Monday, January 15, 2007

Interview with Jon Winokur

Guy Kawasaki interviews Jon Winokur, whose books of curmudgeonly quotations are prized possessions of mine. It was Winokur's The Portable Curmudgeon which inspired me to track down and read the very entertaining autobiography of Oscar Levant.

Here's a short excerpt, chosen because it makes a point that is part of Paul Krassner's standup act:

Question: What are you working on now?

The Big Curmudgeon, an omnibus edition of previous curmudgeon books plus new material, and The Big Book of Irony, a small-format hardcover in which I try to share my delight in the many facets of irony and clear up some misconceptions, because irony is widely misunderstood.
It drives me crazy when people say “ironic” when they mean “coincidental.” The classic example is Morissettian Irony, which I define in the book as “irony based on a misapprehension of irony, i.e., no irony at all.” It’s named for the pop singer Alanis Morissette, whose hit single, “Ironic” mislabels coincidence and inconvenience as irony.
In the song, situations purporting to be ironic are merely sad, random, or annoying (“It's a traffic jam when you're already late/It's a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break”). In other words, “Ironic” is an un-ironic song about irony. Which, of course, is ironic in itself. But wait, there’s more, a “bonus irony” if you will: “Ironic” has been cited as an example of how Americans don’t get irony, despite the fact that Alanis Morissette is Canadian!
By the way, here's a rewrite of lines from Morissette's song to actually make them ironic.


Ed Brayton said...

Ah, I am also one who treasures Winokur's books, which I've been collecting for a long time. Great stuff.

Steve Neumann said...

Jim -

This has nothing to do with the current post, but I wanted to let you know that I sent a letter to the editor of The Observer in Kearny regarding Paszkiewicz and LeClair. I know you had posted about the scandal previously.

Here is a link to my blog post: Controversy in Kearny