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Well … maybe master class is too strong a term (hence the witty ‘u’). It’s definitely unjustifiably arrogant.  Amble is right, though.

But as I have accepted that I don’t have an original bone in my body (even my humerus is a joke, and I wish I hadn’t just typed that), I sometimes feel the need to mount a defence of my parodic leanings, and even give pastiche some form of intellectual and cultural cachet, or at least the illusion thereof.

My still available book Parodies Lost contains the following introduction …

What is parody?

Some would say it’s nothing more than an enfeebled mode of discourse, barely disguising a paucity of imagination and wit; a ride hitched on the coat-tails of genius, by writers or artists with no original or valuable thoughts of their own.

And if that is how you view it, you can just SOD OFF! ‘Cos I’m a bleedin’ post-modern intellectual, and I say it’s all about intertextuality, all right?

(there’s more — buy a copy, you fools!)

And, continuing my desperate attempts to bring cultural credence to the art of parody, it might be instructive, interesting, amusing or tedious to share with you, gentle reader, my latest effort, and look at what it attempts to achieve and how.  Stick around; you might learn something.  [You won’t.]

Despite my natural distrust of labels and taxonomies (and there’s a topic for another day), they can be useful (if only for comic effect), if treated with sufficient cynicism.  And it might be a good idea, by way of introduction, to try breaking down parodies into their various types.  Maybe we can even assign some Latin names to them, like those for logic: argumentum ad hominem, ad baculum, per rectum &c; then we can claim true intellectual status for the art!

So let’s start by breaking down parodies based on their purpose or intent.

  1. Parodia ex urina: Taking the piss out of a mediocre or risible original.
    Hugh Kingsmill famously mocked A E Housman’s morbid outlook with:
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxWhat, still alive at twenty-two,
    xxxxxxxxxxA clean, upstanding chap like you?
    xxxxxxxxxxSure, if your throat ’tis hard to slit,
    xxxxxxxxxxSlit your girl’s, and swing for it.
    xxxxxxx
    Housman was — or said he was — pleasantly amused.
    xxxxxxx
    Many readers are unaware that Lewis Carroll’s Father William, which I parodied as a tribute to my father on his 65th birthday,  is itself a response to Robert Southey’s mawkish, if not fingers-down-the-throatish, The Old Man’s Comforts, and How He Gained Them.  By all means google that one, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
    xxxxxxx
  2. Parodia satirica: Using an assumedly familiar original to make a similar and often satirical point about a completely different (though possibly analogous) subject. The comparison thus raised can be thought-provoking and, one hopes, amusing by its very incongruity.One that immediately springs to mind (‘cos it was me what wrote it), is Au Louvre, which uses the elegiac cricketing nostalgia of the Lancastrian Thompson’s At Lords:
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxIt is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThough my own red roses there may blow;
    xxxxxxxxxxIt is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThough the red roses crest the caps, I know.
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxto big up my belovéd Flemish artists, who so often lose out to Mediterraneans, when the Renaissance is discussed:
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxIt is more I am drawn to the paintings of the Northern folk,
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThough Italian artists seem to steal the show;
    xxxxxxxxxxIt is more I am drawn to the paintings of the Northern folk,
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThough Italian artists rule the roost, I know.
    xxxxxxxxxxBut my heart is moved more deeply by a small domestic scene
    xxxxxxxxxxOr demons stretching bodies on some devilish machine
    xxxxxxxxxxOr an isolated watermill beside a Flemish stream,
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWhere the evening swallows flicker to and fro,
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxTo and fro:—
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxOh my Ruisdael and my Breughel long ago!
  1. Parodia ad desperatum: The feeblest form of parody is the parody from desperation. Guilty as charged, far more often than not.
    xxxxxxx
    This is the simple rewriting or pastiching of a well-known poem or style — in fact it’s even worse when the original is only known to about six other people — with no discernible aim other than theft.
    xxxxxxx
    Maybe it’s only me what does this. Heaven forfend I should be so ungallant as to accuse anyone else, even if I could.
    xxxxxxx
    The best example I can come up with with zero effort is The Green Aye of the Independent Scot. There is justification for the poem, in that it comments on the then hot topic of the Scottish Neverendum, and thus gave me something extra to perform at gigs, but there is no discernible reason whatever to nick the style of J Milton Hayes’ Green Eye of the Little Yellow God, except that I saw someone wearing a green badge bearing the word Aye, and the phrase appeared in my brane.
    xxxxxxx
    As with all such efforts, the writist can only hope for the pleasure of recognition, and hope the work has a few pertinent and entertaining properties of its own.  Though this in itself risks leaving the reader wondering, ‘why the parody?’
    xxxxxxx
    Therein lies another point.  Parodying an existing work, especially one with a strict verse form and rhyme scheme, does require a level of technical proficiency and even discipline, but equally saves the author a lot of trubble, trying to come up with a suitable format of his or her own.  Originality is far harder and, as we parodists say, if a job’s worth doing, it’s probably too much effort.
    xxxxxxx
  2. Absentia ad torpor: no, this isn’t a category, more the lack of one. There are probably others we could add, but this blog should neither get too long, nor take up all the author’s time, so let us skip them for now and maybe, at a later date, add any that spring to mind (‘spring‘: hah!). It’s not as if this is a PhD thesis or a book (yet) — or even likely to be read by anyone. So let’s move straight to the category into which we might squeeze the latest masturpiece (there’s that Joycean wanking reference again: hilarious, huh?).
    xxxxxxx
  3. To be continued.
    Yes, you’ll just have to come back next week, to see what the final category might be, and work through the gestation and birth of my latest effort therein.
    xxxxxxx
    For your homework, I leave you with Philip Larkin’s 1967 poem,  Annus Mirabilis.

    xxxxxxxxxxSexual intercourse began
    xxxxxxxxxxIn nineteen sixty-three
    xxxxxxxxxx(which was rather late for me) —
    xxxxxxxxxxBetween the end of the Chatterley ban
    xxxxxxxxxxAnd the Beatles’ first LP.
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxUp to then there’d only been
    xxxxxxxxxxA sort of bargaining,
    xxxxxxxxxxA wrangle for the ring,
    xxxxxxxxxxA shame that started at sixteen
    xxxxxxxxxxAnd spread to everything.
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxThen all at once the quarrel sank:
    xxxxxxxxxxEveryone felt the same,
    xxxxxxxxxxAnd every life became
    xxxxxxxxxxA brilliant breaking of the bank,
    xxxxxxxxxxA quite unlosable game.
    xxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxSo life was never better than
    xxxxxxxxxxIn nineteen sixty-three
    xxxxxxxxxx(Though just too late for me) —
    xxxxxxxxxxBetween the end of the Chatterley ban
    xxxxxxxxxxAnd the Beatles’ first LP.

Read it, enjoy it, try and guess the title of my version (c’mon, people; it ain’t difficult, even with minimal Latin).  Maybe even try to write your own parody (post ’em below) …

Meanwhile, I have a week to come up with a Latin name for the bloody category.

Ave atque vale, chums.

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