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Don’t you think?

By il conte della luna [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

‘Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy the cage.’

Hyde, Lewis. ‘Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking’, American Poetry Review, reprinted in the Pushcart Prize anthology for 1987; quoted in David Foster Wallace, ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction’, Review of Contemporary Fiction, 13:2 (1993 Summer); dedicated to ‘M.M. Karr’; reprinted in David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Little, Brown and Co., 1997.


  1. It should only be used by the wry hero of action movies.

  2. Don’t forget Kierkegaard! From Storm’s commentary:

    “In our age there has been much talk about the importance of doubt for science and scholarship, but what doubt is to science, irony is to personal life. Just as scientists maintain that there is not true science without doubt, so it may be maintained with the same right that no genuinely human life is possible without irony” (p. 326).

    And on the superiority of humor:

    “Finally, insofar as there may be a question concerning irony’s “eternal validity,” this question can be answered only by entering into the realm of humor. Humor has a far more profound skepticism than irony, because here the focus is on sinfulness, not on finitude. The skepticism of humor is related to the skepticism of irony as ignorance is related to the old thesis: credo quia absurdum [I believe because it is absurd], but it also has a far deeper positivity, since it moves not in human but in theanthropological categories; it finds rest not by making man man but by making man God-man” (p. 329).

    Although Tertullian didn’t actually write “credo quia absurdum”; he wrote, “certum est, quia impossibile”, which I think actually makes his point about man/God-man even more clear than here.

    • Angelico Nguyen says

      And all that from memory! Well done, Mr Finnegan.

      The selection from p. 326 makes sense to me, but I can’t make head or tail of p. 329. How are ‘humor’ and ‘irony’ defined here, and how does humor relate to sinfulness, or irony to finitude?

  3. clang clang clang

  4. I don’t know if this should go here orhere, but I have read Mary Karr’s Lit now, and I liked it a lot.

    • Holy cow, what a thread that was. How I miss the Mystic. We were bloggers once, and young…

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Rachel, thanks for letting us know!

      I pretty much said my piece re Lit in the comments to which you linked, but what about your own thoughts? Did anything about the book or author particularly impress you (favorably or unfavorably)?

      What struck you, and what stuck with you?

      • Well, I guess I am sort of a sucker for recovery stories, first of all. It kind of reminded me of Heather King’s stuff in that way.

        I like how AA seems to be a leveler (sp?), at least on Karr’s account. How it seems to bring together people who wouldn’t otherwise have much to do with one another. Kind of like RCIA (I suspect this comparison is not original to me, but am not sure where I got it–maybe you guys, maybe Heather King*).

        And I liked the bits where she talked about David Foster Wallace. I may read that television essay some time soon.

        * Probably a big part of it is this, actually. The Catholic Church as rehab.

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

          In his essay on 9/11, ‘The View from Mrs Thompson’s’ (collected in Consider the Lobster), Wallace recounts watching news coverage that day with members of his church. According to D.T. Max’s biography of Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, the community Wallace called his ‘church’ was actually his recovery group.

  5. Possibly my favorite thread.

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