Jonathan Coe, 24 October 2013
We now know almost everything there is to know about Flann O’Brien; and out of this knowledge a story has emerged, a received narrative, which makes a more upsetting kind of sense than anything he ever wrote in his books. Our main, certainly our most detailed source for this story is an item that seems to be out of print: Anthony Cronin’s biography No Laughing Matter, published in 1989. Rarely can a book have borne such an apposite title. Cronin casts O’Brien’s life as a relentless catalogue of frustration, bitterness and repression, accompanied of course by a slow descent into alcoholism.