No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien by Anthony Cronin

A biography of the genius and tragedy of a writer ahead of his time…

I tore through this book last week, while travelling around Europe, by train and plane. In a way, this biography has the best possible author – it’s by contemporary, someone who drank with the writer Brian O’Nolan (Flann O’Brien/Myles na Gopaleen). This has its pitfalls, however… despite Cronin’s deep regard for ‘Myles’ as we’ll call him, he eventually has to conclude that Myles was a chronic alcoholic, and very frustrated writer, who perhaps never reached his full potential. After his father died, Myles had to use his Civil Service job to provide for his 11 siblings and mother – scant freedom for a budding novelist.
Cronin, himself, is apparently regarded (in some quarters) as something of a frustrated poet, who rankles at his failure to be regarded alongside Seamus Heaney or Brendan Kennelly… and throughout the book, some of his envy of the likes of Paddy Kavanagh and Behan shines through, a phenomenon even more apparent in his book Dead As Doornails
Otherwise though, this is a splendid read… the definitive biography of Flann O’Brien.
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Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.