Monday, 18 January 2010

Wilde Variations

'You must never have a foxtrot with an Oscar Wilde.  Oh dear, no - no, no, child!' (Alma Cogan, personal communication via planchette, obviously board out of her mind.)  Portrait by Napoleon Sarony via Notwist at Wikimedia Commons - public domain. If a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, is an idealist somebody who knows the value of everything and the price of nothing? It might explain a lot.

One thing often mistaken for an idealist is that common type who knows the value of only one thing, and the price of everything else. The correct term here, of course, really being 'fanatic'. 'Fan' or 'enthusiast' are subtly different flavours of the same thing.

What then shall we call somebody who knows the price of only one thing, and the value of everything else? It really ought to be the reverse of a fanatic, but it looks like just another flavour: not an anti-fanatic, but a fanatical anti-. I don't know of any really good neat synonym for this, except maybe 'bigot' - and I'm not sold on that, either.

But if a cynic or idealist each needs only to flip their polarity on one solitary thing to join the big dysfunctional fanatic family, and the fanatic can handily pivot from pro- to anti- upon the fulcrum of their single consuming interest, perhaps it is not surprising that the one so often metamorphoses into the other.

The great temptation when writing is to excuse the hero, as they do things of which one is a fan, from paying the price, because one doesn't know it. Were I of a Wilder persuasion, I should now coin some clever epigram about the way in which this merely transfers the bill into the real world, to be paid at a dubious discount by the whole society of people who give two hoots about one's books.

Instead, I fight doughtily against the ever-present temptation to fanaticism by OH LOOK! SHINY! AND IT'S GOT A FEATHER ON IT!

I wonder where she got that hat - and what she gets out of it? And what it would be like, to be the kind of fellow who thought that was really important?

Over to you again, Oscar!

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