Friday, September 01, 2006

the contemplative life

After a myriad recommendations I finally decided to pick up a copy of At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien. And I can't quite put the damnable thing down. I find myself laughing at the most inopportune moments like on the Red-Line right after a drunken WhiteSox Dad has just asked his 8 yeard old daughter to quote, "Pull my finger." I'm sorry, I wasn't laughing at your delightfully uncouth sense of humor DrunkenWhiteSoxDad, but at the sheer magnificence of O'Brien understatements. For example we are introduced to an un-named young author/student who does little but sleep and drink. It takes no time at all to come to the conclusion that this chap is lazy. The closest O'Brien comes to actually declaring this is when he has the young man say "the contemplative life has always been suitable to my disposition." O'Brien later describes a rough'n'tumble poet 'of the people' who spits and is generally manly. After much description pertaining to the color of his phlegm and the sounds made when said mucous is expectorated the author adds: "In some respects [Kelly] was a coarse man."

But the novel is also a very difficult one. I'm still trying to come to grips with its odd structure of story within story within story. What makes things more complicated is that the characters the un-named narrator creates in his own fiction sometimes interact with the 'real' people in the narrator's world. And that Trellis, one of the characters the un-named author invents, is an author himself, and that Trellis' creations weave in and out of the other author's fictions. Its enough to give one a head-ache if it were not so fun, funny, and rewarding, 'cause I like me a book that doesn't give itself up like some brazen hussy. There is such a thing as courting one's novels and I'll be sad when this courtship comes to an end in 121 pages. There's always
The Third Policeman i guess.