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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 42 / 50





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Moling and Trellis within Orlick’s narrative is reminiscent of the Pooka’s conversations earlier in the novel. This subtle attribute of Orlick’s manuscript is easily overlooked because the Pooka himself joins the cast of the narrative, dealing out Trellis’ punishment to him in person.

Orlick’s artistic attempts are lost on his immediate audience, however, as Shanahan loses patience quickly and suggests that "this is a bit too high up for us. This delay, I mean to say. The fancy stuff, couldn’t you leave it out or make it short, Sir?" (239). Shanahan decides that a varicose vein in Trellis’ heart would work much better than the line of fiction that Orlick has engaged on; Shanahan is the person, after all, who champions Jem Casey’s poetry above all others. Orlick claims "You overlook my artistry" (240), showing a great pride in his craft. A discussion concerning the best punishment for Trellis begins, with cartoonish suggestions from all sides. Agreement is made on tossing Trellis into a cement mixer, and then crushing the resulting concrete with a steamroller, but including an eerie finale: "They couldn’t crush his heart!" (241). This satisfies Orlick’s desire for "artistry." Shanahan once again interposes a logical concern: "Steam-rollers are expensive machines ... what about a needle in the knee?" (241). It would seem that even Orlick and his cronies must account for the use of characters and props within their manuscript, just as Trellis does on the narrative plane above them. The narrator perhaps includes this scene deep within his narrative as a satire of his friends. One is reminded of the narrator’s friends suggesting various reactions from Sheila Lamont as a result of Trellis’ attack on her to solve the narrator’s difficulties with realism.

The discussion over quickening the narrative pace being concluded, Orlick once again begins his manuscript; this, however, begins in exactly the same manner as his first attempt. The opening paragraph is a copy, and the only noticeable change is that instead of Moling appearing at the beginning, Orlick includes an alphabetized catalogue of Trellis’ irreverent attitudes towards life. This narrative line is also not approved of by Orlick’s listeners because Trellis is eventually forced to physically assault a young priest, and "You won’t get very far by attacking the church" (247), Furriskey warns. After this second delay, Orlick admits his defeat and suggests that "we might requisition the services of the Pooka MacPhellimey" (247).

The third attempt at the revenge narrative still includes the original two paragraphs of needless decoration before introducing the Pooka. Orlick cannot write a straight-forward narrative; he feels bound by his designation as an author to introduce his narrative in a decorative way, regardless of the strong suggestions from his supporters. The Pooka is highly successful at his work, and everyone involved seems pleased. One final restart is necessary, however, as Shanahan decides that Trellis must have his bedroom ceiling fall on his head, regardless of any objections from Orlick. Orlick refuses to restart his narrative; due to the fact that the Pooka is present and capable of magical feats, Orlick simply has the Pooka remember this oversight within the narrative itself and re-enter the house from the street: "It is essential, explained the Pooka, that we return to your room the way we may perfect these diversions upon which the pair of us were engaged" (256-7). Orlick is quickly learning to write around his literary difficulties, just as the narrator deals with his own.

Orlick’s narrative is even more thoroughly controlled by his advisers; it is hijacked by his listeners while he visits Furriskey’s washroom. While Orlick is absent, Shanahan grows concerned that they are "taking all the good out of [Trellis’ torture] by giving him a rest, we’re letting him get his wind. Now that’s a mistake" (260). Shanahan then interposes a paragraph of his own, and the results of his literary enterprise prove that even Orlick is highly skilled in comparison. The narrative tone is exactly that of the cowboys’ speech. Shanahan notes that, while flying, "The Pooka himself stopped where he was, never mind how it was done. The other fell down about a half a mile to the ground on the top of his snot and broke his two legs in halves and


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