Do I like the work of Flann O’Brien? I do indeed. The Third Policeman is a head-spinning work, nightmarish and philosophical all at once; At Swim-Two-Birds is irreverent metafiction, where the fraught relationship between an author and his characters blends with mythology, drunkenness, and bleak humor to create something punch-drunk and technically brilliant.
So, yeah, I picked up the new anthology of his short fiction. It has the feeling of a late-period rarities collection — the kind of album that brings together singles, alternative versions of songs, and half-finished home demos into one cohesive work in a way that the artist may never have intended. (For the record, I have plenty of these, both as albums go and as books are concerned.) And given that O’Brien’s own body of work encompasses varying genres and pseudonyms (including that of Flann O’Brien — Brian O’Nolan was how the author was known in daily life), such a wide-ranging approach would seem to be the only way to go.