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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

more lit-crit spork

You know, Riggs is doing fine when he sticks to the facts. The actual biography here is great. But I think his attempts at interpretations fail because he fails, as well, to realize that Jonson, Marston, and Dekker were funny. And that they won their battles with one another by making people laugh at the other guy, not just spitting vitriol. (Well, okay, Jonson apparently did take Marston out behind the woodshed that one time. But that's Ben for you. Marston, who seems to have been a generally good-natured guy when Ben wasn't getting the hell up his nose, eventually forgave the thrashing. I'm inclined to like Marston anyway; he said nice things about Kit.)

Anyway, there's this whole passage here about Ben Jonson (in The Poetaster, which is also the one where his Dekker parody is forced to vomit up all the seven-dollar words at the end, and then put on a strict diet of Ovid until the illness resolves) comparing himself to Homer (whatever, Ben, shut up and write some more vomit jokes) and Dekker caricaturing Homer in Satiromastix as a jobbing hack scrabbling to make ends meet, after which (we may guess: the publication dates and the period habit of circulating things in manuscript for years mean that one can't be too sure) Jonson commented with the following bill of sale in verse:

To Fine Grand.

What is't, fine Grand, makes thee my Friendship fly,
   Or take an Epigram so fearfully:
As't were a Challenge, or a Borrower's Letter?
   The World must know your greatness is my Debter.
In-primis, Grand, you owe me for a Jest;
   I lent you, on meer acquaintance, at a Feast.
Item, a Tale or two, some Fortnight after;
   That yet maintains you, and your House in Laughter.
Item, the Babylonian Song you Sing;
   Item, a fair Greek Posy for a Ring:
With which a Learned Madam you bely.
   Item, a Charm surrounding fearfully,
Your partie-per-pale Picture, one half drawn
   In solemn Cyphers, the other cob-web Lawn.
Item, a gulling Imprese for you, at Tilt.
   Item, your Mistress Anagram, i'your Hilt.
Item, your own, sew'd in your Mistress Smock.
   Item, an Epitaph on my Lord's Cock,
In most vile Verses, and cost me more pain,
   Than had I made 'em good, to fit your vain.
Forty Things more, dear Grand, which you know true,
   For which, or pay me quickly, or I'll pay you.

Upon which Riggs comments: "Jonson's epigram (1) "To Fine Grand" suggests that Dekker's caricature contained some measure of truth."

...dude. It's funny. It's also a b it of an indictment both of the patronage system (and how Benlike to pick it apart even while making use of it), and lords who take advantage of poor poets (apparently, prompt payment for writers has never been a priority of the system...)

Boy, if Mr. Riggs is ego-googling, am I in for one nasty letter....

(1) Ben's poems to his dead children are incredibly touching


Well, you know, if you're in lit-crit mode and that side of the brain is permanently stuck in on position, it's very hard to boot the humor module.

Academic critics have a hard time understanding how writers think. Having watched the gears grind to a halt at academic conferences when writers started talking like writers in front of the academics, I'm not surprised this one can't see what's going on. He's probably not wired to think that way.
I suspect you may be right, in this case at least. I mean, to me that's patently obvious, "Sure, if I'm a hack, let me present you with the bill for my dinner conversation..."

...but then again. Of course, I'm often boggled by the idea a certain branch of psuedo-academia that seems unable to grasp the concept that your rude playmaker wasn't working in an ivory tower of pure intentions, but rather scribbling on ale-soaked pages at the corner tavern over lunch.
Of course, I'm often boggled by the idea a certain branch of psuedo-academia that seems unable to grasp the concept that your rude playmaker wasn't working in an ivory tower of pure intentions, but rather scribbling on ale-soaked pages at the corner tavern over lunch.

During one of the conferences at which I (with a better academic degree than any of the academics there) was treated like a bimbo because I write fiction, I concluded that for this level of academic (and there are a Lot of them), writing is a sacral act to be done fasting and praying with a pure spirit. It is also preferably done while dead. The sight of a real, living and breathing, unmistakably mortal organism doing it is, well, indecent.

And yes, we did at more than one point cause tiny little brains to sizzle and fall out of ears by switching from literary to writer mode and back again during paper sessions. It wasn't kind, but by that time the writer-as-bimbo treatment had grown very old.

It was interesting to leave that environment and go back to the ivied halls where my professors loved to hear my stories about the sf community. One was rather shocked that I did this under my own name, but learned to deal with it. The rest were enthralled. I had long lunches in Mory's being quizzed about cons and deadlines and getting published. For them, writers are exotic but in their way comprehensible. But those were the top level of academics--with flexible enough minds to recognize the nature of the alien.
Here's to a fast wit and a flexible mind, then.
Harold Bloom waltzing through the halls with arms outspread, caroling, "Bart! Oh Baaarrttt!" and catching up with Giamatti and kissing him on both cheeks.

David Duchovny was slinking around the library along about then, too (he spent a lot of time talking about how long he was in there--most of it talking about how long he was in there).

Those were the days. Also, the minds. Hinterland academia was rather a shock. Not that you don't find great minds in many places, but the little minds do outnumber them.
Oh, and trust Ben to get a penis joke in there, too. "an epitaph on my lord's cock," indeed.
You expected anything else? I mean.
I just recently friended you, and now I'm wondering... does the "elizabethan penis jokes" tag get a lot of use?


Hi. :)

Um. Sometimes. *g* Depends on who I'm reading....
Well, and Ben, in particular, id deadly funny.

I mean, okay, I would rather be trapped in an elevator with ten pounds of rattlesnakes than with Jonson. But man, he's fun to read.
Just make him wear a thingy. Man. (four legitimate children, and two or three illegitimate ones...)
oh yes you arrreeeee.