Perhaps the best Griceian approach to Donleavy is via the conversational
implicatures of his (that's Donleavy's, not Grice's) novels as set for the
stage. Or not.
Consider Grice on metaphor. He gives just one example
i. You're the cream in my coffee.
The implicature: You're my pride and joy.
Now consider Donleavy's
ii. All I want is a break which is not my neck.
This should remind a Griceian of Griceian analyses of metaphors like
iii. No man is an island.
if a metaphor that is. Since it starts with “No,” it seems to be the _negation_
of a metaphor. Now consider Donleavy’s Griceian humour. One bad thing about
analysing the implicatures of Griceian jokes is that you spoil them – in that
they cease being jokes. The ‘want’ in (ii) is interesting. Originally, it means
‘lack,’ rather than ‘will’. As such (ii) contrasts with
iv. All I desire is a break which is not my neck.
which just doesn’t flow. So Donleavy does mean ‘lack’. Is (ii) a metaphor. Or a
zeugma? That is the Popperian question!
We are assuming, with Grice, a bit naively, that ‘break’ can only have ONE
sense, a literal one. And Donleavy is STATING (or explicating) that a neck
break (i.e. a break of his neck) is not what he _lacks_. Does this implicate
that his neck is broken _already_? In any case, consider the truncated version
of the zeugma:
v. All I want is a break.
Grice considered once the implicatures of “between”.
vi. Jones is between Smith and Brown.
Grice says that this can be read _literally_, i.e. that Jones is physically
between Smith and Brown. Or it can be read _figuratively_, as it were --, in
Jones being between Smith and Brown in some moral order, or scale, as it were.
Grice adds: “This does not mean that ‘between’ has two senses.”
Ditto with ‘break’.
vii. Give me a break.
can hardly (only UN-hardly) mean
viii. Give me a break of my neck.
In any case Donleavy implicates that he has it. Since he cannot have his neck
broken and yet _utter_ (ii), Donleavy is being, on top, ironic.