|The Wolf in Sheepskinland|
Issue #15 (November 1982)
Lost in the Groves of Academe
" ....and then he took his axe, gave the wolf forty whacks, and out popped Read Livelihood, in as fair a copy as ever. Those are the facts, Your Honor, in the 'Incident at Grandma's'."
"Thank you. And now the spokesperson for lupine values, Mr Loqastellus."1
associate would have us believe that this sheltered, bookish lass marched ALONE into the DARK WOODS wearing her RED DRESS and there met a stranger of the opposite SEX. I ask you to consider Bettelheim's Uses of Enchantment..."
'I never mean, I merely venture probes, sketch parameters.'
[quoteleft]"Objection. My client was eaten, not construed."
"Your Honor, upon analysis..."
"Oh, interpretation first, analysis later, if there's time."
"As you will: initiation fantasies by a hyperhedonic2 bibliophile straying into noumen3 incognita."
"Ah - meaning. Proceed."
"Also trans-sylvan cisvestitism,4 plus projection of animus onto a lupine genicon,5 along with dental and ocular agastopia."6
"Best significance-mongering yet, Mr Logastellus."
"Outrageous! This is slipping over into fictive values!"
"I haven't even gotten into solar myth yet."7
"You know, I once dreamed I was a wolf, only to awaken and ponder: 'Or am I now a wolf who dreams...?'"8
"Exegesis saves.10 Read Livelihood to the stand. Do you swear to conjure north by northwest, so hawk you handsaw?"
"Always. Your honor and parsers of the unparsed everywhere: unnecessary violence was employed in subduing my remorseful11 assailant, a member of a minority group and an endangered species, unadvised of his rites."12
"Hold on. Are you averring ... ?"13
"I never make judgments. I merely weigh in with various points of view, then sit back and appreciate the rich texture of it all."14
"Your Honor, what is the point of this?"
"'The meaning of meaning.'"15
"Why, I've never before contemplated a meaning without a referent."
"Perhaps a referent without a meaning? How about an unassigned syntactical symbol?"16
"Judge Fellmonger,17 this is miching mallecho, and then some."
"Proceed, Read. Just say what you mean."18
"Might as well advise 'Mean what you say.' But be hap as dismay. It was a long trek through those dark woods down Lover's Laing,"19 where there's many a slip twixt the virginal imperative and the toils of yens undelineated in the annals of metaphoropathic vagaries."20
"Do you mean...?"
"I never mean, I merely venture probes, sketch parameters."21
"May it please the court to consider this annotated edition of the Gyron-Gimbal test for selective perception and nuancing by contagion."
"But this is sheer footnoting, devoid of text."
"Hand Exhibit A over - the hatchet. Hm. Apollo's axe? Occam's razor? Upon reflection, I find that whoever gazes steadfastly on this sort of thing probably will end up seeing only himself, no mens rea necessary. Case dismissed."
1. One whose enthusiasm for words outstrips his knowledge of them.
2. Taking abnormal pleasure in ho-hum activities.
3. Of Balthasar Neumann, the architect, Encyclopedia Britannica says, "Neumann the dreamer would conceive the most intricate and original interiors"; Franz Neumann, the physicist, studied "closed circuits."
4. The wearing of weird clothing.
5. Imagined sex partner.
6. Admiration of a particular part of the body.
7. Perhaps just as well. Harry Levin has warned that seeing sun symbols can be gratuitous, as in "Big Two-Hearted River," where "The sun that beats on his (Nick Adam's) back is the same old planet that has generated myths since the world began." This might be called the PreCopernican School of Criticism.
8. Allusion to a famous Chink in the armor of reality.
9. Pertaining to the science of meaning.
10. To say nothing of eisegesis: the interpretation of a text so as 8 to slip in one's own notions for the author's.
11. Etymologically correct ("re-morse" = "bite again"), since the wolf had already eaten Grandma, before Read.
12. See Miranda (1966), Escobedo (1964), and Perrault (1697). The last booked many animals on very serious charges.
13. Read, of course, is - namely, that the wolf should have been let off because of extreme prejudice against his kind. The argument derives from the well-known principle of race ipse loquitur.
14. See almost any English professor.
15. Reference to a profound book by Ogden and Richards which points out that there is a difference in mode of expression between "I have sat on a pin" and "Ouch!"
16. Compare Howard Nemerov: "We might say of expressiveness itself that first it is, and then it finds a meaning": "Bottom's Dream: The Likeness of Poems and Jokes."
17. A dealer in sheepskins.
18. Compare Alfred Adler: "If we speak plainly, without metaphors or symbols, we cannot escape common sense": What Life Should Mean to You.
19. Reference to a 1960s apologist for private, schizophrenic systems of significance. To be distinguished from literary criticism, which is shared.
20. An example of metaphoropathic vagary.
21. Jargon from a time when the cry of the luhan was heard far and wide.
He writes from Brookline, MA: "I'd be curious to see if my abstruse ravings score a het with the plus-140 crowd, since I usually have as much trouble as a dodo getting these things to fly."