More than 15,000 copies were sold in the three weeks following the Lost episode airing in the US – equalling sales of the previous six years.
O’Brien (whose real name was Brian O’Nolan) played a big role in what might loosely be called my literary development, in that I was once thrown out of the National Library in Dublin because I had been reading back numbers of his Cruiskeen Lawn column in the Irish Times and was overcome with uncontrollable, hysterical laughter. A stern custodian escorted me to the door. I had been obliged to resort to the National Library because my mother regarded the Irish Times, the house organ of the Protestant Ascendancy, as a publication of the devil, and would not — as she put it — “have that heathen rag in the house”.
For such an outrageously funny and original man, O’Brien seems to have had a pretty miserable life — as captured in the title of Anthony Cronin’s workmanlike biography — No Laughing Matter: the life and times of Flann O’Brien. He died in 1966.