Stage-Whisper To Dave Fiore


(Hey, DAVE…!

(…So I tried to leave this comment on Geoff’s site in response to Sean [thanks Sean, Andrew, Justin, Marc, and Geoff Himself for commenting!  More to say on that very soon] but Blogger got all pissy with me about comment-length, so instead of chopping it down I’ve decided to put it here, because it leads into a Roy Thomas reference…and by the way if you don’t want to do the “Darkseid Thing” you too may choose a surrogate…

(But anyway here it is!)

“Well, when “great man” replaces the name, obviously it’s an ellipsis, so the next step is:  what’s its purpose in leaving the name out?  And, fair warning, this may be a little too much like killing a joke, but…

In my Mentalist example, what the ellipsis does would be like a joke itself:  a question raised in one context is answered from another one (heh, stole that from Eddie Campbell) — there’s a high-faultin’ way of saying something and there’s a poppy lowbrow way of saying something, but that something (life, I guess) is profound in any case, relevant in any case.

But that’s a pretty specific use of the strategy of elision represented by “great man”, and I think not actually typical…well, not exactly.  I do think sometimes, suivre Justin, unquestionably it involves self-congratulation for the reader/viewer/whatever…but Sean’s example is the sort of thing that’s more thick on the ground, where the “great man” thing and the name, used together are meant to make a crossing, a chiasm (a kenning, if you will!) of history and biography which is flavoured with the absurd:  since us moderns don’t think of ourselves as historical, or at least we don’t think of ourselves as deeply historical.  Heck, and that was a lot of Ginsburg’s trick, wasn’t it?  But anyway…

…And there’s a little Graves in that too, you’ll notice…!

…Anyway, where “great man” replaces a name conventionally, I think it’s intended to communicate another sort of crossing, of humility and grandiosity:  the speaker of the “great man” business is being tremendously showy about his/her humility, not even daring to speak the rarified name…a callback to religion, I think, where the speakers set themselves up as priests.  “Those who pray”.  To just throw out the absolute weirdest example I can think of:  in the Tom Hanks/Jackie Gleason movie “Nothing In Common”, Hector Elizondo is Tom’s boss, and when Tom has a breakdown he tells him about how the relationship with his own father got all screwed up…Tom says, “gee, Hector, I always thought you woulda been the perfect son,” and Hector replies “nah…near as I can figure, there was only ever one of those guys.”  And the efficacy of this passage lies in how the coarseness is decomposed into piety, because right up until this moment Hector Elizondo’s plays the part of the most perfectly amoral materialistic go-go-go businessman, so it too is a question raised in one context, resolved in another…and the “heck y’know, one’a those guys” thing doesn’t exactly hurt either.  My other favourite example of this is the classic filmic version of “grace” delivered in Capra’s “Meet John Doe”, where Gary Cooper moves to comfort the child whose hopes he’s betrayed, and effortlessly walks between the raindrops to do it…heartstopping stuff!  But more often I think we see a “priestly” invocation of the name-not-to-be-spoken, the name known only to the initiates, the holy elision, in spoken form…the prayerful invocation of the “great man” that identifies the one who delivers the prayer as “worthy”;  in other words, entitled to priestly authority.

It is a sort of religious remark, anyway, in that form…and in the context of the Mentalist example…eh?  Eh?…terribly obvious absent-God stuff, I think.  But my point (if I have one) is that in our trashy bathtub-gin culture the “rarified name” stuff must coexist with the “kenning” stuff that takes a different road to reverence, so in mixing these two impulses up there’s some good opportunities for heavy, sonorous implication that isn’t quite as simple as it seems.

And so is open to instructive misuse, as well as creative misuse:  because it becomes a technique.  My third favourite example:  Roy Thomas’ horrendous dialogue for the Wasp in an Avengers story from way back when, in which Jan schools a villain…

(I paraphrase somewhat, but not that much)

“And if you didn’t see through our little scam, bunky, remind me to tell you sometime about a little story called “The Purloined Letter”

“…By a fella by the name of POE…!!

Oh, Roy.  So intensely clumsy.  And yet it isn’t like his intention wasn’t plain, in that dreadfully-distorted failed ellipsis…

…Because he too was trying to get a little bit of that priestly English on that ball.

…Wasn’t he?”

You know honestly I sometimes think I have too much time on my hands, people.  Clearly I’m lost.

Find me.

One response to “Stage-Whisper To Dave Fiore

  1. That line is from Generation Kill – did you ever see Generation Kill? You wanna talk about great dialog? You talk Generation Kill, because there’s no flash at all to it. It’s just guys in a jeep talking. Singing (they drive into Baghdad singing “Can I Kick It?” for god’s sake). Calling the reporter a filthy hippy. And it’s riveting.

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