Saturday, August 06, 2011

Oral Sadism

Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality edited by Glenn Ellenbogen.

The humorous social science magazines from Wry-Bred Press in the 1980's were "The Journal of Irreproducible Results" and "The Journal of Polymorphous Perversity." Both were moderately well-known among people in human services at the time - in any crowd of a dozen or so people you could find three or four who had run across them. The articles were clever, not uproarious, sendups of psychological literature. The best of the essays were collected into two or three books, of which the above was the first.

Smoller's The Etiology and Treatment of Childhood remains the best known and is the lead essay. You can still find it easily on the net, and I linked to it in 2009 myself. At this point it is the only really good piece remaining. The others have passed their sell-by date. Parody is a time-sensitive form of humor - I note that the same is true of cartoons, which are often strongly generational in their appeal. The trends the writers were spoofing have long-since vanished, and the cultural references expired. A follow-up book is entitled The Primal Whimper, if that gives you a clue. You can still find a chuckle or two, but it's hardly worth the whole book to get them.

For my tribes commentary more currently, it was interesting to note that when they used Republicans as examples of something to sneer at, it was not so much because they were evil and stupid, but because they were out-of-fashion and somewhat ridiculous. Which reads very strangely now that they themselves are out-of-fashion and somewhat ridiculous.

Two stars. Follow the link above and you will have gotten most of what is valuable from the book. For those who want just a bit more, I'd check out the Amazon page reviews, but not bother with the book.


Retriever said...

Love it! I always loved the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity". I hadn't seen that thing on CHildhood, tho. Heheh. I needed that after a dull day of housework.

JC said...

JIRR started as a dump of really incredibly badly written serious papers, then became a purpose-written humor mag. Easy publishing credit, though - my notes on a metric time system were a highlight around '84.
The current remake, the Journal of Improbable Research, has returned to the original motif, but with the predictable lefty snark in the commentary.

james said...

One of my favorites was an article on the observation that one unresponsive patient became alert and involved upon being unexpectedly goosed--and the questions of clinical trials and informed consent (how can you agree to a test that only works as a surprise?).