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A Saga to Remember: Flann O'Brien's Unfinished Novel.

Published posthumously in 1967 in the form of seven chapters and seventy pages, the fragment known as Slattery's Sago Saga (hereafter Saga) is an effort to recast painful historical events in both America and Ireland through rhetorical tactics that Brian O'Nolan polished over the decades. Complicating the novel's execution is O'Nolan's uncertainty as to whether he should write in the mode of Flann O'Brien or Myles na gCopaleen--that is, as a novelist experimenting with formal devices or as a satirical commentator on national events. Documents from the time, including unpublished correspondence, reveal his struggle to resolve the dilemma. The novel plots a narrative that underscores the influx of American culture in Ireland, depicting it as a homogenizing, standardizing process that threatens regional values. At the same time, however, O'Nolan is quick to mock Ireland for its conventional ways. The contradictory impulses in this unfinished work are striking and include O'Nolan's first female character of any depth, who simultaneously functions as a parody of American feminism. On the one hand, O'Nolan writes passages that test the patience of his readers through extensive digressions that reproduce the bureaucratic language of the government pamphlet; on the other hand, his notes (and letters to friends) that develop the plot reveal a journalist's fascination with the recent events of the Kennedy assassination and that Irish-American family in general. If Saga is a project left unfinished through O'Nolan's own divided sensibility, these divisions also reveal strains and impulses embedded in his career.

The various elements that complicate the Saga fragment have been identified by critics over the years, though these are often dismissed as poor decisions or aberrant behavior. Carol Taaffe attributes O'Brien's "need for financial success" as one factor "anchoring these novels in the kind of bland but marketable comic realism that [is] quite alien to [his] earlier fantasies" (Taaffe 184). Anthony Cronin believes his own novel, The Life of Riley (1964), planted the seed for Saga's eventual plot, given similarities between their close publication dates and plots closely centered on the potato. Yet Cronin admits that Saga singularly interweaves an Irish America, particularly the story of John F. Kennedy (Cronin 241). Sue Asbee recognizes Crawford MacPherson's role in O'Brien's oeuvre--most of his females were insignificant, but Crawford is strong and independent (Asbee 110-111). Anne Clissmann first documents the political similarities in the Saga plot to the Kennedy family and former Taoiseach Eamon de Valera, who escaped execution for his role in the Easter Rising through his American birth (Clissmann 325-328). The novel's only advocate in the last thirty-four years, Clissmann points out that Saga has elements "which would have allowed O'Brien to free his imagination to create, as he had done in At Swim and The Third Policeman, alternative worlds which were logically consistent within the terms of their own imaginative construction" (Clissmann 334).

What makes Saga less typically O'Brienesque is its narrative that positions us in two different locations of the globe, Ireland and America, and that often resembles straightforward naturalist prose. Saga's opening scene in Ireland, observes Tim Hartigan, adopted son of Ned Hoolihan, shocked at the thought of receiving a "Bleeding Scotchman" to Poguemahon Hall (Poguemahon means "Kiss My Arse" in Irish) on the orders of his father (O'Brien 23). The arrival of Scottish woman Crawford MacPherson, who we learn later is Ned Hoolihan's American wife, has been announced in Ned's letter from Houston, Texas. The scene's perspective changes abruptly to an omniscient narrator who informs us that Ned's fortune was earned in agriculture, particularly in types of potato crop. Neither Ned's "Earthquake Wonder" or "Faddiman's Fancy" is popular with Irish farmers because "the peasants simply preferred seed of their own domestic procurement," so Ned sets his sights on America, receiving "a citation and praemium from the United States Government" (O'Brien 25). Ned has left Tim as steward of Poguemahon Hall, and settled 7,000 acres in Texas, where oil has made him "unbelievably wealthy" (O'Brien 26). (His front-money was the amassed fortune of his father Constantine Hoolihan B. E., who had been "shamelessly swindled by Henry Ford I" but managed to resourcefully double that which he had lost in "automotive and petrol-engine inventions," thus forming the first-generation link to America's cultural influence and money from products related to oil, or petrol [O'Brien 24].)

Crawford MacPherson's entrance has a two-fold purpose, recalling the disruptive effects of mass-culture's standardization on the Republic of Ireland and embodying America's aggressive impact on the nation. MacPherson, in her role as demonic force--in a letter, O'Nolan calls her "a fearful virago" (29 Oct 1964) (1)--is designed as a stereotype of aggressive American feminists of the 1960s, but the violence she brings appears as a commercializing venture, an economic scheme: her plan is to import sago to Ireland and replace the potato crop. She wishes to completely eradicate the potato from Ireland to rid her "beloved" America of the immoral Irish through taking over "all Irish agricultural land" selling ir back to the tenants at "a rent of perhaps a shilling a year," and substituting the hardier sago plant (O'Brien 35-37). Her "object is to protect the United States from the Irish menace," which will be "very costly," but she has "so much money from Texas oil" at her disposal that she fears no difficulty (O'Brien 34). Her detailed plan reveals an analytical mind bent on rescuing a superstitious culture that has walled itself up in tradition (a metaphor to be embodied literally, when Crawford alone can solve the mystery when a local worker turns up missing).

O'Nolan places Crawford at the center of his fragment's most outrageous plot device, summoning the history of the Potato Famine. In extracts on sago from real reference books that take the form of a detailed, factual text, he introduces long passages that critics have denounced as a clumsy narrative device, "tedious to read," and what Sue Asbee asserts are "unworthy of the earlier technical brilliance that O'Brien displayed in The Third Policeman" (Asbee 111-112). Yet it is characteristic for O'Nolan to present long stretches of text that test the reader's patience. In At Swim-Two-Birds, the tedious recitation has been delivered by Antony Lamont, John Furriskey, and Paul Shanahan, whose dull scientific facts set up the Pooka's disruptive entrance, inaugurating pages that mock the language of the Victorian gentleman's club and merge Irish myth with commonplace dialogue, a joke whose victim is the Anglo-Irish Revival. Though dull and technical the sago extracts may be, these lengthy stretches of text recall nothing less than British pamphlets on preparing maize during the Potato Famine. Excerpts from The Book of Marco Polo the Venetian by Col. Sir Henry Yule (a nineteenth-century edition of Polo's thirteenth-century travels) explains that sago flour "is taken and made into pasta in strips," which "resembl[e] barley bread and tast[e] much the same" (O'Brien 57). Similarly, A. E. Williams in Malay Archipelago 1896 tells of producing sago starch through a lengthy process, then forming it into a variety of foods, and like the other texts, Williams's description is nearly agonizing in its lengthy trade-oriented detail: "Sago bread is made ... by baking it into cakes in a small clay oven containing six or eight slits, side by side, each about three-quarters of an inch wide and six to eight inches square" (O'Brien 58).

On one level, these extracts in Saga help familiarize readers with the unfamiliar sago plant even as, on another level, O'Brien's "samplings" from extant texts--blatantly signaled by italicized page numbers in the copy--recall the technical and managerial procedures that were used by Great Britain to validate its presence in Ireland. The historical echoes that O'Nolan rouses begin with the products of the Chairman of the Relief Commission of the 1848 famine, Sir Randolph Routh, who had spent sixteen years familiarizing himself with processes of maize consumption in America, issuing "a pamphlet containing simple recipes for its use, which was sold throughout" Ireland (Kinealy 47). Routh wrote in 1846 to Sir William Trevelyan, the Permanent Secretary at the Treasury during the whole of the Famine period, about the Indian corn preparation process (drying, grinding, and dressing the meal for consumption) with the same care and acute attention as the sago extracts: "First to keep the com eight hours on the kilns, and turn it twice, so as to be thoroughly dried without parching. It was then allowed to cool for forty-eight hours" (Kinealy 39, 47). American agricultural expert and Editor of Farmer's Library, J. S. Skinner, offered an explanation to prepare griddle corn cakes in an 1845 pamphlet that likely circulated England and Ireland: "Be it remembered that the dough, or rather the batter, ... must be well beat up and prepared directly before being cooked--though it might set an hour ..." (Bartlett 19). Both descriptions explain ways to use corn because the grain was unfamiliar to the Irish, and they demonstrate that the technical and detailed descriptions in O'Brien's sago excerpts are meant to expose the oppressive policies that are disguised by such official discourse. (2)

Other historical knowledge also informs the inner layers of O'Nolan's rhetoric here. As a Scottish-American, Crawford plays a critical role in the narrative by marking the conflict of Irish and Ulster Scots' emigration from Ireland to America. Such conflict O'Nolan underscores in the character of Doctor the Eustace Baggeley who recalls the Irish rivalry with Scotland as he derides Ned's marriage as generating unnecessary wealth: "Money? Pfff! He had more than he could use when he was here, and what use is money to a man who gets himself married to a Scotch hawsie from the fish-gutting sheds of Aberdeen?" (O'Brien 48). That a Scottish woman would engineer a plot to oust the potato from Ireland solely so the Irish will stop immigrating to America would be absurd and ridiculous if the memory of the Famine were not so tragic. Yet O'Nolan must evoke a tragic history that inevitably summons memories of British colonization in Ireland, including absentee landlords, rackrenting, small farm plots, anti-Catholicism, and mass emigration from Ireland to various countries, because he reacts with urgency to an American commercial and cultural colonization that he sees as a twentieth-century parallel.

O'Nolan's assault on feminism thus figures not just as another example of the misogyny threaded through his career but as an added warning about American influence in Ireland. This calculation, however, helps explain why Crawford is regarded with uncharacteristic ambivalence by O'Nolan. To be suitable as allegorizing a serious threat, she must be strong and convincing in her authority, even as her fearfulness must be ferociously mocked. In one sense, given O'Nolan's proclivity for male-centered novels, Crawford's forwardness is almost refreshing. Saga distinguishes itself from all other fiction by O'Nolan in that a female character speaks forthrightly, talking back and taking action, and plays an integral role in the plot. A similar female character appears in O'Brien's television series, Th'Oul Lad of Kilsalaher (1964), where Marie-Therese's witty exchanges with her father, Hughie, can be read as O'Brien's effort (as Myles) in creating more substantial women characters in his later works. (3) Yet Crawford is also a distinct threat, unlike the young girl who challenges her father's cautious attitudes. Feminism as a movement in the 1960s could only threaten Ireland as it calls into question conservative policies that were enacted by the de Valera Constitution and the Catholic Church. O'Nolan stages confrontations that demonstrate legal issues under tire. Young Tim addresses Crawford as "ma'am" because he hasn't been introduced to her yet, but Crawford will not allow "ma'am" or "Mrs Hoolihan," insisting on "MacPherson" (O'Brien 28-29, 32). O'Nolan has her emphatically single out parallels in legal systems: "I am not compelled by civil or Presbyterian canon law to make a laughing-stock of myself with a title the like of that" (O'Brien 32). Articulate, assertive, and angry, Crawford is to some extent undermined by O'Nolan's description of her as "an elderly woman clad in shapeless, hairy tweeds, small red-rimmed eyes glistening in a brownish lumpy face that looked to Tim like the crust of an apple-pie" (O'Brien 28). Yet such a description also makes O'Nolan seem anxious and uncertain himself. He has Crawford continually use the word "weemen" for women: "Have you no respect for weemen or are you drunk?" (O'Brien 28-29). But such efforts to reduce Crawford to a laughable figure lack boldness, especially in contrast to the character's assertive style.

O'Nolan is caught in a bind. If he is to make Crawford convincingly fearful, she must be bold; her boldness may be used to mock her authority, but if that happens, she loses her capacity to threaten. Crawford is supposed to model American business practices, their overbearing and adamant form of problem solving that often disregards other cultural practices. Yet O'Nolan simultaneously turns Crawford's energetic ways against a slow-moving Irish culture that, writing as Myles na gCopaleen, he indicted in his newspaper columns (he refers to this segment of Irish society as the Plain People of Ireland). When the carpenter Billy Colum disappears, Crawford nominates herself as chief problem-solver. Dr. Baggeley, by contrast, is happy to believe that Billy is not missing but has simply left to see his mother, reminding Crawford that, conventionally, the Irish "don't keep office hours" (O'Brien 62). Crawford demonstrates the fault line between Ireland and America when she unleashes a barrage of questions, pushing aside convention for efficiency: "she seemed to be leading the party, as if she owned the Castle" (O'Brien 64). She wonders whether Billy is sober, eats properly, and whether he has been injected by the Doctor recently for his muscle inflammation before she grabs a stethoscope and places it to the wall where Billy has last been seen working. Crawford builds on knowledge about Baggeley's drug addiction, his "taking doses twice a day now," and it is her method with its persistence that leads to Billy's whereabouts: he has paneled himself into the wall before passing out after receiving an injection (O'Brien 43). After Billy has been given bed rest, all are drinking whiskey, and Crawford drinks "appreciatively, apparently judging that the situation [is] one of some small triumph for her," apologizing "if my manner over this little mystery seemed a bit brusque. But human suffering disturbs me" (O'Brien 68). Ironically, she will be the cause of human suffering when she enacts her potato plot. Though O'Nolan shows her sensing that her ways are disruptive to the Irish people she meets, he also stresses that she does not hold herself accountable nor does she adapt to Irish ways. Crawford's shifting characteristics reveal O'Nolan's struggle to portray a character who is at once an allegorical figure of American aggressiveness and a fearful woman who threatens conventional ways. While apparently intelligent and strong, she must be undermined as a female, yet her invasive power must be always in play.

Notes that O'Nolan left undeveloped, when work on the novel was interrupted by his death, reveal plans that include one character's eventual sojourn, emigration, and election as President. O'Nolan's proposal for Saga in a letter to Macgibben & Kee representative Timothy O'Keeffe on October 29, 1964, includes detailed summary for the final plot: Crawford, it will be explained in later passages, will be the source for Hoolihan's financial success from oil in Texas because she "notices black dirt oozing from certain points in the prairie wheatfields" (29 Oct 1964). O'Nolan also meant that the utterly outrageous sago plan would actually be enacted, making this work a venture into a fantasy realm. After twenty-five years, the Irish would be living mostly on sago with sago forests covering the island. Hoolihan will eventually become "a politician, manipulator of votes and money, and a near-hoodlum," later sending for his adopted son, Tim Hartigan, and installing him as Governor of Texas (29 Oct 1964). (4)

In the plot-outline in the proposal, O'Nolan planned to have a conflict develop as Irish men and women arrive in America with complaints of "sago-stomach, sago-leg and dread sagosis, an infectious and lethal disease" (29 Oct 1964). (Of course there is no such disease as "sagosis"; O'Nolan has steered his plot entirely into the realms of the fantastic.) So serious are these ailments that MacIntosh herself dies of sagosis while on return from Ireland in the States. When a Congressional Committee investigates these complaints, the meetings are aborted because sago stomach prevents the members from reaching quorum. Sago is noticeably prevalent on the tiny island, and it "is rumoured to be an ingredient of the hydrogen bomb" (29 Oct 1964)! Rich and powerful in America, Hoolihan buys up radio stations and newspaper chains to enact his plan to elect Tim as President. Doing so provides Tim an opportunity to reinstate the potato in a speech on sago to Congress that would conclude the novel. O'Nolan meant for this narrative to be "straightforward, with no 'literary' complication," yet the narrative includes "literary complications" such as social satire (29 Oct 1964).

Both this proposal as well as items in his correspondence show O'Nolan determined to publish Saga, an idea he firmly believed in. Both items also reveal a burgeoning anti-American bias not previously so dramatically evident in O'Nolan's work. O'Nolan alludes to "the Kennedy mud pie" when describing characters in Saga that resemble Irish-American President John F. Kennedy and his father Joseph Kennedy. Saga characters Ned Hoolihan and adopted son Tim Hartigan lead lives too similar to the story of JFK, his election, and his assassination, to go unnoted. O'Nolan draws connections to the Kennedy dynasty in a letter dated 8 May 1965 to O'Keeffe regarding Saga:
 Meditation on the crazy idea behind this book has made it grow
 strange horns and the finished book will turn out to be a comic but
 unmistakeable attack on the Kennedy family. Dead President Jack
 will be let off lightly for undoubtedly he had some fine qualities,
 but the Pop is a crook and the surviving brothers contemtible [sic]
 hangers-on. (8 May 1965) 

In the surviving pages of Saga, we can glimpse Ned Hoolihan as a model for Joseph Kennedy, symbolizing the corrupt nature of Irish-American success stories in American politics. Hoolihan has built an extremely prosperous business in oil (the counterpart to Joseph's liquor enterprise), forming the "Hoolihan Petroleum Corporation ('H. P.')" from "315 oil derricks" and as a result, "the politicians are moving in" but as he writes to Tim, "I think I have their measure" (O'Brien 26). American money, business, and politics are inextricably linked, and Hoolihan's experience is no different, when in a second letter, he tells Tim he "is quietly backing" two New Mexican politicians to aid his interests "because that's the way business goes here" (O'Brien 73). These interests involve grandiose schemes for heightened power and success:
 I play the Kennedy R. C. ticket and I'll be just another brave
 S. Catholic as soon as my citizenship comes through--Cactus Mike
 says I'm perfectly right and that this great State of over seven
 million souls is entitled to a Cardinal and if he is elected
 Governor in New Mexico he intends to park some fixers and use money
 (mine, I presume) in Rome. (O'Brien 73) 

There are no limits to Hoolihan's American scheming, and this shows by the letter's end when he plans to advance his business interests by using his connections to a New Mexican politician:
 By God, if he wants to serve the Cross that way, why shouldn't
 since he serves or used to serve the fiery cross with the K. K. K.
 outfit--and now with an election next door there's no shortage
 those gunboys in nightshirts putting the fear of Jesus into the
 niggers. (O'Brien 73) 

Indeed, where this scheming will ultimately lead, we know from O'Nolan's outline, will be Tim's election as President of the United States after Ned has purchased advertising in radio and newspapers to help elect his son (29 Oct 1964).

From archival material, then, we know Tim Hartigan is modeled on JFK, given his American birth, subsequent adoption by Ned, and eventual sojourn to the United States. Subtle references to Tim's future are registered in the published fragment, as when Doctor Eustace Baggeley, a superstitious landlord well-versed in Irish ways who admires American wealth, is ambitious, and is enterprising, recalls Kennedy's name to Tim--"And do you remember President Kennedy?"--to remind him of the good an Irish immigrant-turned-American has done for Ireland (O'Brien 50). Tim will be the eventual hero for Ireland (and America) when in his speech to American congressmen he succeeds in banning the sago plant (29 Oct 1964). That Baggeley is the character to mention Kennedy by name in the novel seems significant in that he also represents an Irishman influenced by American culture. Baggeley is convinced that Americans "have a lot of money" and he hopes to profit from that wealth by transforming his castle into a casino to draw in the tourists (O'Brien 43). The American colonization of Ireland by way of the sago plant thus will represent, in the novel as finally envisioned, a triumph of those who forget their Irish roots after emigrating. Doctor Baggeley is a man who is open to Crawford's sago scheme, calling it "a thing that will change radically the history of Ireland and later the whole social tilt of Western Europe" (O'Brien 52). Both Doctor Baggeley and Tim Hartigan represent a change from the status quo similar to that by which Kennedy as a young, attractive Catholic candidate in the 1960 election represented change.

The turn to the Kennedys in Saga's plot shows the dominance of the Myles persona in the last years: the journalist who is also sharply aware of injustice, ready to point out contradictions, fundamentally angry in many ways at political actions yet insistent on approaching these with a playfulness and a satirical edge rather than just denouncing them. As Myles, O'Nolan would have much to say about the Kennedy clan. His Cruiskeen Lawn columns that appeared in The Irish Times in 1946 show Myles denouncing Ireland's decision to remain neutral because its civil services such as bus transportation are not as efficient--in fact, chronically tardy--as Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE/Irish Transport Systems) wants to project, which they attempt to do through the use of a modern logo and twenty-five new "checkers." (5) As early as the column dated 27 Oct 1941, Myles was using the American relationship with Ireland as fodder for his critique of Irish concerns. Irish-American greetings on St. Patrick's Day, or "the sea-divided Gael" in "those beshamrocked magazines that appear in America" figure into his biting joke against The Irish Times editor R. M. Smyllie (na gCopaleen 27 Oct 1941). America was not the only country Myles undercut in his playful yet biting manner--he also used Great Britain as the starting point for some of his columns. Twenty years later he attacks the British Broadcasting Corporation on 21 April 1961 for various odd inaccuracies: BBC had broadcast, "Adrian was introduced to the name of Oscar Wilde" but Myles points out that one has to be introduced to someone by another individual (na gCopaleen 21 Apr 1961).

O'Nolan pitched the idea for Saga a year and eleven days from 22 November 1963, the day of Kennedy's assassination. The perceived role that Dallas police officers played in JFK's assassination was particularly appalling to O'Nolan who believed they should have protected JFK better, as he notes in an angry letter dated three days after JFK's assassination:
 You may well mention the Texas police, and Dallas. That transaction
 gave a new dimension to Kennedy's courage, for few of us here
 suspected that apes were so numerous in the U. S. citizenry. There
 was some sour consolation in having the police and some
 presidential guards shown up for the awful nincompoops they are.
 Think of the thousands of films (and books and pulp mags.) which
 showed them all as invincible supermen. (27 Nov 1963) 

The Dallas police officers seem mired in the Catholic versus Protestant antagonisms also present in Ireland. What is noteworthy is the bragging confidence that appears in O'Nolan's own correspondence, a tone that is reproduced in his character Ned's letters to Tim. O'Nolan's correspondent O'Keeffe shows his disdain for Texas police by calling on the only force more violent than Texas Rangers, "your old friends," The Censorship Board, adding "They would have done a better job than those fat bastard Texas police" in protecting JFK (2 Dec 1963). It is the wealthy oil and corrupt politics in Ned Hoolihan and Texas and the Kennedy story in Tim Hartigan that are the themes in Saga underscored in O'Nolan's correspondence. They together warn against too much American influence or, at least, influence that leads one to forget where one originally comes from.

Why, then, are these pages from an unfinished novel significant? The sago and potato plot shows that O'Nolan's humor is as ferocious as ever, and undoubtedly complicated: it hits America's influence with its efficient planning and its corporate mindset and its readiness to colonize (all echoing British efforts), but it also is unnervingly close to the ninteenth-century potato dependency and its terrible outcome, thus warning the Irish in the most uncomfortable way imaginable. It is also interesting because O'Nolan was struggling in his later years with characters that he did not imagine earlier, notably women whom he saw often as viragos, as monsters, but whose strengths he found also curious, even interesting. No one wants to mitigate O'Nolan's misogyny, which is a component in his writing that seems to hold back his genius, but he seems able to note the world is changing in some way. Also, O'Nolan's letters and his ambitious outline reveal him to be a shrewd but sometimes inept promoter of his work, wanting to conquer new worlds, hoping for a major breakthrough. Ambitions surround this last work, and they include dreaming of American success such as the Presidency even while admiring its flexibility, its accommodations to the immigrant. Yet it seems also muddled in his mind--he pushed hard for this novel but was never quite galvanized by his theme. Perhaps he was old and tired, perhaps overwhelmed, yet there are glimpses of the old O'Brien and the Mylesian humor in many passages, and the anti-American warning is handled by a striking and dissonant manner, in the potato being reincarnated by the sago plot, by oil being the way to make money in Texas and America, and by the references in his correspondence to the Kennedy family.


Asbee, Sue. Flann O'Brien. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.

Bartlett, John S., M. D. Maize, or Indian Corn: Its Advantages as a Cheap and Nutritious Article of Food, With Directions for Its Use. London: Wiley & Putnam, 1846.

Brian O'Nolan Manuscript Collection. Special Collections and Research Center. Morris Library. Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Carbondale, Illinois.

Clissman, Anne. Flann O'Brien: A Critical Introduction. Dublin: Gill & MacMillan, 1975.

Cronin, Anthony. No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien, 1989. New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1998.

Kinealy, Christine. This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-1852. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994.

na Gopaleen, Myles. "Cruiskeen Lawn." The Irish Times Archive, 4 Oct 1940-1 Apr 1966. Proquest Historical Newspapers The Irish Times, 1859-2007. Accessed 13 Jan-6 Jun 2009.

O'Brien, Flann. "Slattery's Sago Saga, or From Under the Ground to the Top of the Trees." Stories and Plays. Intro. Claud Cockburn. London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1973. 23-79.

Taaffe, Carol. Ireland Through the Looking Glass: Flann O'Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and Irish Cultural Debate. Cork: Cork Univ. Press, 2008.


(1) Hereafter all references to correspondence will be identified by the letter's date in the text and are located in the Brian O'Nolan Manuscript Collection (Carbondale, IL).

(2) O'Nolan additionally may be saluting eighteenth-century Irish author Jonathan Swift, whose pseudo-rational and pseudo-scientific discourse in his Modest Proposal and Gulliver's Travels is similar to O'Nolan's tedious, lengthy extracts in Saga.

(3) See my "O'Dea's Yer Man: Myles, Modernity, and Irish National Television" in Is It about a Bicycle?: Flann O'Brien in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Jennika Baines. (Dublin: Four Courts, 2011).

(4) Some plot details in the proposal evidently were revised since they change in the written manuscript. The title changed from "Slattery's Sago Saga" to "MacPherson's Sago Saga" to "Sarsfield's Sago Saga" in the correspondence. Tim Hartigan was originally "Tim Clery" Also, it is unlikely that Hartigan could become President, given his orphaned Irish birth in the published portion, but Sarsfield Slattery who could be the likely candidate, since he was orphaned in Chicago, adopted by the Doctor, and brought back to live in Ireland. O'Nolan confuses Hartigan and Sarsfield in the narrative, describing Sarsfield as "another orphan and born in Chicago" but obscuring whether Sarsfield and Hartigan were both born in Chicago or whether only Sarsfield was born in America (27 emphasis mine).

(5) This series of four columns centers on CIE's "flying snail" logo that the company adopted in 1941 as Myles reworks it to feature different visual designs (na gCopaleen 16, 18, 19, 20 Mar 1946). The series critiques different aspects of bus transportation, be they the logo, merchandizing efforts to promote a modern and efficient image, additions of new checkers despite chronic tardiness, or statements that had "the company's urban policy in 1936" been "directed to having trams rather than buses--there would have been no transport during the late war!" (na gCopaleen 19 Mar 1946).
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Author:Nejezchleb, Amy
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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