Oversight of the Month

Confronted by all sorts of anniversaries this month: the centennial of California’s much-overexercised initiative system; the centennial of women’s suffrage in California; the twentieth anniversary of the Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire disaster; the twenty-second anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake; the twenty-fifth of Bill Buckner’s Error; the eighth of Steve Bartman catching hell; the five hundred ninety-sixth of the Battle of Agincourt (despite what Henry V said, I don’t feel accursed or hold my manhood cheap for not being there).

But there’s one I overlook every year: the birthday on October 5 of Brian O’Nolan, better known to many as Flann O’Brien or Myles na gCopaleen (that last name, O’Nolan’s Irish pseudonym for his long-running Irish Times column, is pronounced GAHP-a-lean, and the pseudonym is supposed to mean “Myles of the Little Horses.” Why “the Little Horses”? I cannot tell you).

It’s especially annoying to have missed his birth this time around: O’Nolan/O’Brien was born one hundred years ago this month. I have not time now to indulge in offering a passage of his work. My favorite has long been “At Swim-Two-Birds,” which has been featured at many a St. Patrick’s Day reading; I’d also recommend his collected newspaper columns (reprinted in “The Best of Myles” and other volumes) and the nightmarish “The Third Policeman” as well. Here are a couple decent posts that give some insight into his work and who he was:

Slate: “Why Flann O’Brien Is So Funny

A fan’s blog post: “Flann O’Brien Centennial

BBC Radio 4: “The Man with Many Names

2 Replies to “Oversight of the Month”

  1. I remember that earthquake like it was yesterday. I’m sure you do even more, obviously. We had just moved back to Springfield that summer, and living with my mom, she was intent on passing her love of baseball to my young girls (it worked on one out of two). The sound of the announcer guy’s voice as the screen went dark was so haunting to me. It was one of a handful of times I found myself standing in front of the TV with one hand over my mouth, the other over my heart.

  2. Yeah, that’s one of those experiences you feel like you never get a lot of separation from. I’m not sure a day goes by that I don’t think about some aspect of that quake or wonder when the next one will come.

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