07 September 2012

The importance of sarcasm

I am happy to say that I was barraged with sarcasm during my formative years. My teachers specialized in subtle-but-withering verbal assaults. Many incidents spring to mind: After jackhammering my way through an entire page of Ulysses in a robotic monotone—how was I supposed to know that James Joyce expected the reader to insert the lilts, pauses, and commas intuitively?—my English teacher announced that he was overcome by the “sensitivity” of my reading and would need to “nip out for a fag” in order to compose himself. While the entire class roared with laughter, I flinched and cringed. But I eventually recovered. Better to be verbally humiliated than whacked upside the head, an outcome that was also on offer, and the benefits of which will doubtless be the subject of some future column.

My home life, I am happy to report, was equally sarcasm-riddled and sincerity-free. When I began to embrace the satins and velvets of glam rock, my parents began pointedly tracking the movements of any traveling circuses and keeping me posted on their whereabouts.

Pops and Mamma saved their best sarcasm for each other, often after drinking vats of homemade sloe gin. Like many dudes of his generation, my dad had a tendency to treat his kids, the fruit of his loins, like some random encumbrance that fate had been seen fit to inflict upon him. My mum was quick to nip this line of thinking in the bud with a little gin-fueled faux-gratitude: “It really was so good of you to take me in off the street, especially with these two children in tow. Have I ever thanked you formally?”

- Simon Doonan, 'Who Killed Sarcasm?', Slate, 5 September 2012
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