At Swim-Two-Birds

At Swim-Two-Birds


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781564781819
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date: 09/28/2005
Series: Irish Literature Series
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 138,971
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)

About the Author

Flann O'Brien, whose real name was Brian O'Nolan, also wrote under the pen name of Myles na Gopaleen. He was born in 1911 in County Tyrone. A resident of Dublin, he graduated from University College after a brilliant career as a student (editing a magazine called Blather) and joined the Civil Service, in which he eventually attained a senior position. He wrote throughout his life, which ended in Dublin on April 1, 1966. His other novels include The Dalkey Archive, The Third Policeman, The Hard Life, and The Poor Mouth, all available from Dalkey Archive Press. Also available are three volumes of his newspaper columns: The Best of Myles, Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn, and At War.

William Gaddis (1922-98) stands among the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. The winner of two National Book Awards (for "J R" [1976] and "A Frolic of His Own" [1995]), he wrote five novels during his lifetime, including "Carpenter's Gothic "(1985), "Agap? Agape" (published posthumously in 2002), and his early masterpiece "The Recognitions" (1955). He is loved and admired for his stylistic innovations, his unforgettable characters, his pervasive humor, and the breadth of his intellect and vision.

What People are Saying About This

James Joyce

"That's a real writer, with the true comic spirit. A really funny book."

Philip Toynbee

"If I were a cultural dictator in England I would make At Swim-Two-Birds compulsory reading in all universities."

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At Swim-Two-Birds 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the beginning, and just got into it, and I found as long as I made a list of characters I could easily keep track of what was going on. I'm sure I would have a better appreciation were I to study a bit of Irish folklore, but even being ignorant didn't impede my ability to appreciate the absolutely brilliant tapestry he's weaving. The characters are wholly real, and I love his use of the English language. I was reading multiple books when I read this one, and for the last half of the book I quit reading everything else and just concentrated on At Swim! Most recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book. It can be a bit hard to get started. I suggest the old read-aloud-trick to find the author's voice and rhythms. Once I read a few pages aloud and found the music within I was hooked. Great author intrusion. Many exciting techniques. A writer's writer.
adrianburke on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I remember first reading this in Belfast during the mid-seventies staying at my sister's flat off the Ormeau Road. First night there they blew up the pub at the end of the road. Memorable.
abirdman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
My all time favorite work of fiction. Funny, silly, serious, self-involved. In a book by an evil author the characters rebel, and try to create new lives for themselves. That's just one of the many plots all happening simultaneously. "A pint of plain's your only man."
DieFledermaus on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is just a really weird book. Quite interesting. The author uses some oddly formal prose, but not exactly sure the satire. There¿s a twisted metafiction plot, with characters plotting the overthrow of their author ¿ all the story of a lazy college student. A lot of Irish history entwined with the plots, can be a little hard going, but enough is explained so you¿re not lost. Although there are a lot of crazy things going on, a good portion of the book is just small talk and getting from one place to another. The author starts out author considering beginnings for a novel. He has three, one about a supernatural being, the Pooka, named MacPhellimey (like a Harvey the rabbit), another about John Furriskey, born at age 25, and legendary Irish hero Finn MacCool. The author is a college student who rarely goes to class and is always nagged at by his uncle. His story of Finn is continued ¿ mostly with Finn giving long-winded speeches about how he and his clan enjoy magic and poems. Reminiscent of olde-type epic poetry. The highly stylized prose is quite humorous when describing the narrator/author¿s experiences with alcohol. Formally written drunkenness. Later, he creates another `author¿ in his book ¿ fat invalid Dermot Trellis who lives in the Red Swan Hotel. Trellis 'writes' the other stories until his characters get fed up of him and get their revenge.
Fenoxielo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Brilliant on many levels, since it's meta-fiction. It may not seem that radical when read today, but O'Brien was truly creating something that had never been done before with At Swim-Two-Birds. His language is both engaging and compelling to read while at the same time incredibly dense and almost baroque. Read this book if you want to have your mind blown.
IreneF on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I really, really wanted to like this book but it ultimately fell flat. It started well enough, with an indication of a "real" story framing three fantasies. These tales meander around and mix it up, but the last quarter of the book, which is mostly given over to the torment of an author by his characters, seemed pointless.Much of the book is "about"--well, not really "about", but maybe what the author was thinking about--is the collision between Ireland's literary, heroic past and its grimy, mundane present. But here's the rub: the commonplace pre-War Dublin of the book is as unreal to me, as a 21st century Californian, as any invented city; and the threads of Irish literature glimmering through At Swim-Two-Birds are indecipherable to anyone who hasn't already sought them out. (Unless, perhaps, you grew up in Ireland. )For example, early in the book, characters "borrowed" from another "author"--a writer of westerns--go cattle rustling cattle in Dublin. If you know that one of the earliest works of Irish literature is the Táin Bó Cúailnge, or "Cattle Raid of Cooley" you realize this is more than absurdist humor; but how many readers have heard of it?A counterpoint between high and low fun runs through the text:"The mind may be impaired by alcohol, I mused, but withal it may be pleasantly impaired. Personal experience appeared to me to be the only satisfactory means to the resolution of my doubts. Knowing it was my first one, I quietly fingered the butt of my glass before I raised it. Lightly I subjected myself to an inward interrogation... Who are my future cronies, where our mad carousals? What neat repast shall feast us light and choice of Attic taste with wine whence we may rise to hear the lute well touched or artful voice warble immortal notes or Tuscan air? What mad pursuit? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?Here's to your health, said Kelly.Good luck, I said. . . . You can't beat a good pint."Much of the text is dialogue. The going is a little tough, because it lacks quotation marks. This has never bothered me before, but to be cont'd
SimoneSimone on LibraryThing 5 months ago
""Forget bloody James Joyce. This is THE Irish writer.""
fourbears on LibraryThing 5 months ago
One thing this book reminded me of was writing a rag called "The Cuckoo's Nest" when I was in grad school in the 70ies. It was a dittoed paper distributed throughout the English Department and the goal was riffing on "academic style". I wrote abstracts for fake papers, agenda for academic conferences, riffs on footnotes. It was very popular for awhile and I wasted a lot of time at it. (I don't have anything left so maybe it wasn't as funny as I thought.)I'm not saying of course that I really had a masterpiece going, but I felt that spirit behind At Swim Two Birds. The narrator is a student who drinks and parties too much and spends endless time in his room so that his conventional uncle¿with whom he lives¿assumes he¿s wasting time. He begins by telling us that the rules of fiction¿one beginning and one ending, for example¿make no sense. He insists that no new characters are needed; that writers should use existing characters¿which he does, importing, for example, two cowboys from the American West into his Irish story. Well not so much into his story but into the story of the writer, Trellis ,he writes about. And at the end of the novel, the characters take Trellis to court for cruel and inhuman treatment.I suppose there¿s a sense in which this book¿which is difficult to follow and defeats many readers not willing to follow where it leads¿as John Updike says to ¿drunken banter, journalese, pulp fiction and Celtic myth¿¿is a novelist¿s novel, or at least one primarily of interest to those who study/care about the novel as form. That may account for the fact that although it¿s been touted as a work of genius since it was published in 1939, it¿s not read much, except in university courses in the novel¿which is where I first encountered it 40 years ago.O¿Brien¿s¿his real name was Brian O¿Nolan and he also wrote a long-standing column in The Irish Times under the name Myles na gCopaleen¿immediate predecessor is of course Joyce. One friend of mine, in fact, calls this novel "Joyce Lite", i.e., likely to prime readers for reading Ulysses and maybe even Finnegans Wake. Nothing illustrates O¿Brien¿s writing genius like when he gets hooked on a tale or a topic and runs away with it¿until the reader collapses in laughter¿innocuous subjects like tea and tobacco (which I remember from near the end). Usually totally out of the context of the story or only tangential, but an individual opportunity for cleverness and humor. Even just lists as when he "characterizes" Furriskey, Lamont and Shanaghan by systematically going through a list of qualities using a word or phrase for each character. Starts out informative and ends up hilarious. Head: brachysephalic; bullet; prognathicVision: tendencies toward myopia; wall-eye; nyctalopiaConfiguration of nose: roman, snub; mastoidUnimportant physical afflictions: palpebral ptosis, indigestion; German itchThe descriptions of Finn McCool in the beginning are like that¿the descriptions go way beyond "describing" and into the area of the kind of humor that results from building up of detail upon detail¿all that circumference of his body parts¿¿the neck to him was as the bole of a great oak, knotted and seized together with muscle humps and carbuncles of tangled sinew, the better for good feasting and contending with the bards. His chest to him was wider than the poles of a good chariot, coming now out, now in, and pastured from chin to navel with meadows of black man-hair and meated with layers of fine man-meat the better to hide his bones and fashion the semblance of his twin bubs.¿ And so forth, longer and cleverer than you¿d think any man could extend the comparisons.All this would be tedious were it not so outrageous in the detail and so well written. The details are carefully chosen (no matter how random they seem) and if you read it aloud, the sentences are beautiful. There's a blurb by Updike about O'Brien on the back of my book: "Like Beckett, O'Brien...has the gift of the perfect sentence, the art
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Jenn1029 More than 1 year ago
If you read for pleasure and to relax, run away far far away. If you want a challenge beyound anything in your life, pick this book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderfull menagerie of fantasy and frivolity. A blur of fact and fiction. Wonderfully written, it paints vivid pictures in the mind and takes the written word where it has never been before. A must read!