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From Cruiskeen Lawn

by Flann O’Brien & edited by Kevin O’Nolan

Pub Date: June 15th, 2000
ISBN: 1-56478-241-7
Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Not yard debris, but more installments (1947–57) of The Irish Times “Full Jug” column by querulous comic provocateur O’Brien (The Poor Mouth, 1974, etc.).

Born Brian Ó Nualláin, Irish civil servant Brian Nolan—for 26 years known to Irish Times readers as Myles nagCopaleen (“Miles of the Little Horses”)—wrote five novels (notably the “sober farce” At Swim-Two-Birds, not reviewed) as Flann O’Brien. Here Myles, the unwilling pub eavesdropper, endures bores (“It’s a disease, you know”) and re-encounters the Brother, who reads and reviews books: “An engrossing story of mankind at handigrips with fate.” Myles also frequents the courts (having smashed a radio station’s recording of the Blue Danube Waltz after listening to 4,312 airings in one year), and he tries to calculate how fat you’d have to be to be seen dead in a field of wheat. Pedantry, faux-profundity, and windy clerics get hoisted skyward, although there are no notes to illumine burning issues now 50 years old. Exercised by architects wheezing about “vocation” (“I wonder at what price this art and sanctity cubes out on the job?”), Myles is quite comfortable tackling diplomacy (“Shake hands and be fiends?”)—for if musicians can descant on politics, why not politicians on consecutive fifths? A ringmaster of Higher Nonsense, Myles attains an apogee of non sequituria in one rhapsody which careens from Dublin theaters to “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” to a magazine psychologist’s warning that “You Can’t Always Card-Index Love!”

This reprint of a 1976 UK edition (here published in the US for the first time) demonstrates that a columnist cannot always be on form.

The Best of Myles (1968, not reviewed) might be a better start, but O’Brien is always worth investigation by the converted, the curious, and the endemically lighthearted.