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Three Beginnings

Excerpt from Flann O'Brien's
At Swim-Two-Birds
© 1939 by Brian O'Nolan

HAVING placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression. I reflected on the subject of my spare-time literary activities. One Beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimiliar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.

Examples of three separate openings - the first:

The Pooka MacPhellimey, a member of the devil class, sat in his hut in the middle of a firwood meditating on the nature of numerals and segregating in his mind the odd ones from the even. He was seated at his diptych or ancient two-leaved writing-table with inner sides waxed. His rough long-nailed fingers toyed with a snuff-box of perfect rotundity and through a gap in his teeth he whistled a civil cavatina. He was a courtly man and received honour by reason of the generous treatment he gave his wife, one of the Corrigans of Carlow.

The second opening:

There was nothing unusual in the appearance of Mr John Furriskey but actually he has one distinction that is rarely encountered - he was born at the age of twenty-five and entered the world with a memory but without personal experience to account for it. His teeth were well formed but stained by tabacco, with two molars filled and a cavity threatened in the left canine. His knowledge of physics was moderate and extended to Boyle's Law and the Parallelogram of Forces.

The third opening:

Finn Mac Cool was a legendary hero of old Ireland. Though not mentally robust, he was a man of superb physique and development. Each of his thighs was as thick as a horses belly, narrowing to a calf as thick as the belly of a foal. Three fifties of fosterlings could engage with handball against the wideness of his backside, which was large enough to halt the march of men through a mountain-pass

Conclusion of Excerpt

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