Thursday, May 26, 2005

Barbed Comment

.......... there is no need to go on. Enough of the text has been quoted to identify the highly successful procedures employed by Reviel Netz, which can easily be imitated - and perhaps should be by as many authors as possible, to finally explode the entire genre. First, take an artefact, anything at all. Avoid the too obviously deplorable machine gun or atom bomb. Take something seemingly innocuous, say shoelaces. Explore the inherent if studiously unacknowledged ulterior purposes of that "grim" artefact within "the structures of power and violence". Shoelaces after all perfectly express the Euro-American urge to bind, control, constrain and yes, painfully constrict. Compare and contrast the easy comfort of the laceless moccasins of the Indian - so often massacred by booted and tightly laced Euro-Americans, as one can usefully recall at this point. Refer to the elegantly pointy and gracefully upturned silk shoes of the Orient, which have no need of laces of course because they so naturally fit the human foot - avoiding any trace of Orientalism, of course. It is all right to write in a manner unfriendly or even openly contemptuous of entire populations as Professor Netz does with his Texans at every turn ("ready to kill. . . they fought for Texan slavery against Mexico"), but only if the opprobrium is always aimed at you-know-who, and never at the pigmented. Clinch the argument by evoking the joys of walking on the beach in bare and uncommodified feet, and finally overcome any possible doubt by reminding the reader of the central role of high-laced boots in sadistic imagery.

That finally unmasks shoelaces for what they really are - not primarily a way of keeping shoes from falling off one's feet, but instruments of pain, just like the barbed wire that I have been buying all these years not to keep the cattle in, as I imagined, but to torture it, as Professor Netz points out. The rest is easy: the British could hardly have rounded up Boer wives and children without shoelaces to keep their boots on, any more than the very ordinary men in various Nazi uniforms could have done such extraordinary things so industriously, and not even Stalin could have kept the Gulag going with guards in unlaced Indian moccasins, or elegantly pointy, gracefully upturned, oriental shoes.

Edward N. Luttwak wields the stiletto in a review that is well worth reading and quoting, of a book which is probably not so worthy.

Prodnose: What do you mean stiletto?
Welsh Born: Oaf! I refer simultaneously to both a switch blade and a woman's shoe with a thin, high tapering heel.
Prodnose: Why?
Welsh Born: The first meaning furnishes a conventional rhetorical trope where a comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated subjects. The authoring of a book review is described as being the expert and dangerous use of a flick knife. In this way, the former is economically described and praised because implicit and explicit attributes from the latter can be applied to it by the general reader, though not I imagine by you.
Prodnose: So it saves time?
Welsh Born: Not if I have to spend my lunch break explaining it to you.
Prodnose: There is no need to be rude.
Welsh Born: Silence fool and attend to the second meaning. Luttwak's review satirizes Professort Netz's book by pretending to admire its "highly successful procedures" and suggesting ironically that if the history of barbed wire may be understood in terms of �structures of power and violence� the same analytical technique may reveal the true history of shoelaces. I concur and, by the deceptively simple expedient of appending the stiletto shoe to his whimsical enumeration of styles of footwear, I simultaneously commend and extend his labour in the bestowing of my literary benediction. What could be more transparent, earthworm?
Prodnose: Isn't that rather a lot of work for one little word?
Welsh Born: No clod, merely for your one little brain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ЎUf, me gustу! Tan clara y positiva.