Category Archives: Parody

A Dozen Paths To the End of the World

The-End-of-the-world-as-we-know-itThe number of apocalyptic movies, books, and news items out there led me to consider possibilities not yet fully explored. Too lazy to actually write them, however, I made it only as far as these twelve stand-alone sentences.

1. One of the more comfortable citizens first made an object stone by claiming it, but, by noon the next day, the entire town was solid.

2. Naturally, the last duel had no spectators.

3. Everyone started piling bicycles at the city limits and soon they’d walled themselves in with their only remaining means of escape.

4. For the longest time, the kind-hearted lived in enclaves, but jealousy outside assured they wouldn’t be left alone.

5. Someone else might have known the footprints he followed were his own, yet he noticed only when, too tired to continue, he sat down and examined them closely.

6. Their hairstyles grew so elaborate their necks lacked the strength to lift them.

7. Each bridge began on one shore and ended at its apex, just when building further threatened falling in the river.

8. They could have company, the letter said, if they learned to bake bread that filled the air with enticing smells, but their sort of baking was a gift they wouldn’t give up.

9. No one considered you could do nothing so long that nothing could be done.

10. In the courtyard’s strange echoes, birds seemed to speak in human voices, and soon neighbors, then strangers, stopped working to gather and listen.

11. Had not everyone been whimpering, someone would have quipped the world ended with a bang after all.

12. He sat south of the jetty near shops long looted and empty to watch the sun rise, expecting, any day now, it wouldn’t.

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Filed under Allegory, Ambition, America, Brave New World, Doubt, Experiments, Fiction, Fiction writing, Grief, History, Jeremiads, Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, Laments, Meditations, Metaphor, Misanthropy, Modern Life, Parables, Parody, Play, Satire, Science Fiction, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts, Time, Worry

Interview With a Nearly Nobody

200px-Bob_Unglaub_baseball_card“I don’t understand sports all that well (because I’m not an avid watcher) but get what it means to be a ‘utility player,’ a teammate who fills an empty spot, who serves to advance base runners, leaps from the bench when summoned, fills one of the last lines of the stat sheet. The utility player isn’t a home run or triple hitter but reliable and versatile and decent. I’m not ashamed to be that guy.

“As nice as appearing in a headline might be, I’m happy with the fourth or fifth paragraph, a mention when the team needs a timely contribution and not a highlight. Stars swing for the fences, shoot from half-court, swat a tennis ball from between their legs, or snatch a pass from the air as if by magnetism. I’m at work the same time every morning, sitting quietly, slogging through regular and tedious tasks. Finding fault with my performance would be challenging. I make sure there’s little to criticize. No one calls me indispensable, but I’m extraordinarily consistent and predictable. I pride myself on that. I’m just where you expect.

“Predictability has a bad name. Not nearly as pleasing as bold ambition and surprise, a steady hand nonetheless lends complementary comfort and safety. A utility player knows others deserve the spotlight and anticipates being needed. Patience, diligence, and calm add to success too, particularly when everyone wants immediate action or credit for acting immediately. I try never to seek or take credit, even when solutions seem familiar.

“Part of utility is curbing your ego. If you see yourself as background, stepping aside isn’t so tough. Someone levels every tilt, lessens every unchecked swell. If the team needs cool water to make a risky boil subside, call me. The others may have forgotten I’m here, but I haven’t. No one is invisible to himself, after all, and nothing pleases me more than others glancing in my direction and asking me to enter the game. My gratitude explodes in those moments. It means so much to be of service.

“And, if I start to feel low, I try to remember that, in sports, more scholarly types sometimes excavate obscure players, memorize their record, delight in their spark of fame. They take a fetishist’s pride in loving what no one else noticed. History may discover you. There’s consolation.

“Stars don’t worry about utility players’ feelings, and that’s only right. Why should they? You don’t become a star by being accommodating. You become a star by standing in your rightful spot and knowing its rightfulness. The last second shot and the last at-bat belong to those prepared to take advantage, those the fans desire. A moment’s hesitation, a feeling someone else may be better suited to this circumstance, those doubts won’t yield triumph. At least, they seldom do. Oh, you might get lucky, but why trust that?

“Occasionally, the utility player can be of use. Afterward, a reporter catches him on the periphery and collars him for a question about his unlikely and fleeting stature. I’ve been in that position and know what’s required. Say you pride yourself on being ready. Say you are blessed and fortunate. Never boast the team could count on you more often. As teammates remind you—warn you—know your place. You’re unlikely to find a spotlight again.”

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15 Specious Novel Openings

Psyche-and-Cupid-300x200A colleague sent me a list of famous opening lines from stories and novels—some usual suspects like “Call me Ishmael” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” and some I didn’t know, like “It was the day my grandmother exploded” (Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road, 1992) and “‘Take my camel, dear,’ said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass” (Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond, 1956). That last one, my colleague pointed out, was the only dialogue in “The 100 Best First Lines from Novels.”

I’ve been ill this week and haven’t the concentration or will to write much, so I’m posting 15 opening lines for imaginary fiction. I’ve also supplied pretend titles and years to reflect styles of the time, and, yes, one uses dialogue. If you read a lot, you may recognize I’m parroting writers I’ve encountered.

Here goes:

1. He found nowhere to sit, which annoyed him, and the hammering conversation, laughter, synthpop, and his third gin and tonic compounded the headache that met him at the door. (Silverhair, 1985)

2. Sydney put his hat on the shelf in the coat closet and called his wife’s name. (Sydney Burroughs, 1938)

3. She wiped the blood from her finger onto her cheek and giggled. (Polly, 1971)

4. When Henry Stanbury cleared the mist within the carriage window with his ungloved hand, he discovered another layer of grey without, a city half-hidden in fog, and a few drifting souls making and breathing the steam of reluctant dawn. (Castle Palace, 1862)

5. The last thing to worry about, I’ve discovered, is finding something to eat. (The Farrier’s Promise, 2004)

6. There was a mole to begin with, but that was enough. (The Medical Expert, 1925)

7. I could have told you my brother lied about our parents and all the good they did for strangers because I grew up in the same house and watched them every morning put on masks and become strangers themselves. (Glad Is Your Reward, 1956)

8. “You must understand, lapshichka,” Grandpa would say, “no woman thinks first of the circus.” (The Beaten Road, 1978)

9. The noontime sun slanting through the jail window reached just his foot, and he dipped his toes into and out of the light considering (with no success) when in his drunk wandering he’d taken his shoe off. (The Coopers, 1948)

10. Our house blazed all night to neighbors’ oohs and aahs. (Miranda, 1996)

11. The screen door snapped shut behind him, and he turned to face a kitchen scene including Theodora Roos retching in the sink, her children spooning Alpha Bits into their maws, and Theodora’s husband Kenny reading or, more properly, shouting from a letter announcing the failure of their appeal and the imminent evaporation of all their hopes for a substantial settlement. (The Passage of Night Planes, 1966)

12. The bay stilled as the sun fell, and the city’s lights shone on its surface like jewels in gunmetal. (Pyroglyph, 1986)

13. Those well familiar with the affair counted it as indeed fortunate more damage to young Crosswick’s reputation did not accrue from his misstep, but Frederick Crosswick was not finished yet. (A Spring in Mercia, 1896)

14. I wasn’t there, but when I was twelve a boy named Otto who lived just down the block died when he fell from a tree and onto his bicycle. (Ithaca, 2009)

15. Every book begins by announcing itself—think of the blast of the ship horn and it’s done. (When the Moon Droops, trans. from Italian, 1989)

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Comin’: The Calvinist Strains of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”

200px-MerryOldSantaI have an odd holiday tradition of writing a parody of a critical essay about a Christmas carol each December. Maybe it’s revenge for the five-paragraph literary essays I read all year, maybe it’s a perverse desire to fight back against a song I’ve heard 238, 243 times. Whatever it is, here it is:

Though giddy carolers yearly celebrate the jolly figure Michel Fousault once called, “that nitrous oxide huffing gelatinous mass,” some say Santa took a decidedly Puritan turn in 1934 when Eddie Cantor first sang “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” on radio. Children who never expected the avuncular cookie-cruncher to make good on his punitive threats suddenly faced a leaner, meaner John Brown-style Santa, a Santa as intimate with the fragility of salvation as Jonathan Edwards, a fiery judge, a vigilant killjoy, an Old Testament avenger. Modern listeners may accept this horrifying tale of predestination and the inevitable naughtiness of humanity as just so much accompaniment for egg nog chugging contests, but Christmas carol scholars know—Santa Claus is coming to town, and he’s bringing a bag full of damnation.

The first three words of the song set the tone—“You better not”—and so begins its long series of not-so-veiled threats. Among the forbidden actions are “crying” and “pouting,” but what this Santa really decries is any complaint. Fate is inexorable, and the song prepares children for disappointment when, fallen human nature assured by their postlapsarian existence, they fall into La Brea Tar Pit of iniquity. There is simply no point in “crying” and “pouting” for both will do no good, and, noted scholar Karl Sharfenberger’s nude dancing rendition of the tune aside, no one dares tempt a Santa whose exhaustive “List” pens the elect and the condemned in permanent ink. Famous philatelist Dennis Tooletone may believe that “Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” implies ongoing assessment, free will, and the opportunity to elude sin, but he hasn’t done his Puritan homework and still lives with his sister in Queens. During The Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards also touted the beneficence of a God that held human souls by a spider’s web over the eternal flames of hell. That was “gonna” too, the implication that at some point or another “finding out” meant discovering which souls plunged and which kept barbequing. In 1958, during a polka contest at the annual conference of the Modern Caroling Association, Fousault uttered what are perhaps his most famous words on the song. Between panting and just before his coronary, Fousault said, “Ack, I see him comin’, I see him comin’.” Everyone there heard Fousault’s final apostrophes loud and clear. The Santa comin’ for Fousault knew who had been “bad or good” and didn’t need a lousy list. The list, like Edward’s spider web, is just for show.

Perhaps the most troubling element of this troubling paean to humanity’s fate is Santa’s vigilance. The song reports that “He sees you when you’re sleeping / He knows when you’re awake.” Santa watches even when it appears he does not need to. The kids are asleep for God’s sake! But Santa’s business is the unconscious inclinations of sinners, reading their dreams the way Coach Van Haverbeek read your thoughts during those Boys’ Health films. That Santa “knows when you’re awake,” suggests that any attempt at fakery—anyone who’s been to Camp Karankawa knows shut eyes don’t mean sleep—will be futile. Santa will know, and your effort to save yourself from dreaming of that cute girl three cabins down toward the lake will surely fail. “You better watch out!” the singer screams, but a listener is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Santa has him in a triple-bind. A person cannot watch himself while he is sleeping or while he has his eyes closed pretending to snooze or when he’s subject to the capricious visit of his all-too-vivid imagination during roll call. And, if the listeners hoped to escape Santa’s prying eyes while the fat man directs his attention elsewhere, forget it. The great eye of Sauron in the J. R. R. Tolkein classic Lord of the Rings has nothing on Santa. As the song crows, Santa checks his list twice. The list is unalterable and set since the time elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs roamed the earth, and still he checks his list twice. Jonathan Edwards at least promised God’s mercy though God had no reason to spare anyone. The Santa who comes to town is not so kind.

And hope has no place in the song. The lyrics state “You’d better be good for goodness sake,” and scholars like Bertram Chert demanded listeners regard those words colloquially, like “For goodness sake, this bathing cap is tight!” Chert’s sanity was already compromised at that point, of course, but he also was flat wrong. Suppose someone isn’t one of the elect destined to receive Santa’s beneficence, suppose someone had some minor slip up like cursing under his breath or working for a few months after college slaughtering lab animals, his only choice—having been marked by Santa’s anagramatical twin, Satan—is to be good for its own sake, because what other reason might you have for being good when a listener knows, deep down and in his very bones, that being good will really do no good at all. Drunk carolers have long noted that Santa is curiously absent from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” He is the unmoved mover of Christmas fates slouching toward Bethlehem to be born like the beast of W. B. Yeats’ apocalyptic poem, “Second Coming,” and his actual whereabouts are as mysterious as his feelings about a listener’s miserable soul. Santa will not speak for himself and lets some unnamed herald deliver his fire and brimstone for him. A mortal cannot know Santa’s mind. Don’t even try.

Eddie Cantor reportedly cried as soon as he sang the last note of this keening wail of a famously misunderstood Christmas tune, or so someone’s cousin said. That’s probably false, but, in case it is not, an attentive listener might regard Santa’s coming to town as a vow akin to the Lord’s promise to burn the sinful denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. A town is no place for virtue. Look back or don’t look back. It will not matter. Santa has decided, and, chances are, nearly everyone is on the wrong list.

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Rudolph: A Marxist Critique

14853__rudolph_l.jpg I wrote this parody paper some years ago and, with the season upon us, it seems a good time for it to return…

Toward the end of his life, just before that ugly cheek tweeking incident in New Orleans, noted literary critic, Michel Fausault* established the standard by which all “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” criticism will forever be judged. I remember the scene well, it was early October and the Christmas season had just begun. Michel cried “Ach!” his head pitched forward, his brow bunched in deep thought. “Rudolph,” he roared suddenly, as from a revelation, “Has never really been understood. It is only superficially a child’s Christmas song. It is actually a poem about . . .” and here he belched and scratched his belly, “about … scapegoating.”

Then we went back to our Parcheesi game. Fausault did not remember the remark later, but the damage was done. No one could ever sing “Rudolph” joyfully again, for he had exposed the song for what it was, the story of a reindeer misunderstood, undervalued, and manipulated by the bankrupt aesthetics of the petty bourgeois. Since the birth of Rudolph studies, scholars have been troubled by the fuzzy depiction of the mysterious central character. Rudolph’s original description in the first line as “the red-nosed reindeer” (emphasis mine) is clear enough, but it is not so much a description as a degrading label (emphasis mine). Rudolph is the only red-nosed reindeer (still mine), and while it appears later in the poem that his red-nose is his distinction (no reason for that one), it is actually his badge of shame, the attribute that marks him as different and inferior to the other reindeer.

And what about that nose? Noted Rudolphian Vlad Brown has noted that there is a noted confusion regarding that nose. It is articulated variously as “red,” “shiny,” glowing, and “bright.” Yet can any one object be red, shiny and bright and also glow? After all, anything that glows, because of the illumination inherent within the object, cannot also be shiny, which is a surface quality caused by greater illumination outside said object. Brown has suggested that this confusion is deliberate, and I agree. I would add to Brown, however, that this confusion is a shrewdly hinted attempt to universalize the reindeer, to make it into an “everydeer” of sorts, a model for all of the scapegoats victimized by society because they are different. What’s more, I believe that Fausault—had he not died in that bizarre knitting accident—would agree with me.

Now many readers are fooled by the apparent reintegration of Rudolph at the end of the poem. The poem states directly, “Then how the reindeer loved him.” But let’s examine the quality and implications of that love. It comes only after the significant psychological pain of being laughed at, called names, and not being allowed to participate in games, which, Strauss-Levi has pointed out, are the most important emblems of solidarity in modern, post-industrialized cultures. Can Rudolph be expected to recover from these slights? In such an interpretation, we would have to believe that Rudolph has the emotional depth of plum pudding, that his pain is not real pain and is instead the product of some sort of harmless snub that he can laugh-off and forget. But this point of view only cooperates with the cruelty depicted in the work itself. No one likes being laughed at—I remember softball in seventh grade gym. And who can forget Fausaut’s unfortunate encounter with Cher?

Prominent Rudolphianists have also suggested that Santa’s decision to have Rudolph lead the sleigh compensates for the alienation he faces earlier in the work. To that, I say “poppycock!” Were Fausault here, he’d say something clever in French, but that’s the best I can do. Look at the text, Reader! The word used is not “lead,” but “guide,” which clearly indicates the red-suited fat man’s reluctance to give up his position as the true driver in this sleigh. Santa only turns to Rudolph because, happily, the reindeer possesses a quality that the red-suited oppressor—and known slave-wager, labor-law violator—finds temporarily useful.

Returning to how the other reindeer “love him,” I think it’s easy to see that their “shouting out with glee” rings pretty hollow. Once Rudolph’s talent has been exploited, what’s left for him in Santa-land? He will be sent to the glue farm, to be sure. Furthermore, his new comrades, the other reindeer, are not really comrades at all. It is no accident that they say he will go “down in his-tor-y.” The adverb “down” suggests decline, decay, reduction, descent, weakening, attenuation, disappearance, and seven other nouns. Some will accuse me of over-analyzing this blatant reference to pigs like Santa who, in writing history, always denigrate or erase the accomplishments of the underclass, but they are part of the oppressor culture, and, after last Tuesday, I’ve learned to expect it of them. And I know Fausault, were he not in Davey Jones’ locker, would grunt his approval in that charming way of his.

What all this adds up to is a travesty perpetrated on an entirely different class of the tyrannized, the children of the world. It’s well known Fausault didn’t like children—though this is as good a time as any to remind you that he was never convicted. That doesn’t make the song any better, however. For years, the little shining faces of the children have sung this popular carol, unconscious of the subjugation perpetuated in those words. “Rudolph,” they sing, “With your nose so bright.” But they might just as well be singing, “Rudolph with your chains so tight, how’s it feel to be wronged tonight? Old Santa wants a headlight, now you are his easy prey, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, blighted by a cap’list sleigh.”

*Any resemblance to real or imagined noted French literary critics and philosophers is real or imagined.

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Blogage

Sometimes he makes it no further than the first line.

An intruding task divides his attention as a freight train would divide a dirigible—if his imagination could ever position them to meet—then his start dies, all its stolen air escaping suddenly.  But, when he’s successful, he stretches and stretches his opening thought, attenuating it again and again until it’s a spidery thread that can no longer carry current.

Then he turns to a new paragraph.  He knows it’s a good idea to assure enough but not too much connection and to follow the figurative breath of a break with a novel direction, purpose, or voice.  Association, not logic, is key.  Perhaps objects that were whimsical or metaphorical in the last paragraph become more real-world in the next.  He references a task he never returned to… the bookmark three quarters of the way through The Education of Henry Adams or a promise to call back immediately that, seven years later, still hasn’t been fulfilled.  He doesn’t need to say how these stories apply.  He trusts readers.  Or they might follow a link.

The true subject, when it appears, stands apart.

And, once known, the narrative gains speed, carrying thoughts that rush after as if they were chasing the subject rather than being sucked into its wake like so many pages of discarded, dated newspapers.  The pace in this portion can seem disproportionate because the word “and” dominates, and many other words that are only slight echoes of each other appear, drawing from the same store in his finite mind, seeming to put meaning aside simply to achieve sound and prod the prose by compelling it forward and forward and forward.

A satisfying lull follows.  Is that the best moment for a rhetorical question?  Fragment.

But the longer the writer continues, the nearer he comes to breaking back against himself, questioning what brought him here and undoing his premises. He becomes a wave in a box—any force achieved ricochets into gray static.  While the effort to sort the shapes and shadows of his tiny sea might seem noble, more often the writing flirts with insincere invention.  Some resourcefulness celebrates only itself.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the document window, the word count grows. 375, 376, and little purchase or progress suggests an endgame.  Ornate ideas grow more ornate.  Strong and clear signals become baroque.  Artifice proliferates fractally.

This cul de sac is all too familiar.  The single consolation: he’s there.  Having burned territory behind him, he will either escape or remain.

Thankfully, he can’t write this post again.

Then sometimes, only sometimes, desperation brings dusk. The end shows itself at last, and truth finds a way in.  Watchfulness somehow lured a deeper sincerity from shadows.  If he has prepared a reader well, a trap is set, a new quiet entices a strange but familiar animal into place for the essay’s final sentence.  The string is taut.  He finishes just before pulling the stick to bring the box down.

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“Winter Wonderland”: An Exegesis

In that last few weeks I’ve read many, many critical essays on literature, so I thought I’d offer this parody suited to the season.  None of the papers I read are really this crazy, but perhaps it says something about the critical essay form that it can be twisted this way.

Don’t worry.  I’m not serious.

Recent criticism of the song “Winter Wonderland” has focused on it as a work of faith—Nagurski called the poem, “A utopian examination of how the coldest and least lively season, naturewise, can be really pretty cheery” and R. Grange mentioned it in his respected collection of critical essays, Songs that Make Me Grin.  However, to see the work correctly, a reader needs to note its accretive fiction and the purposeful delusion that piles up like so many deep snow drifts.  Doing so leads to the same conclusion T. S. Eliot reached when he said the song was “more a work of doubt than faith.”

As Eliot pointed out, the initial question in the song really frames the entire work.  The first line asks, “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” and the astute reader might ask in response, “Am I listening?  Of course I’m listening.  Wouldn’t I hear some damn sleigh bells if they were ringing?” The true question behind this seemingly innocent inquiry is whether the listener is willing to participate in an obvious fiction.  The song queries, “Are you willing to accept the sound of sleigh bells?  Conjure them now, if you will.”  If the reader is unwilling to conjure, the end of that first verse, “A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight / Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland” rings emptily, offering an unsubstantiated, entirely unjustified happiness. Who is to say “We are happy tonight” after all?  What is the basis for this so-called happiness?  All the reader has to go on is the “glist’nin’ snow” in the lane in the third line.  Is that enough?  What if the reader had to drive somewhere—because some readers work at night, remember—would glist’nin’ snow make them happy?  The aesthetic question “What is beauty?” also lurks like a creepy, half-inflated, ghostlike front lawn Santa.

Some readers undoubtedly will cry for suspended disbelief, but the poet, it seems, expects just such skepticism.  The next verse makes no effort to rouse a reader or justify his or her elation over a little “glist’nin’” snow.  In fact, it opens with an absence, “Gone away is the bluebird.” As an established symbol of happiness, the bluebird’s disappearance is conspicuous.  The happiness so tentatively granted in the opening moments immediately disappears as well.  It is gone, and in its place is some unnamed “new bird” a reader is supposed to find so comforting.  An unnamed bird that arrives in winter when all of the others are flying south is worth comment.  Few readers speak bird and thus could say with certainty whether this clearly lost bird is singing a love song or a lament that he is freezing in a climate for which he is clearly unsuited, the average tolerable temperature for a small bird being 45°F  or 7°C, well above freezing.  Does the author even expect a reader to swallow what is now the fifth supposition of the poem.  Is it believable?  It is not and—this is the song’s brilliance of course—it is not meant to be.  This text looks happy, but like the glist’nin’ snow, its shiny surface hides a pretty bad car wreck waiting to happen.

The accumulating fictions continue apace in the third verse.  “In the meadow”—does a reader need to be told it is a meadow; is not a reader just being reminded of what it is not—green, lush, and full of life?  Then “we”—the author is careful to include readers so they begin to chafe against the restrictive hempen restraints with which he binds them so very, very, very tightly—”can build a snowman.”  Yes, a reader could build a snowman, but would he?  And if he did, would said snowman be anything more than an empty white figure who really stands for nothing and no one, a symbol of the companionship so many people so desperately seek and cannot find during the holiday season because no one really understands the workings of another mind, particularly a discerning mind that sees so, so much more in what others simply accept as “happy”?

By the appearance of Parson Brown, the enigmatic center of the song, the fiction has begun to wheel like the falcon in Yeats’ “Second Coming.” “We,” the identity superimposed on the reader, superimposes the name “Parson Brown” on a white no one.  The name is pointedly bland, generic, but the color is interesting.  The juxtaposition of white snow—which at its best might represent new hope—and brown—the color of decay and decline—is pointed.  Similarly the verb “pretend” stands out.  It is out in the open now, the reader is pretending and knows it.  The conversation with this specious parson is not any more comforting.  He says, “Are you married?” which is quite a personal question from a pile of compacted frozen precipitation.  Yet the reader answers, “No, man!  But you can do the job when you’re in town.”  Again the fiction stretches beyond the bounds of credulity.  Even if readers could accept they are out in a frozen meadow having a conversation with what amounts to an icy mannequin, even if they could accept that this frozen figure is endowed with a name and a job, even if they can accept that they are going to marry whoever is the narrator of this song, would any sane reader call a parson “man”?  “Parson Brown” evokes early New England and “man” evokes Jack Kerouac and smoky nightclubs.  The two cannot be in the same sentence. G. Sayer argues that it is the only way the rhyme would work, but a reader might remain unconvinced because the reader could have been convinced that a reader is supposed to be unconvinced by what is patently unconvincing. “You can do the job when you’re in town” obviates the failure of these multiple fictions.  The parson / snowman is in town, and he cannot do the job because, based on thorough research into international statues, snowman weddings are not legally binding in any state or country.

Ultimately the poem leaves readers huddled by the meager consolation of a tepid fire. Readers “conspire” because they know it will take some cabal, some magic obviously absent in the early twenty-first century world, to make our “dreams”—aptly named—happen.  The seemingly optimistic promise that readers will face their plans “unafraid” just illuminates the fear they do feel and can only attempt to face.  Why do readers need to fear their own plans unless they know that these plans, like the parson statue still standing like a post in the empty meadow, are vulnerable fictions, ideas they cannot ever completely convince themselves are real.  The final image of “walkin’ in the winter wonderland” leaves readers thinking of Lear wandering the moors, all anchors lost.  It is indeed a “wonderland,” but readers are left wondering that they did not perceive its emptiness before now.

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