Wednesday, 13 June 2007

A Post Every High School Graduate Should Be Able To Understand* Over at Crooked Timber, Seth Edenbaum churlishly proclaimed me another fatuous academic who abjures clarity: Academic snobbery is snobbery first and foremost ... Kaufman used the very specific language of a snobbery that I for long standing and very personal reasons find repulsive ... It's a class thing. The sentence he identified as incontrovertible evidence of my snobbery? I mean to sound light and quippy, but I seem destined to the stentorian. I pay attention to my prose. Some words, like "stentorian," have a knack for enacting their meaning. My defense of tweedy naïvete sounded overwrought, so I apologized in language equally overwrought. Little is less "light and quippy" than a phrase like "destined to the stentorian." Edenbaum, I presume, would have me write more abstemious prose—my tactical naïvete made him "wanna go all Joan Didion on his sorry ass," a phrase seemingly designed to compel Joan Didion to wanna go all Joan Didion on his sorry ass, but I digress. When Edenbaum is crowned King of the Words, all this ironic chicanery will stop. His Omnipotence will put an end to the Hegemony of the Facetious and the deleterious playfulness of its oligarchs. Sentences like this one, from Little Dorrit, would be banned: How there had been a final interview with the head of the Circumlocution Office that very morning, and how the Brazen Head had spoken, and had been, upon the whole, and under all the circumstances, and looking at it from the various points of view, of opinion that one of two courses was to be pursued in respect of the business: that was to say, either to leave it alone for evermore, or to begin it all over again. See how Dickens interpolated the feckless phrasing of those who work in the Circumlocution into his description of its workings? Such loquaciousness might be literarily effective, but to the supercilious Edenbaum, such rhetorical flourishes betray mannered emptiness. They are mere rhetoric, the feckless noodlings of orthographic nihilists like Joyce. When Edenbaum is King, he will declare war on the jejune. In the beginning, his campaign will be subtle—a little gerrymandering here, a little disenfranchising there, you know, the quotidian manipulations of contemporary politics—but his bellicose nature will out soon enough. Questionable language will be expurgated. (The Chief of Soliquies is reputed to have asked the Second Assessor of British Literature, Elizabethean Divsion: "Do 'outrageous fortunes' really need 'slings' and 'arrows'? Are these 'fortunes' even 'outrageous'? Winnow 'em out!") Any novel not written by Hemingway will be bowdlerized. When his administration publishes its official lexicon—complete with a taxonomy of adjectives and guide to their proper usage—the public, before only mildly unsettled, will become tempestuous. They will demand their representatives mount a filibuster, futile though they know it will be. The more vehement will call for them to impeach Edenbaum, but you cannot impeach a king. He will appear on television with a diffident smirk that grows into an obsequious smile as he explains why he had to remove...
UPDATE: African-American Studies Scholar Responds Early this afternoon, I received a second response concerning the Casper Affair. It's from one of the (many) African-American Studies scholars who received one of Casper's (many) emails. I secured permission to reprint his response sans name, as he wishes to remain anonymous for the time being. Dear Mr. Kaufman, I apologize for not responding sooner, but in one of the umpteen emails describing your racial insensitivitiy you said you wanted us to respond seriously. So I read your Acephalous website and I looked at your picture, and I'll be damned if I can tell whether you're a white, black, Asian or any other kind of supremacist. Son, you have no head. Was the head you don't have a white head? Was it a black one? How am I supposed to decide whether you a white supremacist. For all I know, you could be my nigger. I did search for this Casper person accusing you, and I hate to tell you, but the guy who called you a racist is a dead klansman. Friendly my black ass. I once read all these Southerners were gentlemen, and by all accounts they was plenty polite at their lynchings: "Is that rope tight enough, nigger?" "Are you having problems breathing, nigger?" They was plenty polite, alright. So on account of me not knowing whether you my nigger or not, and on account of the fact that you being accused of being a racist by the ghost of Otis Jebediah Cracker, IV, I have determined that it is only right and prudent that these and all future allegations be laughed out of my inbox, and your life, with a press of the delete key. I would guess my esteemed colleagues have already done the same. P.S. If you my nigger, feel free to respond. If you ain't my nigger, you must append a lengthy contextualization of these words which just I wrote you. Can't just quote all my "niggers" back to me thinking my dumb dark brain will understand my own damn context, and I don't want to spend all next weekend writing myself letters or finding dead klansman to write them for me. Next time someone cracks wise about humorless, oversensitive identitarian thinkers, you know where to link.

Become a Fan

Recent Comments