No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien

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9780586090114: No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien
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Full-length biography of writer Flann O'Brien.

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From The New Yorker:

Brian O'Nolan (alias Nolan, O Nualláin, Ua Nualláin, Brother Barnabas, Flann O'Brien, Myles na Gopaleen, and so many other "pseudonymous personalities" created "in the interests of pure destruction" that his biographer gives up counting them) was born in 1911 in Strabane, Ireland. He therefore belonged to the generation of Irish writers who operated in the afterglow of the Celtic revival and under the albatrossian shadow of James Joyce. As O'Nolan, he was an able civil servant supporting a widowed mother, two jobless older brothers, nine younger siblings, and the large house in which his father had kept his Gaelic-speaking clan in comfort. As Barnabas, O'Nolan was an undergraduate prankster and literary leader. As Flann, he was the author of the splendidly comic innovative novel At Swim-Two-Birds. As Myles, he wrote an amusingly testy column for the Irish Times, complaining of almost everything in sight. As the rest of the crowd, he wrote provocative letters to editors, which was not an unusual diversion for a Dublin literary man. Mr. Cronin is a Dublin literary man himself, and his description of the world that surrounded his cantankerous subject--of authors, critics, journalists, and people who had had a play rejected by the Abbey--has a delightful authenticity. As a young admirer of O'Nolan, he knew that set. On one occasion O'Nolan, despite his perpetual exasperation at being tagged a follower of Joyce, organized a memorial tribute to "the great exile." Friends representing the characters in Ulysses were to follow Bloom's daylong route in two "growlers." Mr. Cronin represented the young poet. The expedition was launched in disorder and foundered in a pub along the way, but clearly it was a fine affair while it lasted. It was also, in an oblique way, prophetic. O'Nolan can be said to have foundered in a number of pubs, and did not live to enjoy the international esteem in which he is now held. Mr. Cronin has recorded his man with sympathy and shrewdness and has re-created his time and place so vividly that one can fairly smell the whiskey.

From Publishers Weekly:

Brian O'Nolan, who used the pseudonyms Flann O'Brien (for his novels) and Myles naGopaleen (for his newspaper columns), was born in 1911 in the north of Ireland. His father, a career civil servant, was a fervent Irish linguist who educated his sons at home because he did not want them to be taught in English. O'Nolan grew up mainly in Dublin and was educated at University College Dublin and, like his father, entered the Irish civil service. His first book, At Swim Two Birds (1939), was edited by Graham Greene and greatly admired by James Joyce, who called O'Nolan "a real writer, with a true comic spirit." This was to begin O'Nolan's love-hate relationship with Joyce. He was a Joycean apostle, but, in time, he grew weary of hearing how his writing style mimicked that of the master. In 1940, O'Nolan began writing a column for the Irish Times, and in 1941 published An Beal Bocht (translated as The Poor Mouth in English), a comic novel about the Irish-speaking west of Ireland. Cronin (Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist), who was a friend of O'Nolan, focuses on many aspects of the novelist's life: his friends, who considered him a "natural celibate" (although he married later); his relationship with Sean T. O'Kelly who would become president of Ireland; how he savaged parts of his novel, The Third Policeman, to put together his later work, The Dalkey Archive; his friendships with William Saroyan and Brendan Behan; and his alcoholism, which led to the cancer that killed him in 1966. Cronin also presents a vivid picture of Dublin life in the middle of the 20th century, identifying pubs?many of which still operate?that will be of particular interest to O'Nolan aficionados. This is an intense look at one of 20th-century's Ireland's greatest writers that will appeal to fans and scholars alike. Photos. (Mar.) FYI: Dalkey Archive, the Chicago-based press, is named after the comic novel whose hero is James Joyce.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780880641838: No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien

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ISBN 10:  0880641835 ISBN 13:  9780880641838
Publisher: Fromm Intl, 1998
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9781904301370: No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien

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9780246128362: No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien

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