Tuesday, March 17, 2015

`Making Great Progress'

Thanks to Elberry for updating me on Roger Boylan’s medical condition. Roger is a novelist, author of Killoyle (1996), who, as I reported, suffered a stroke about six weeks ago. Roger lives in San Marcos, Texas, about two hours from Houston. On Monday, Elberry learned from a friend of Roger’s that (in her words) the stroke “incapacitated him for about a month, but for the last two weeks he has been making great progress,” and he is now in a “skilled nursing facility” in Austin. He expects to be there for another week or so, “with plans to go home this coming weekend.” This means Roger will be spending St. Patrick’s Day in stir. As poor consolation, I will share a bit of Flann O’Brien, a writer much admired by Roger (who has written about him here, here and here). This is a toothsome passage from O’Brien’s first masterpiece, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), which describes an enviable act of literary criticism. The narrator and some friends are leaving a Dublin pub when:

“…a small man in black fell in with us and tapping me often about the chest, talked to me earnestly on the subject of Rousseau, a member of the French nation. He was animated, his pale features striking in the starlight and his voice going up and falling in the lilt of his argumentum.

“I did not understand his talk and was personally unacquainted with him. But Kelly was taking in all he said, for he stood near him, his taller head inclined in an attitude of close attention. Kelly then made a low noise and opened his mouth and covered the small man from shoulder to knee with a coating of unpleasant buff-coloured puke. Many other things happened on that night now imperfectly recorded in my memory but that incident is still very clear to me in my mind. Afterwards the small man was some distance from us in the lane, shaking his divested coat and rubbing it along the wall. He is a little man that the name of Rousseau will always recall to me.”

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