June 30th, 2017


Deep Down in the Grave

Before there was rap, there were toasts, obscene recitations improvised by African-Americans. (Two famous ones are “The Signifyin’ Monkey” and “Shine on the Titanic.”) Folklorist Roger D. Abrahams, who died recently, collected them in a delightful book called Deep Down in the Jungle. I learned from his obit that the dissertation on which he based the book led the University of Pennsylvania to create a Department of Folklore because “We cannot have a dissertation with such foul language in the English department. If you want to approve it, go and have your own department.”


The protagonist of Robert Sheckley’s great story “Protection” is told that he is safe as long as he doesn’t lesnerize, but is given no hints as to what he must be careful to not to do. I always felt like that—at any moment likely to get caught violating the Rule Everyone Knows But Me—until I found fandom, where that abnormality is practically the norm. And maybe there are no hidden rules

Thanx to [personal profile] andrewducker