at snámh-dá-én

two-words: perspicacious piss-take

brian o'nolan a.k.a flann o'brien

Flann O’Brien is James Joyce meets Tex Avery, drenched in copious pints of plain.

As a lover of Ulysses, Looney Toons and the occasional drink, At Swim-Two-Birds, O’Brien’s irreverent satire of Irish Literature in general and Stephen Dedalus in particular, was destined to be a favourite and is the funniest book I’ve read in ages. It opens with the narrator positing the feasibility of a novel having three openings, successfully executes the gag making it a novel with four openings. It also has a triple-sweet ending with lashings of laughter in between, so there is plenty to love.

At Swim-Two-Birds is the story of a young nameless lazy drunken verminous student/author (O’Brien’s alter-ego) writing a story of another lazy author, Dermot Trellis (O’Brien’s alter-ego’s alter-ego, stay with me) whose characters come to life and revolt, with help of a pooka and a good fairy, against their poor workplace-conditions: Slug Willard, a trigger-happy cowpuncher, is sick of being recycled as a tram driver; Finn Mac Cool, a powerfully-built Fenian, protests getting his ass kicked by inferior specimen; Furriskey would rather not defile women; a talking cow would like to be milked more frequently etc. etc. Hi-jinx, twisted Celtic myth and running-kicks ensue, spliced with biting commentary on the writing process and gratuitous pandering to temperamental readers and critics alike,

It’s the sort of queer stuff  they look for in a story these days. p.170.

It is full of hilariously strange meta-fictitious characters, is acutely perceptive and self-deprecating, and has wild improbable anachronistic action, videlicet, it is the perfect combination of ridiculous conviviality and on-tap porter, making for laugh-out-loud rollicking humour.

irish acting powerhouse come out to swim

In fitting homage, an ambitious troupe of Irish actors, with In Bruges‘ Brendan Gleeson at its helm, is making an eponymous film set to be released in 2013. The budget now stands at $11M and I’m wondering just how much is dedicated to the portrayal of the layers in the action. Some scenes may be animated Tex Avery-style, or computer-generated, who knows, but this is the kind of book that can easily become your baby and you wouldn’t want to fuck up the adaptation. So the pressure is on, Gleeson!

If my brother gave At Swim-Two-Birds to me as a prank as Dylan Thomas suggests, I’d smother him in a thousand drunken grateful kisses. This novel is such a cracking funny piss-take, it goes straight to the pool room, snugly between James Joyce’s Ulysses and my 10 year old 21 year old bottle of Appleton.

my people-the presets
daddy cool-boney m
is my baby yours?-sarah blasko

ulysses: the wrap

two words: unadulterated genius

marylin and molly

I love Ulysses, as Avid says, in the pants! It was ten novels in one – a play, a catechism, an essay on Shakespeare, a thirtytwo page eight sentence no punctuation internal monologue, a masterpiece. Joyce executed The Unities effortlessly but still managed to take us on an odyssey. I heard Jamaican, “Ludamassy, mi pore picaninnies.” I heard Australian, “Crikey!” I experienced the cosmos of the solitary wo/man. The English language was deconstructed in a strange and wonderful way and expanded into infinite possibilities. It was breathtaking. Like Marylin Monroe and Virginia Woolf before her, I have been ruined.

Ulysses destroyed the whole of the 19th century. It showed up the futility of all the English styles.  Virginia Woolf in her diary, September 26, 1922

I can see why it was banned in the U.S. and U.K. for over a decade. They couldn’t decide whether it was pornography. What it is, is an unflinching fly-on-the-wall look at the inner intrigues of thoughts and desires, fear and doubt, passion and grief, all the things that make us human. Ultimately, it is less about what we say and do and more about what we think and feel.

I close this book having felt a profound sense of communion. Nothing at all and everything possible simultaneously happen, revealing  within the text all the secrets I crave.

Reading will never be the same.

strange fruit-nina simone
time to pretend-mgmt
i kissed a girl-katy perry
hand in my pocket-alanis morisette
ain’t no fun-snoop dogg

chapbook: on women & sex

The Charming Soubrette

the charming soubrette

Marie Kendall, charming soubrette, is the ideal woman. She is perky, silent and ready to serve.

The female body during copulation should be passive, but not obtuse. Ulysses

The runner-up is Gertie McDowell – vain, provocative, foolish, scheming and a complete figment of Bloom’s imagination.

The women in Ulysses are, at first, one-dimensional objects/projections of men’s desires. But, of course, there’s more to it. Joyce seems acutely aware of the complex nature of our real or imagined cohabitation.


Bella/o, the mistress, can conjure Bloom into a pig since, “Brothels aren’t just sailor’s dreams but all men’s.” Circe

At the back of all men’s mind is a rented room. Walcott’s Odyssey

The face of everywoman is strangely projected unto the whores of Nighttown.

Fear not them that sell the body but have not power to buy the soul. She buys dear and sells cheap. Ulysses

So women are whores and men are pigs, but women live in Nighttown and men pay to visit.

Presenting… The Magnificent… Molleeeee Blooooom!

jennifer steyn as molly bloom

In the most brilliant piece of stream of consciousness ever, we meet the compelling Molly Bloom. She is primal, petty, cunning, weak, vain, ignorant, foul-mouthed and Bloom’s perfect counterpart.

She is Cleopatra-esque on her barge of a bed, but flesh-and-blood tits-and-tongue real. She has orgasms and farts, menstruates  and likes big cocks, she katyperried Hester and likes giving head to a clean dick. She wants to be fucked up against a wall by a  ‘wild stranger,’ or better yet to be a man so she can devour women. She is jealous of her daughter’s affection for Leopold. She grieves her dead son. She rules her man.

Ever the, and I say it in the most loving way possible, twisted character, Bloom is happy under his “petticoat government,” being dominated by his less intelligent and less morally intact wife, even literally kissing her ass. He wishes himself the charming soubrette.

Molly and Leopold aid and abet each others idiosyncrasies and cohabit inexplicably well. They are aware of each others infidelity, yet in a mutually tender and gratifying moment she suckles him and allows him to use her ‘thick and sweet’ breast milk in his tea. In both mock and sincere adoration, she wishes to write her own chapbook on “The Works of Master Poldy,”and has nothing but fond memories of when she said ‘yes’ to him.

Though she is flawed, there is no self-loathing, of her or her kind. She thinks women would do a better job ruling the world because “they know when to stop,” unlike men who drink/talk/bet/fuck to oblivion.

theyre all mad to get in there where they came out of

I begin to suspect that Joyce loves women, or at least Molly, in the best way possible – warts and all. Molly is the antithesis of the charming soubrette and she is uncompromisingly and unpatronizingly presented to us as screwed-up as she is, just like the male characters in Ulysses.

i knew it…

So said, so done. Water isn’t the only thing spraying at Sandymount Rocks.  Alanis Bloom has one hand in his pocket and ends up with a ‘cold and clammy’ shirt tail. What a perv!

But that’s not all, no! We are treated with the delights of synchronized peeing:

At Stephen’s suggestion, at Bloom’s instigation, both, first Stephen then Bloom, in penumbra urinated, their sides contiguous…

To top off this golden moment we have both their heads inclined towards the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Molly’s silhouette. Nice.

chapbook: on biscuit tins

My joy is other joy. Both are joys.

‘…those cunning brothers, lords of the vat,’ run a ‘respectable licensed premises’ and keep I-man, the Fenian &co well lubricated. Bloom, however, is a teetotaler, a wet blanket and a ‘jew’. He refrains from drink, spoils their lark by paraphrasing their ideas in fustian language, and partakes without offering up his (mistakenly suspected) new-found wealth. Hi-jinx  and biscuit tins ensue.

Who made the allegations? I am the alligator.

I anticipated that this chapter would be difficult to read because of the overt antisemitism, but it was one of the funniest chapters in Ulysses. No one is spared the bitter brunt of Celtic wit. Of England:

On which the sun never rises… They believe in rod, the scourger almighty, creator of hell on earth and in Jacky Tar, the son of a gun… conceived of holy boast… rose again from the bed. p.315


auricular spectacular

The Sirens chapter begins with an aural montage, a snappy prelude of chatter and music recurring later in the chapter, reminding me of an Edgar Wright film, but for ears. And even though I am sometimes at a loss as to what Joyce is on about, I am aware of that “flow endearing flow over skin lips human heart and spine.”

The sound should seem an echo of the sense. Alexander Pope, 1711

How fitting to have Boylan on the horn. Cheeky.