Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reading Severance - Sunday Salon TSS

I've been reading, and taking notes on Robert Olen Butler's, Severance, with the thought of writing a review. I won't belabor the premise: you can look it up--and I want to save my comments for the review, but when I came to number 14, I couldn't resist posting a bit of a preview.

Maybe not a preview, but a footnote. A diversion.

One of his talking heads (that was Butler's first choice for a title) brought me to a full stop. CHOP CHOP

Gooseneck (Gansnacken), court jester to Duke Eberhard the Bearded, beheaded by his master, 1494.

I was curious about Butler's sources and came across exerts from a book I must add to my reading list..

The webpage is HERE.

The first thing I noticed was that the story of the strangled goslings is not unique to Duke Eberhard. No surprise. But what intrigued me was the role of the jester, of comedy--its universal role as a protected dissenting voice... not just Shakespeare.

The possibility that "art," its subversive role--as something above politics, has its deepest, its most universal origins in comedy. That if you believe in the independence of literature and the arts, if you are a defender of the subversive voice, the jesters of Persia, China, Europe--Africa... (Legba, the god of the Barking Dog) the Tricksters of the American tribal cultures--they are your true founding fathers... and mothers.

Unfortunately, we live in an age when those who hold power have either lost the gift of humor, or finally caught on... even the invited court jesters cough up the party line, or risk banishment to the margins, where "entertainment" is just "entertainment."

We seem to have reverted to a pre-Homeric age, where we are able to speak only to those of our own tribe, and cannot imagine... as Homer did, the reality of those we oppose. Not even to mourn their dead... (Joe Bageant could teach us some lessons here... )

footnote: I've been searching for the subversive in Arabian Nights, and all I keep finding are stories of the "faithful sevants." What a pity, Morgiana had no sense of humor... or that it's a sort of Republican version of humor, meant to faithfully serve the ethos of power.

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