At Swim-Two-Birds, or Anything you can do, I can do meta
|(First edition of At Swim-Two-Birds,|
London, Longman's Green & Co., 1939)
The first third or so of Flann O'Brien's 1939 novel At Swim-Two-Birds (that's how far into the book I am) reads at time like solemn myth; at times like boastful, parodic epic; at times like naturalistic narrative; and at times like just plain fun. One of my favorite examples of the latter:
"`I'm thirsty,' he said. `I have sevenpence. Therefore I buy a pint.'But what I really like are the bits that call amusing attention to their own modes of fic— to their own amusing ways of saying stuff:
"I immediately recognized this as an intimation that I should pay for my own porter.
"`The conclusion of your syllogism,' I said lightly, `is fallacious, being based on licensed premises.'"
"My talk had been forced, couched in the accent of the lower or working classes."This can wake the reader up and make him notice, with a smile, even the most routine acts:
"In a moment he was gone, this time without return. Brinsley, a shadow by the window, performed perfunctorily the movements of a mime, making at the same time a pious ejaculation.If you don't think self-reference can be funny and lovely at the same time, try the following:
"Nature of mime and ejaculation: Removal of sweat from brow; holy God."
"Purpose of walk: Discovery and embracing of virgins.Now, I'll go resume my reading. You should do the same.
"We attained nothing on our walk that was relevant to the purpose thereof but we filled up the loneliness of our souls with the music of our two voices, dog-racing, betting and offences against chastity being the several subjects of our discourse. We walked many miles together on other nights on similar missions-following matrons, accosting strangers, representing to married ladies that we were their friends, and gratuitously molesting members of the public. One night we were followed in our turn by a member of the police force attired in civilian clothing. On the advice of Kelly we hid ourselves in the interior of a church until he had gone. I found that the walking was beneficial to my health."
That still seems about right,
© Peter Rozovsky 2012