At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien. A nice instance of alphabetical serendipity. I was in Borders, looking for another of the Patrick O’Brien Aubrey-Maturin series and this was of course on the same shelf. Thirty years ago, my friend John Stephenson had sung its praises and, while I’d read and enjoyed the Myles na Gopaleen columns by the same author, I’d never got around to At Swim-Two-Birds. I found it a little heavy going at first, but now I’m really enjoying it.
While I’m at it, I’ll take the opportunity to plug John’s novel The Optimist based on the early life of the poet Christopher Brennan. When I was young, Brennan was still a legendary figure in the classic-tragic-alcoholic mode, but he seems to be neglected nowadays. The Optimist is apparently out of print, but it’s well worth reading if you can pick it up. The echoes of O’Brien and Joyce are very evident.