Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Flann O'Brien 1911-1966

"Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop. When a dog barks late at night and then retires again to bed, he punctuates and gives majesty to the serial enigma of the dark, laying it more evenly and heavily upon the fabric of the mind. Sweeny in the trees hears the sad baying as he sits listening on the branch, a huddle between the earth and heaven; and he hears also the answering mastiff that is counting the watches in the next parish. Bark answers bark till the call spreads like fire through all Erin. Soon the moon comes forth from behind her curtains riding full tilt across the sky, lightsome and unperturbed in her immemorial calm."

This day a century ago we were gifted with one of the great strange and lyrical voices of our age. Brian O'Nolan was born in County Tyrone.

I just happen to be feeling a great deal of kinship with O'Nolan at the moment. Born just a day after my own birthdate he was the same age I am now - 54 - when he died of heart failure.

Writing as Flann O'Brien he produced one of the truly fine stories in the English tongue; "At Swim-Two-Birds", a combination of poem, stream-of-consciousness blog, and surrealist novel. It may be the most bizarre and unique things to come out of Dublin since James Joyce. He was the source of a fountain of other fine works, many published under other names as he was an employee of the government of Ireland and thus prohibited from writing or otherwise expressing political and social opinion.

If you're interested, you can find it here on-line. It's not for all tastes, but, musha, it is without doubt a very memorable flavor indeed.


Lisa said...

I understand it will come out as film 2012 (?)

FDChief said...

Can't imagine how you'd capture the essence of this on film. The visual media are inescapably linear, regardless of attempts to inject surrealism into them (L'Chien Andalus...) The genius of AS-T-B is the three stories weaving in and out...

You could do this as a movie...but you'd have to be a truly brilliant director.

Lisa said...

I read it'll be Brendan Gleeson's breakout as director, but that the script's had over 12 re-writes (?) -- may not bode well.

FDChief said...

Mmmm...that doesn't sound good. And for O'Brien, the script is crucial; if you can't capture his voice you might as well forget it.

I can see this being either a brilliant, incoherent failure ("Videodrome") or a plodding mess. All thing considered I'd prefer the former.

Reminds me of the Bill Murray character in the old chestnut "Tootsie", where he's talking about his work and says something like "I hate it when someone comes up to me and says 'Wow, man', I saw your stuff and I really loved it.' I hate that. You know what I like? I like it when someone comes up to me and says 'Wow, man, I saw you stuff...what the fuck was it about?'"

Lisa said...

Yes, this one does promise to be a "Memento" (ref. the average viewer) on mescaline from what I've read, if it goes into production. (The actual projected due date is 2013!) This will be a book that goes into my queue, thank you.

I love possibilities, and not the pat answer.