In one of his last columns, published in March 1966, Flann O’Brien looked back on his catechism, compiled more than twenty years earlier, and described it as ‘an exegetic survey of the English language in its extremity of logo-daedalate poliomyelitis, anaemic prostration and the paralysis of incoherence.’ One month after writing that, he was dead, and yet within a year a remarkable renaissance was taking place, with the long-delayed publication of his great comic fantasy The Third Policeman and, soon afterwards, the first of many anthologies of the ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ columns, this one entitled The Best of Myles.
Jonathan Coe looks back on the legacy of Myles na gCopaleen.
The late 18th-century use of the word ‘huffle’ in the sense ‘perform fellatio’, for instance, was new to me, and indeed to the OED, which limply presents it as meaning only ‘to blow, or inflate’.
As Geoffrey Hughes noted in his excellent Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English, the more charged a swear word is the more susceptible it becomes to grammatical transformation. This means that the boundaries between nouns and adjectives and adverbs can all get completely fucked up by swear words, and before you know it the little fuckers are everywhere.
One thing Robin never dared say, bless his little golden rayon cape, was ‘Holy Shit’, the uttering of which would certainly have KAPOWED him right off prime-time TV in those tender-eared days.
Forster certainly didn’t take a bright view of his sexual prospects. His knowledge of sexual matters in general may not have been great: as he admits in the fragmentary memoir called ‘Sex’, written in the Locked Diary but sadly excluded by Philip Gardner, ‘My instinct has never given me true information about sex’; ‘not till I was 30 did I know exactly how male and female joined’ – that is to say, when he was writing Howards End, with its extramarital pregnancy that ‘deeply shocked’ Forster’s mother when she read the book.
Faced with the reality of our shrunken New York-area apartment, as well as a certain someone’s affinity for Bravo TV, we were just discovering an eternal truth: living with someone means mastering the art of evasion. No matter how much you enjoy another person’s company, there are times when one would rather be alone. This is doubly true for avid readers, and perhaps triply true for ones (like me) who demand silence when they read. It was impossible – despite more-than-fair compromises on both our parts – for me to monopolize the apartment’s noise level. I was simply unable to reliably read each of my subscriptions as I had initially intended. I needed isolation. Like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, I found that, ‘It is necessary that every man have at least somewhere to go. For there are times when one absolutely must go at least somewhere!’ (Those times often coincide with Real Housewives round-table recaps, by the way.)
Page 1 of 2
← Newer • Older →