Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thank You Mr. Calvino

In a one of his shorter essays, Italo Calvino tackles comedy and begins with something that is very close to my heart. ‘One component of satire is moralism,’ he writes, ‘and another is mockery. I would like these two components to remain foreign to me, partly because I do not appreciate them in others.’

I read these words for the first time this week and they caused me to fret. How am I to exist if I’m not allowed to moralise or to mock? Take away my hands, my thongs, even my tongue, but not my ability to moralise and to mock. And I was particularly concerned because, on Monday, a good friend rang me to say that she had sent me a present, knowing how much I appreciate good books. It finally arrived, gift wrapped, in an Amazon parcel this morning. I don’t want to give the surprise away too early but the book was called ‘Perfect Ponies: Here Comes the Bride’ and, in case you don’t know, the Amazon blurb describes it as:

The first story in an unmissable series about a group of yard girls and their ponies, by the ever-popular and keen rider, XXXXX XXXXX.

Calvino now has me questioning my next move. Once I reveal the name to you, how is it possible for me to neither moralise nor mock? If the name were Jilly Cooper, I suppose it’s an easy thing to avoid. If the name were Jeffrey Archer, it’s harder but still quite possible. But what if there name were Katie Price? Or, if you want to be informal about this, what if the name were Jordan? What would Mr. Clever-Clogs-Italian-Novelist-And-Thinker say then?

And that’s why I put no faith in these rascally foreign uber-critics. Umberto Eco has never given a good bit of advice in his life and Calvino is the same. Neither can tell me how I might properly convey my absolute hatred for this woman. Were my gums to bleed, my teeth rot, my skin to fester, boils burst, intestines drop through my arse in fistulas the size of cabbages, I would not experience a fraction of the agony I feel when this woman’s books appear in bookshops. Abhorrent is not the word for it. It would be ‘abhorrent’ rolled in newly laid animal faeces, speckled with anthrax, and left to fester by a jackal’s carcass in a grave dug by Satanists on hallowed ground. Should every saint of the Holy Roman Church come back to life to renounce Christ and go Club-Med holidaying with Richard Dawkins, it would not amount to the blasphemy I feel when I see Jordan’s swollen glands given pride of place in a bookshop.

Bantam Books should be ashamed of themselves, though it’s yet another example of how we can’t expect corporations to act morally when there’s easy money to be made. I have often spent hours wondering what kind of dim witted person buys Jordan’s ghost-written pap but now I’m more concerned about what kind of dim witted parent buys them for their children? I suppose they’re bought by the same cretinous hole dwellers that think she’s a fine role model for children raised in a world where big tits are better than big brains. When children dress for sex, sex dresses children, when porn stars teach children to read, and when blowjobs and boobjobs are more synonymous with bookshops than poetry.

Calvino might not appreciate moralising and mockey in others but I prefer it to mindless succumbing to advertising and an unthinking moral and aesthetic relativism in which there’s no room to criticise vacuous ghostwritten novels with more meat to mouth action going on than you’d find in Jamie Oliver’s Sausage Handbook.

But, of course, I'm not supposed to resort to moralising nor mockery. Which leaves me only one option. I'll let Jordan speak for herself...


elberry said...

what a repulsive-looking female.

Big Chip Dale said...

Yet young girls copy her. We are becoming a nation of repulsive-looking people. Another paradox of modern living is that the more we're encouraged to make ourselves look beautiful, the more ugly we get.

Ms Baroque said...

... do you know? I have no idea what Italo Calvino looks like.

Ms Baroque said...

Oh, wait - one Google image search later, of course I do! He's lovely, too. Clearly not a victim of the Beauty Myth.

Sean Jeating said...

Satire, mockery, moralising: Everything at its time.

Here, for me, it is time to seriously say: A great post.