Nein, A Manifesto
Home alone, reading Eric Jarosinski’s Nein. A Manifesto, and I’m laughing so hard that tears are running down my cheeks! I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve discovered anything this funny! Moreover, the humor is cumulative, so what was making me smile on the first few pages becomes ear-splitting by the middle of the book and is downright hilarious by the end. How can I possibly describe a book that, to be appreciated, really must be read first-hand? How might I condense, or expand, what Jarosinski does so well?
Eric Jarosinski is a blogger who pens aphoristic twitters and tweets, massaging the familiar format into cryptic and ironic assemblages of no more than 140 characters per page. He’s also a well-trained literary critic, a scholar of German literature and philosophy who knows exactly how to skewer the pretentious worlds of politics and deconstruction. Reading Nein reminds me of sitting in a freshman philosophy class, smirking at the professorial hair-splitting, or suffering through a graduate seminar, listening to my peers try and out-articulate themselves.
Here’s how Jarosinski needles them all. Each page of Nein contains a hashtag followed by terse lines of elaboration. The entries are grouped by categories. For example, Chapter 7 is titled “Nein is not style. Nein is not syntax.” Among its listings are two of my favorites.
Parataxis: gin and tonic
Catachresis: gin and tunic
Catharsis: gin, no tonic
Paratactical cathartic catachresis: gin and gin. No tunic.
Italian: the language of romance
French: the language of love
German: the love of language
English: the love of English
The Glossary that concludes Nein is equally droll. There, Jarosinski defines modern terminology, satirizing his own literary and philosophical inclinations while parodying his education and the training of others like him. Some of my favorites include: “Close reading: The art of reading what has never been written in order to write a book that will never be read.” Or, Joyce: “A stream of whiskey that has traded clarity for consciousness.” Or, Metaphor: Just another word for just another word. (Simile: The metaphor’s, like, less articulate cousin.” Or, Theory: A branch of philosophy and comparative literature devoted to disregarding both.” I wish I had a copy of Nein on my desk when I was studying for comps and writing my dissertation, though the hashtags and the bird-like brevity would have been lost on me forty-plus years ago. Nary a tweet in my grad school generation, but we would have loved the sarcastic humor and the sardonic take-downs of whatever we were being taught.
No, Nein isn’t for every reader, and Eric Jarosinski isn’t for every tweeter. I can’t recommend this book to very many aficionados. But for those of us who were altogether too well-schooled, Nein is simply uproarious. – #PretentiousProf