Sunday, October 31, 2010

The importance of being earnest

Michael Kimmelman describes in the NYT a visit to the House of Humor and Satire in Gabrovo – a humorless, once industrial city in Bulgaria (“Take My Bulgarian Joke Book. Please.”). Most of the piece is quite condescending toward the place and the tour guide/PR officer who welcomed the author. Until at the very end he recognizes in what he sees a kind of earnestness he and his kind seem to have lost. Granted, approaching the outside world with a sense of irony and detachment is a sign of unmistakable sophistication. But being unable to leave your irony behind must be an utmost curse. Lord Chesterton once wrote: “Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.” By the way, the Don Quixote statue next to the Gabrovo satirical shrine is astounding – all made of iron scrap welded together to capture the true spirit of Cervantes’s otherworldly hero. Apparently, Mr. Kimmelman wasn’t sufficiently impressed to include it in the picture of the Gabrovo attraction accompanying his article.