reading his stuff last week, he was my favourite author for a period

flamboyant goon tie included, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 14:30 (seven months ago) link

If you chance to read The Dalkey Archive you will see large parts of 3rd Policeman, slightly mutated and used slightly differently.

I love the novels but never quite got into the Myles material, especially the bits not written in English.

One time I was reading At Swim-Two-Birds on the subway and an old man next to me asked me what I was reading. I mutely showed him, and he said "ah, that's a foine book. I also recommend the Dalkey Archive."

I looked over at what he was reading. It was Hamlet.

Only later did I realize that I should have said "That's a good one too. I also recommend Romeo and Juliet." What's Irish for l'esprit de l'escalier?

moist owlette (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 14:49 (seven months ago) link

'a pint of plain is your only man' iirc

imago, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 14:53 (seven months ago) link

Ha, exactly

Theory of Every Zing (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 15:01 (seven months ago) link

wow lol

flamboyant goon tie included, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 15:18 (seven months ago) link

Can’t believe I didn’t mention An Béal Bocht - so so good and always accurate, esp in these Brexity times when we are really all Jams O’Donnell.

Obvs his greatest achievement was writing these masterpieces while employed in the civil service though.

gyac, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 15:39 (seven months ago) link

And mostly pissed iirc

The Gapes of Wrath (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 17:10 (seven months ago) link

The Brother is one of the greatest comic creations of all time.

Do you like 70s hard rock with a guitar hero? (Tom D.), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 17:20 (seven months ago) link

I want to compile every proverb in this book and maybe poll them. A leg that is in halves is a slow pilgrim

imago, Thursday, 18 April 2019 14:54 (seven months ago) link

Orlick's bathroom break is probably the funniest two pages in print

imago, Thursday, 18 April 2019 15:16 (seven months ago) link

The brother was givin out about the seals. ‘Tumblers’ he called them. The brother says all them lads should be destroyed.

JoeStork, Thursday, 18 April 2019 15:39 (seven months ago) link

The Plain People of Ireland: Another day gone and no jokes.
Myself: Yes, curse you.

And according to some websites, there were “sexcapades.” (James Morrison), Tuesday, 23 April 2019 00:17 (seven months ago) link

The conclusion of your syllogism, I said lightly, is fallacious, being based upon licensed premises.

fetter, Tuesday, 23 April 2019 15:34 (seven months ago) link

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