Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Best of Myles

After the harrowing process of moving and desperately trying to unload many of my books, I have sworn to buy no more books and to adapt wholeheartedly to my gypsy life. Of course that lasted until I visited Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, a Galway institution. I was there for a reading, but I couldn't quite resist this book. So far, it's the only one I bought there. Let's hope I can keep to that.

Most people will know Flann O'Brien [true name Brian O'Nolan] from At Swim-Two-Birds or The Third Policeman, acknowledged comic classics. The Best of Myles collects the "Cruiskeen Lawn" columns he wrote as Myles na gCopaleen in the Irish Times. Yes, a lot of pseudonyms, eh? No wonder I love him.

I was reading this on the bus to Shannon airport last week and giggling in my seat, doubtless disturbing the poor woman next to me who thought I was some kind of lunatic. Ahem.

O'Brien maintains a tone of daft reasonableness whether he's plotting to take over the Irish Writers, Actors, Artists and Musicians Association (rebuffed in his offer to take charge, he first finds fault with all they do, then decides to form a rival splinter group), suggesting dialogue at the Abbey Theatre be printed as banners and hung above the stage so audience members can read ahead to catch their buses on time, or developing get-rich-quick schemes like his Beard Food (accompanied with appropriate sketches of the wonders it will provoke). He relates many adventures of "the brother" -- a schemer of the first order who nonetheless seems to garner a grudging respect from many despite his high-handed ways.

He addresses "the Plain People of Ireland" often -- and offers their suspicious views of his meanderings. No surprise as he invents business schemes of dubious execution: artisans who will give wealthy stupid people's books the impression of having been read, with increasing fees depending on the amount of wear and the addition of pithy ripostes or citations annotated on the pages, or ventriloquist dates to accompany the not very bright and provide their half of the sparkling conversations. The Plain people are inclined to interrupt with corrections of his spelling or signs of impatience when his self-glorifying goes on too long.

Among his vaunted skills are the accompanying drawings illustrating various points. The drawings are wonderful as well, offering valuable visual advice such as how to carry your drunken friend who has collapsed or how to cross a river without getting your top hat wet. Valuable advice indeed.

See the full list of books over at Patti Abbott's blog.

I did go to the reading last night and read my new poem because Kevin was soft-hearted enough to squeeze me in at the end. It seemed to go over well. I tagged along to the pub afterward and it was great to have a chance to get to know people a little more. Quite a community of writers here.


Todd Mason said...

"O'Brien" as a(n ir)regular columnist does indeed sound promising. Shall seek it out...

K. A. Laity said...

Cheers -- it is fun.

Pádraig Ó Méalóid said...

Eamon Morrissey, an Irish actor of some pedigree, did a one-man-show called The Brother, based on Flann's writing. At one stage, quite a few years back now, it was on RTÉ (in 1975, I now see), and I may well have a spare copy on DVD - not that it officially exists on DVD, to the best of my knowledge, you understand - and will be happy to send one your way, if you'd like to have a look at it.


K. A. Laity said...

I would be delighted of course to have a chance to see such a rare recording. Thanks, Pádraig. :-)