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

Anthony Cronin

Published by Grafton Books
ISBN 10: 0586090118 / ISBN 13: 9780586090114
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Synopsis: Flann O'Brien's writing career was launched in 1939 with his brilliant first novel AT SWIM TWO BIRDS--a cult classic praised by James Joyce--quickly followed by other influential novels. But O'Brien lived a dark and tragic life, his writing obscured by various pseudonyms. Here Anthony Cronin, a member of O'Brien's intimate circle, offers a remarkable and fascinating portrait of the writer.

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.

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Title: No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of ...
Publisher: Grafton Books
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: VERY GOOD

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