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May 28, 2004



I haf nofing!


You intrigue me, sir.

bob mcmanus

2 comments. Well, way out of my league, amazing.
Someone who has read more than one Empson book is likely a professional. It shows. I read the whole thing, twice. "Being There" of course came to mind, obviously, but heck what are Faulkner and Welty really doing?

Didn't comment last night, felt it wasn't aimed at me. But hey. "Adaptation" has become a new and larger experience for me, Mr Holbo, and I am most obliged to at least thank you.


1) Any reason (other than the Empson connection) to use "mock-pastoral" rather than "irony," which seems the more general term for what you're covering? (Oh, wait -- you seem particularly interested [as am I] in the ways in which irony, far from covering one's ass, bites it. Chosing to stress what comes after the "mock-" may help with that. OK, carry on.)

2) [Actually, this turned out way too long. I'll post it in my own back yard.]


I eagerly await your response, sir. The short answer about mock vs. irony is that - yes, mostly it's just the Empson thing, plus the ass-biting thing. But it's also the sentimental/pious/child-cult/mystical thing, potentially. Tolstoy is mock in my sense, but it would be a little awkward to call his pious tale 'ironic'. There is the irony of the surprise ending, but the tale is not 'ironic' in spirit, in any of the usual, smirking senses. I think I would do well to explain this a little better, however. And a simple, brief statement about why I'm not calling it 'irony' would probably do the trick.

Jake Wilson

As an Australian I can't help wondering if there's something in the banality-as-depth idea that resonates with a particularly American model of democracy -- every man his own prophet, or something like that. Anyway, great essay. From the pop-culture-as-nature angle, two movies that fit your paradigm beautifully are "Ed Wood" and, still more complexly, "A.I." (childcult with a vengeance). By the way, Dan Sallitt's "All the Ships at Sea" (http://www.panix.com/~sallitt/atsas) is almost exactly the Montaigne adaptation you envisage: sisters instead of brothers, extended theological discussions, rural setting.

David Fiore

Really interesting stuff John, although I feel obliged to point out that most silver age marvel characters (admittedly, these are not the heroes that Moore works with) are quite different from most of the other heroic figures you have linked them with (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Captain America--in the hands of a writer like Gruenwald, at least, the X-Men; these people are all very much aware of the futility of their quests, and each new issue brings, not triumph, but merely another day of struggle against the inevitable). Moore's work is rooted in Golden Age soil, while Morrison & Gruenwald raised epiphytes upon a genre that was already fairly complex--the puritan conversion narrative (which, as Emerson demonstrates, is quite Montaignean)

Can't wait for the rest of this!


David S. Goodwin

I'd be remiss in my fan-boy duties if I didn't toss Buffy the Vampire Slayer into the mix. The show seems to me a perfect example example of mock-heroic. The premise was supposed to be silly: teenage girl encounters and kills - rather than is killed by - vampires. But it turned out to be an incredibly enduring and well handled series. The press never quite figured out why, aside from the the "allegory of a coming-of-age story" angle, but I think you've got it here.

And, of course, Joss Whedon (the creator) has the same knack as Pratchett of making his characters wholly sympathetic. He may mock them, but doesn't sneer.


From §6 Montaigne As Mock-Pastoral: The older brother doesn’t know what to do in such a case – goes from being annoyed to confused to frightened; doesn’t know whether to believe this is real or delusion; starts to reread his own sophisticated stuff frantically, perhaps consults in despair the author of the offending ‘spirituality for dummies’ book and finds … an intensely religious personality. Or a fraud. You decide.


My choice would be to have the older brother find the author of "Spirituality For Dummies" to be a kind and wonderful person . . . since you say we get to decide ;)

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