Do you get the smell of porter?


Karl Whitney on the short-lived Flann O’Brien magazine, Blather.

Blather was a venture O’Nolan undertook with his brother Ciarán and a couple of other friends, and it was never long for this world. Its first issue, trumpeted as “the only paper exclusively devoted to the interests of clay-pigeon shooting in Ireland”, set the tone, with an “us-against-the-world” editorial that underlined its contempt for everything that passed for contemporary popular opinion, including that of its (presumed) readers. “A lot we care for what you think,” Blather concluded.

In subsequent issues, the letters to the editor were clearly faked, and most either picked a fight with the publishers or acted as straw men for Blather to knock down. It is hard, then, to believe anything within the pages of Blather; and – as with the Cruiskeen Lawn columns – much of its charm lies in that fact.

Part of Blather‘s humour rests on its increasingly fraught relationship with its readers. It is clear that Blather was having troubles with its circulation. Indeed, one cannot be sure whether it had any readers at all, and many articles in the magazine betray this concern by busying themselves figuring out new wheezes that will help raise the sales of the magazine. In the first issue, Blather offered a prize of pedigree bulls to any readers who created a public nuisance by loudly proclaiming the quality of the magazine.

O’Brien’s introduction from Blather issue one:

Blather is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or of any evidence of a desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. We are as proud as bantams and as vain as peacocks.

Blather doesn’t care.” A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?

Blather is not to be confused with Ireland’s National Newspaper, still less with Ireland’s Greatest Newspaper. Blather is not an organ of Independent opinion, nor is Ireland more to us than a Republic, Kingdom or Commonwealth. Blather is a publication of the Gutter, the King Rat of the Irish Press, the paper that will achieve entirely new levels in everything that is contemptible, despicable, and unspeakable in contemporary journalism… In regard to politics, all our rat-like cunning will be directed towards making Ireland fit for the depraved readers of Blather to live in…

We have probably said enough, perhaps too much. Anyhow, you have got a rough idea of the desperate class of men you are up against. Maybe you don’t like us? A lot we care what you think.