LITERATURE: At Swim-Two-Birds – Playing With Time Through Layers

Amazing to read; must have been near impossibly amazing to plan out, the beginning of the novel within the novel:

Propped by pillows in his bed in the white light of an incandescent petrol lamp, Dermot Trellis adjusted the pimples in his forehead into a frown of deep creative import.  His pencil moved slowly across the ruled paper, leaving words behind it of every size.  He was engaged in the creation of John Furriskey, the villain of his tale. (p. 54)

Thankfully, writers aren’t all pimpled in prose, but O’Brien gives us a picture of the determined writer, the serious mindset of creativity.  What I love here is the "leaving words behind it of every size" that implies a mad, rather frantic outpouring of story. 

Extract from Press regarding Furriskey’s birth:  We are in position to announce that a happy event has taken place at the Red Swan Hotel, where the proprietor, Mr. Dermot Trellis, has succeeded in encompassing the birth of a man called Furriskey.  Stated to be doing "very nicely", the new arrival is about five feet eight inches in height, well-built, dark, and clean-shaven. (p. 54)

So somebody has finally been honest about how fictional characters are "born."  At least this is one way of thinking about it.  We don’t normally start our story with the birth of our protagonist, but he/she must have a beginning, and that beginning, O’Brien may be saying, is a fully grown adult birth.

On the other hand, given the premise O’Brien has already put forth of X number of existing characters that are merely redrawn by or recast into different scenarios by novelists, this may explain Furrisky’s birth announcement.

Either way, any writer is going to learn something from reading this novel.  And besides, what fun! 

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