Friday, July 15, 2011

Arf Wiedersehen

British tabloids are taking a beating in the wake of the News of the World scandal. But sometimes their American counterparts manage to get it right, although “Sam Sleeps” was a snoooze when it appeared in The New York Post. And then there was the infamous “Ford to New York: Drop Dead.” But no one does it like the British. In her Wednesday op-ed column, Maureen Dowd reports on a book called Amazing Dogs by Cardiff University School of Medicine lecturer Jan Bondeson (“Hitler’s TalkingDogs,” NYT, 7/13/11). Dowd describes how Dr. Bondeson “reveals that Hitler supported a German school that tried to teach large, muscular mastiffs to ‘talk’ to humans. The story set off a panting spate of  ‘Heel Hitler,’ ‘Furred Reich,’ ‘Wooffan SS’ and ‘Arf Wiedersehen’ headlines in British tabloids and plenty of claims that Hitler was ‘barking mad.’” Compression is an attribute of poetry, as is enjambment, the latter term just being a word thrown out to impress the reader. So credit the meeting of popular culture and great art when reading tabloid headlines that turn murder into a terrifying joke. Let’s hope the Brit tabloids survive the current storm. Open up a random page of dialogue in almost any Pinter play and you’ll find the same mixture of humor and fear. Could the roots of Pinter’s dramatic poetry lie in British tabloid journalism?

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