Is Santa real?


021) Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan, finished March 11

First, regardless of what Matt Groening says, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is a funnier book on philosophy.

Nice to get that off my chest.

As you may recall, I have at best an ambiguous relationship with Santa Claus. And so . . . and so I'm not sure why I even picked this book up. Maybe for therapy.

In brief, Kaplan starts by talking about how the Santa question drove a (parent-drive) wedge between his son and a friend. He then addresses the question of Santa's existence via logic, via mysticism, via comedy, via kabbalah.

Logic and mysticism get a thorough rundown (logic's is more thorough, but mysticism can get redundant, so we'll forgive this). His most intriguing argument is putting comedy on an equal philosophical footing with logic and mysticism, though I feel constrained to call the chapter a bit underdeveloped. For a couple reasons. First, he doesn't have as many experts to rely on to bolster his argument. Second, he bumps into a problem, sort of a corollary to Poe's law:
Kaplan's corollary: After establishing a humorous tone, it's impossible to tell if lesser humorous portions of a work are intended to be taken more or less seriously than the work as a whole.
For instance, he gives a long exegesis of the the Cheese Shop Sketch, claiming it "is obviously about the Holocaust and the destruction of European civilization in World War I and II" (143). Really? I mean, ha ha?
Anyway. I really did like the comedy section best. He makes a solid argument that laughter is how we resolve paradox. And he uses that solution to dig into the absurdity of the book's very existence.

As we're reading about comedy, I'm really loving this book and wishing there wasn't a three-page explication of a Sarah Silverman joke about licking a penis. I'm not sure I can fit that into a high-school curriculum.

He even manages to tie in the English-class definition of comedy:
Since ancient times, comedies have always ended in a wedding. This is because they are the formation of larger wholes---both between people and between warring subsystems within the self. (149)
(Maybe you have to read the book.)

Anyway. Kabbalah. As Kaplan will eventually explain, this is because these sorts of explanations are ultimately personal. And as an esoteric Jewish fellow, he's attracted to teachings from the Ari and friends. Stands to reason.

The problem is that the book was structured to make the comedy chapters the [philosophical] climax of the book, and so the next section on the unfamiliar, kabbalah, though it eventually (evehhhhhhntually) paid off, was at times a total drag.

Which is why I'm stopping here and not citing any other of my bent pages with Kaplan's explanation of what makes all this search for Santa ultimately personal:
I'm not really advocating that you take my mixture and swallow it. I'm just showing you how I did it so you can do it yourself. So my brain and my life have gotten to a place where I can more or less function by putting together these reflections oj logic, mysticism, comedy, and the kabbalah. If you're a half-Belgian, half-Pakistani lion-tamer atheist, I would expect your take on Santa Claus would include a mixture of Sufism, atheism, lion lore, and Luc Sante. I'm not saying I'm not trying to start a cult---of course I am. Cult leader is a great job, and anybody who had the chance to apply would be crazy not to. But you should start a cult too, and I'll let you be in my cult if I can be in yours.
That, I think, is the ultimate value of this volume. Not that it determines the existence of Santa (spoiler alert: he exists), but that it demonstrates the process of thinking (and feeling) (and laughing) through the process of deciding what Santa, or, rather, life, means.

And that's something high-school students would do well to grapple with. Jellied penises or no jellied penises.
two or three weeks


020) Babymouse #8: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished March 11

Aren't the Babymouse books fun? Manic and fun. Fast and manic and fun. And jampacked with added-value jokery.
mere minutes

Previously in 2014 . . . . :

Books sixteenth through ninteenth
019) The Book of Mormon, finished March 3
018) Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos, finished March 1
017) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, finished February 26
016) Drawings II by Jake Parker, finished February 19

Books twelfth through fifteenth
015) The PreHistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson, finished February 18
014) Nation by Terry Pratchett, finished February 16
013) Fences by August Wilson, finished February 10
012) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished February 6

Books tenth through eleventh
011) Adverbs by Daniel Handler, finished February 4
010) Death by Chocolate: Redux by David Yurkovich, finished February 3

Books sixth through ninth
009) The End of the World by Don Hertzfeldt, finished January 31
008) Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, finished January 24
007) Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, finished January 18
006) Cardboard by Doug TenNaple, finished January 15

Books first through fifth
005) The Complete Peanuts: 1991-1992 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 10
004) City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus, finished January 9
003) Harem Scarem in El Cerrito by Neva Calvert Carpenter, finished January 4
002) iPlates Volume II: Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 4
001) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 3

final booky posts of

2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007

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