From under the shadow of Joyce & Beckett


Julian Gough reviews The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien in the New York Times.

O’Brien did not have the ego of Joyce or the resilience of Beckett. His refusal to see himself as an artist at first enabled, then destroyed, his talent. It opened him up to all the influences of his uneasily modern age, from Irish hardship memoirs to American pulp. But without a core of self-belief, he wrote to the level the publisher expected. Writing the early novels he wrote to the level of Joyce, and attained it; writing for The Irish Digest, he wrote to the level of the average writer in The Irish Digest, and attained it.

This book does, however, have the great virtue of hauling O’Brien out from under the shadow of Joyce and Beckett. We see here a complicated modern writer; disheveled, hung over, restless, frustrated and, occasionally, very funny indeed.

[Illustration: Riccardo Vecchio]