Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post.
Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.
This is perhaps not the most memorable opening line ever written, but the author is leading us into the privacy of his mind and down the rabbit hole. He is writing a novel and we are going with him.
The blogsphere is full of sage advice for aspiring writers. Every day we are exhorted to kill our darlings, bleed all over our keyboards and eschew the use of adverbs. What can we learn then from a vacant eyed, would-be novelist with his mouth full of bread? Flann O’Brien’s writing tips are still astounding after seventy years.“one beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with.”
‘At Swim Two-Birds’ is my favourite novel. It is a clever blending of multiple plots, keen observation and moments of great beauty. It combines lyrical poetry with high farce. O’Brien imports characters from Celtic mythology, pulp novels and the kind of folk seen by Leopold Bloom on his travels around Dublin. New characters are created, conscious of their newness and lack of a back-story. Good and Evil contend for their freshly created souls. The Pooka MacPhellimey, master of malediction, is a likeable chap. The Good Fairy is a bit of a prig. Characters revolt against their authors and begin writing their own novel, roughnecks revere poetry and Mad King Sweeney witters away in the background.
This is the kind of book that gets five star reviews or one star reviews. It’s a multi-layered masterpiece or it’s nonsense. It does help to know a little of Irish mythology, or at least have a bit of the Irish in you. You don’t have to have read ‘Finnegans Wake’, perhaps because of this book you won’t need to.
It is metafiction, a book about writing a book. It’s a book where everybody knows that they are inside the story, except, of course, the reader. I am a would-be writer with a vacant expression and I find it inspiring, subversive and whole lot of fun.
Formerly Trellis’s Red Swan Hotel, Dublin, now much neglected