August 16, 2005

The At Swim-Two-Birds Deathmarch, Week 1

*****
From the intro to the Dalkey edition:

"According to its author, Adolf Hitler hated At Swim-Two-Birds so vehemently he started World War II in order to interfere with its sales."
*****

Welcome to Day 1 of Week 1, which means for them that are marching, the marching starts roughly...now! In fact, once I hit Save, I'll be heading off to BART, ASTB in hand. Looks like it starts with someone eating, which is always a good way to kick off really any work of art. Except for perhaps a trumpet solo.

If this is your first march, (1) yay! and (2) here's how it works: we'll tackle the book in 40-50 pages/week chunks. Don't sweat it if you fall a little behind -- most folks do at some point. Try to resist racing ahead so as to accentuate the commonality of referential data. Every Tuesday, I'll post a thread right here on cv.com. Use that thread for comments, which can be as low-key as "I am the 'At Swim-Two-Bird Man of Alcatraz.'" or as thought provoking as [very thought provoking example here].

(And of course: If you're re-reading the book, please do yer level best to avoid spoilers.)

And that's it. Both the kit and the kaboose.

Thanks much for coming along. This is our third book, and it's the one I'm the most outright excited to read. In fact: I'm way too excited. In fact: I think my brain is vibrating.

I'm reading the so-called Dalkey Archive Press edition and will be using that for page break references -- if you have a different edition with different breaks, just let me know and I'll see what we can do to synch up....

Next week: Let's meet at page 54 (Dalkey), just before the "Extract from Press regarding Furriskey's birth."

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What do you think?

Greetings Fellow Deathmarchers! How was Zembla? I missed you guys.

My copy of "At Swim Two Birds" is on order from a neighborhood bookshop where the guy didn't have it in stock but had two other O'Brienns, said he'd read everything the man had written, and once met Flann's U.S. handler, who lives in Noe Valley and whose job it was to keep the author from drinking himself stupid before his book tour appearances.

After that, I just *had* to special order it from him despite the two week wait. So I'll be a little behind, but with you in spirit. Tell me--do the first 50 pages explain the title?

Posted by: rodney k. at August 16, 2005 9:03 AM

I think they do, or if not, then the second 50 do. It may help to parse the title to recognize that "Swim-two-birds" referes to a place name.

One of the wonderful things about the book is the ongoing translation of a lot of Irish terms into English. I particularly remember a number of familiar 'Irish' last names being shown to be Anglicized versions of much more exotic-looking (to me) Gaelic originals.

Another wonderful thing about the book is the cowboys.

Another wonderful thing about the book is the layers of meta.

Posted by: xian at August 16, 2005 9:38 AM

whatta cow cry so far...

Posted by: heroic imp at August 16, 2005 11:22 AM

"I saw that my witticism was unperceived and
quietly replaced it in the treasury of my mind."


my favorite so far....

Posted by: e. at August 17, 2005 8:00 AM

i'm going to try and do this deathmarch by only reading these comments here on cecil vortex. so make your comments count, i want to understand what is going on in the novel.

thanks in advance everybody!

Posted by: other dan at August 17, 2005 10:59 AM

About 20 pages in and all the God-Big Finn stuff is just *killing* me. Boy he likes to put stuff in his pants.

Read a chunk of that section out loud to my better half tonight and it was one of the highlights of my day. Oh, just to sound that smart for 3 minutes, y'know? To have my neck and lips and lungs making such beautiful noise.
-Cecil

Posted by: Cecil Vortex at August 18, 2005 9:51 PM

I have read one page. But I do not know whether I will be able to reach a computer before next Tuesday, and so I stake my claim: I have begun the march.

Any mad-as-a-hatter Irishman is brother to me. And so it is that I find myself reading my brother's diary.

All things pass and give way to one another.

Posted by: the RaptorMage at August 19, 2005 8:16 PM

I too have begun to march. And I feel I owe an apology to those who started and finished the previous deathmarch, for disappearing in the middle of it, and after suggesting comments phrased in Nabokovian couplets no less. What a wimp.

And then I must apologize again, for this:

A funny novel’s surely hard to pen
But on this sturdy Trellis my hopes depend:
That spreading tendrils of his meta-vine
May come to flower, fruit, and then to wine
So sweet to savor, in mirth sea-deep and wide
(All references to vomiting aside)
That creatures of so various a bore
As my dog and I might roll upon the floor
In paroxysms sweet—O ha ha ha,
O ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha—
Until, all spent, I wipe my eyes and sigh
(I’d wipe Ike’s too, except that dogs don’t cry)
and wish—O forlorn hope!—I too might be
of the indomitable Irishry.
No I’ll be left to wonder, when I slide
Flann back into the shelf, if anyone’d mind
If I borrowed a character or two
Myself —I’d give them different names—to woo
That producer I met the other day
(I guess you heard, I just moved to LA)…

Posted by: cort at August 21, 2005 3:44 PM

tee hee, you know,
a certain governor might soon be free
to help you out with pitch and woo
but then you'd likely owe him big:
the part of mighty-legg-ed finn mac cool?

Posted by: e. at August 21, 2005 5:10 PM

I'm nervous, way, regarding rhyming verse.
It plucks bad things from out my putty brain.
My nostrils start to flare, then even worse
my knuckles bend and crack and bend again.

Good lord! You see? I said the word "again"
in that old-fashioned way that rhymes with "rain."
It's clear, I've lost my last few drops of zen
This rhyming's flushed it down the toilet drain.

Posted by: cecil vortex at August 21, 2005 5:39 PM

ok, this book kicked my ass the first time and i gave up. i'm starting again and posting comments to this deathmarch a few months behind schedule. i'm going to follow the breadcrumbs...

Posted by: other dan at November 17, 2005 1:39 PM

Past page 50! The first time I tried to get past 20 i just couldn't pay attention. I'm following, much harder than almost every other book that I've read. You really have to pay attention, I hate paying attention. The sections about the main character are much easier to follow. When the narrator is presenting his writing i really have to knuckle down, this book even has made me start capitalizing my sentances.

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