This week (yesterday to be fearsomely precise) saw the centenary of the birth of Brian O’Nolan, Irish civil servant. Here’s a photograph of him:
He is better known, and has appeared as such in this very blog, as Flann O’Brien under which name he wrote novels. Specifically he wrote At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman. It is sometimes said that Evelyn Waugh’s Decline & Fall is the novel most undergraduates would wish to write which is true if said undergraduates were self-loathing misanthropes who could only live with themselves by insisting on their unproven superiority to the working class. For the rest, it has to be At Swim-Two-Birds. After all, it is a novel about a student who is writing a novel about a man who is writing a novel. It is also about a demon; Finn MacCool, legendary hero of old Ireland; the various effects of drinking porter; a poem about beer and according to a brother who knows about such things, an excellent translation of the Madness of Sweeney.
I actually prefer The Third Policeman. Not read it? Do so. Now. Find a copy by any means at your disposal. I care not if you lose your job and/or your family and/or loved ones. Published in 1967 but completed in 1940 it is a brilliantly funny work which will delight you and for a brief but gloriously happy period, you will be unable to look at a bicycle without giggling.
Under the name of Myles na nCopaleen he wrote regularly for the Irish Times and here as a taster is his Catechism of Cliché:
Catechism of Cliché
What is a bad thing worse than?
What can one do with fierce resistance?
But if one puts fierce resistance, in what direction does one put it?
In which hood is a person who expects money to fall out of the sky?
If a thing is fraught, with what is it fraught?
The gravest consequences.
What does one sometimes have it on?
The most unimpeachable authority.
What is the only thing one can wax?
Yes, More of It
What happens to blows at a council meeting?
It looks as if they might be exchanged.
What does pandemonium do?
It breaks loose.
Describe its subsequent dominion.
How are allegations dealt with?
They are denied.
Yes, but then you are weakening, Sir. Come now, how are they denied?
What is the behaviour of a heated altercation?
What happens to order?
It is restored.
Alternatively, in what does the meeting break up?
What does the meeting do in disorder?
In what direction does the meeting break in disorder?
In what direction should I shut?
When things are few, what also are they?
What are stocks of fuel doing when they are low?
How low are they running?
What does one do with a suggestion?
One throws it out.
For what does one throw a suggestion out?
For what it may be worth.
What else can be thrown out?
In addition to hurling a hint on such lateral trajectory, what other not unviolent action can be taken with it?
It can be dropped.
What else is sometimes dropped?
A pint of plain is your only man.