Tea With Chris: The Ratification of Imbecility

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: Abstruse Germanic theory as light aperitif? Yes, please. So I’m grateful that someone on Facebook alerted me to this link to Theodor W. Adorno’s 1956 essay on “Punctuation Marks,” which combines the Frankfurt grump’s characteristic ideological and rhetorical extremism with an atypical user-friendly concision. As a guide to usage and grammar, not so practical; as comedy, though, it is Richard Pryor – hilarious and disturbingly true. A couple of highlights:

“To the person who cannot truly conceive anything as a unit, anything that suggests disintegration or discontinuity is unbearable; only a person who can grasp totality can understand caesuras. But the dash provides instruction in them.”

‎”It starts with the loss of the semicolon; it ends with the ratification of imbecility by a reasonableness purged of all admixtures.”

“The writer is in a permanent predicament when it comes to punctuation marks; if one were fully aware while writing, one would sense the impossibility of ever using a mark of punctuation correctly and would give up writing altogether. For the requirements of the rules of punctuation and those of the subjective need for logic and expression are not compatible: in punctuation marks the check the writer draws on language is refused payment.”

What does that mean? It’s only six pages, so go read for yourself. You will never see the distinction between the Greek semicolon and the Anglo-German semicolon the same way again.

Chris: In the spirit of Carl’s burnt offering, I give you Walter Benjamin’s “On Hashish,” where the comedy seems to be rather more intentional. And since we’ve assembled an accidental tasting menu this week, why not follow it with this Gender Trouble PDF?

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2 Comments

Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

2 responses to “Tea With Chris: The Ratification of Imbecility

  1. Tom

    What a grumpy group that “Frankfurter Schule”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School

  2. John S.

    Re: Adorno. At times I’m put in mind of Barthes, which makes me think that the humor is not entirely accidental, but when Adorno’s pet metaphysical abstraction, “totality,” rears its head, I thud unhappily back onto the Germanic Grund. Still, it’s pretty funny. Furthermore, he’s right to investigate the relationship between punctuation and the music of speech. I happen to find the writerly aesthete’s disdain of vocal effects in writing puritanical, dogmatic, and rigid, but as a poptimist, I gotta give it up to Adorno’s pop chops. Dude can still pack a club.