Posts Tagged ‘Flann O’Brien’

Flann O’Brien, Goldfrapp and the BBC

December 6, 2017
Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien shown on the TLS website in a 2011 article

Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory chose Flann O’Brien as the subject of Great Lives on BBC Radio 4 yesterday (you can still hear it on the BBC’s iPlayer). Astoundingly,  Matthew Parris said he did not know the Irish writer and his masterpieces, At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman.

Carol Taaffe, who has written about O’Brien, explained that the books were only hailed as literary masterpieces after the author’s death. O’Brien worked as a civil servant and wrote under three pseudonyms – Brian O’Nolan, Flann O’Brien, and Myles na gCopaleen, the last of these for his satirical columns in the Irish Times newspaper, which he wrote in Gaelic.

Town, the mainstream men’s magazine, ran a profile of O’Brien in its September 1965 issue, a year before O’Brien’s death. The Times Literary Supplement celebrated O’Brien on his centenary in 2011 and the Irish Times ran an O’Brien homage in 2015.

Flann O’Brien and Town’s girl in red water

September 14, 2015
Town magazine and the`Girl in Red Water up to her Charlies' cover from September 1965

Town magazine and the`Girl in Red Water up to her Charlies’ cover from September 1965

A query about Irish writer Flann O’Brien has given me the chance to delve into one of my favourite magazines, Town, famously owned by Michael Heseltine, known as ‘Tarzan’ during his time in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet.
Joe Labine, from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, was keen to see the profile of O’Brien by Michael Wale in the September 1965 issue – the one with the ‘Girl in Red Water up to her Charlies’ cover (to use a term coined by 1950s supermodel Barbara Goalen).
O’Brien is famous for his column as Myles na Gopaleen (literally, Myles of the Small Horses) in the Irish Times. He had begun writing in Gaelic for the Irish Press in the 1930s, and wrote books such as At Swim-Two-Birds (1939) and The Third Policeman (published after his death in 1967 but written 26 or 27 years before). The two-page article by Wale, ‘I must be shouting at my enemies…’, was followed by excerpts from the Irish Times, his book Hard Life and Sago Saga (in preparation).
Joe explained his query:
I would love to have Wale’s interview with O’Brien because it’s very rare. I am giving a lecture on Flann O’Brien this week to scholars at Metamorphoses: The III International Flann O’Brien Conference. [However,] few of us have ever actually seen the Town article.
It’s very important though, because in biographies of Brian O’Nolan (Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen were pen names), a few writers mention that in Town Brian O’Nolan claims he ‘met James Joyce in Paris several times’. By all other accounts this is just simply not true however. Town is the only magazine in which he ever made the claim. I would like to try and figure out why. Perhaps he thought it was just a men’s magazine that wouldn’t hold him accountable or ‘fact-check’ as journalists say. I don’t know.
The article does indeed make the claim. In a section on influences on himself, he brings in Joyce:
Indeed, I suppose I was influenced by Joyce. Some authors, no matter what you think, subconsciously can influence you. The same is true of Joyce himself by Proust, and believe it or not by inferior people like Henry James, and he must have read a lot of Sexton Blake [a Sherlock-Holmes-like fictional detective].
I met him [Joyce] in Paris several times. He was a morose, completely self-contained little man. I was curious about him. I admired certain aspects of his work. There has been a lot of rubbish written about him, especially by Americans. I’ve met some of them, ignorant swine…
Excerpt from Brian Nolan interview talking about James Joyce

Excerpt from Brian Nolan interview talking about James Joyce

There has always been less emphasis on exhaustive checking of facts on British newspapers and magazines than in the US. The culture is to trust – and hence hold responsible – the writer. However, Town was one of the best magazines of its era. Other writers in this issue included Leningrad author Brian Moynahan, motoring expert Eric Dymock, the legend in his own lunchtime Jeffrey Bernard, Right Stuff author Tom Wolfe and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald.
The full three pages of the article are shown below (click on the images to see larger, more legible versions).
Michael wale profile of Brian Nolan - Flann O'Brien - in Town, 1965

Michael Wale profile of Brian Nolan – Flann O’Brien – in Town, 1965

Final page of Michael Wale profile of Brian Nolan - Flann O'Brien - in Town, 1965

Final page of Michael Wale profile of Brian Nolan – Flann O’Brien – in Town, 1965